By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
LAHORE (Worthy News) - A Muslim mob injured a man for allegedly burning pages of the Koran in Pakistan’s Punjab province after a person was lynched for a similar unproven offense in the region, sources told Worthy News on Monday.
Police said they rescued the mentally unstable man Sunday in the Tandlianwala area of Faisalabad city amid pressure on security forces to halt violence over blasphemy.
The unidentified person and family members were rushed to a safe, undisclosed location following Saturday’s lynching of another mentally disabled man in Punjab’s Khanewal district, Christian sources said.
The murdered middle-aged man was accused by the mosque's imam in Tulamba village in Punjab’s Khanewal district of burning the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, sources said.
Villagers then lynched the man, according to horrifying video footage obtained by Worthy News. The incident prompted scores of arrests following an order by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
"The lynching will be dealt with the full severity of the law. We have zero-tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands," Khan explained in published remarks.
More than 80 people suspected of involvement in the lynching have already been detained, authorities said. More suspects were being identified through social media videos shot by the crowd in Tulamba,
some 275 kilometers (170 miles) southwest of Lahore city.
Footage earlier obtained by Worthy News showed men dragging someone to the street in Tulamba who then threw stones at the man, identified as Rana Mushtaq Ahmad.
Others joined in with what appeared to be sticks and large knives under cover of darkness. Some laughed as they made recordings with their cell phones or used the lights of their mobile devices to see better the killing unfold.
Earlier, the Muslim man was hanged from a tree, according to a well-informed rights lawyer involved in advocacy for people accused of blasphemy. “The accused has been suffering mental illness for last 15 to 16 years,” added Lahore-based lawyer Nadeem Anthony in an interview with Worthy News. “That’s why they lynched him. He was different than other worshipers.”
Anthony denied police claims that the accused had already died when they arrived to rescue the man from the tree and arrest him. “He was snatched from police, and the crowd then killed him with security forces looking on,” Anthony said. “It’s another example of religious intolerance in this nation.”
Mob killings over accusations of blasphemy - a crime that can carry the death sentence - are becoming frequent in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
In December, factory workers in the eastern city of Sialkot lynched and burnt the body of a Sri Lankan in an attack that Khan said brought shame on the country.
Christians are among those targeted, and many have been languishing in jail for years on trumped-up blasphemy charges, Anthony and other sources say.
Critics claim Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy legislation contributed to an atmosphere of hatred towards those deemed to attack Islam.
Since 1987, at least 1,500 people have been charged with blasphemy, and at least 75 people accused of blasphemy were killed, according to the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice.
Police in the region of the latest attacks say they are trying “to engage religious leaders of all sects” to ensure peace in the area, but minority Christians fear more attacks.