Man accused of blasphemy killed by mob at Pakistan political rally

File. Supporters of a religious group ‘Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan’ chant slogans during a rally against a woman who was arrested over blasphemy charges, in Lahore, Pakistan, 17 April 2023 (Associated Press)

A Muslim scholar was lynched to death by a mob for making allegedly blasphemous remarks at a political rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, police said.

Maulana Nigar Alam, 40, was beaten by an angry mob of hundreds of people in Sawaldher village in Mardan district, north-east of Peshawar, on Saturday night, police officer Iqbal Khan said.

Disturbing and graphic videos of the incident which are being widely circulated on social media in Pakistani showed a charged- up crowd beating the man with batons and later stomping after he fell unconscious.

The man allegedly made a blasphemous remark while standing on stage to deliver a prayer at the end of a rally in support of the Pakistani judiciary.

A video of his speech shows the man wearing white traditional attire as another man standing beside him tries to stop him from making the remarks.

"Some words of his prayer were deemed blasphemous by a number of protesters, leading to torture and death at the hands of the angry mob," said Mr Khan.

The incident happened despite the presence of police officers at the rally.

According to eyewitnesses, the police deputy on duty at the rally locked the man inside a nearby shop to save him from the mob but people overpowered the police and broke through the door, dragging him out.

Alam died at the scene and later the police took the body into custody.

Accusations of blasphemy, a crime under Pakistan’s laws, have led to a number of mob lynchings in the Muslim-majority country.

It is a highly sensitive issue as even false allegations have led to killings and other incidents of violence. Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.

Human rights groups have criticised the law and say it has been used to disproportionately target minorities, as well asto settle personal scores.

Last month, Pakistani police rescued a Chinese national who was working on a joint dam project between Pakistan and China after he was accused of blasphemy. The man was first arrested and later airlifted to safety after a mob protested and demanded he be handed over.

In February, an angry mob entered a police station in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, snatched a person accused of blasphemy from his cell and killed him.

And in 2021 a Sri Lankan national named Priyantha Diyawadanage, who was working as a factory manager in Pakistan, was beaten to death and then set ablaze by an angry mob over allegations of blasphemy.

In 2019 the nearly decade-long blasphemy saga involving a Christian woman known as Asia Bibi came to an end after Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her and said there would be no further reviews of her case. Real name Asia Noreen, she has now been granted asylum with her family in Canada, and has released a memoir about her eight years on death row entitled Enfin Libre! (Finally Free).