A Chinese man is facing prosecution in Pakistan after an angry mob swarmed to attack him due to blasphemous comments he had allegedly made against Islam.
The man, identified only as Mr. Tian, was reported to be an engineer who supervises heavy machinery at China Gezhouba Group Company, which is currently working on a hydropower project in the Dasu area of the upper Kohistan district.
Tian was arrested Sunday night at a residential camp after hundreds of locals gathered around the area and chanted death threats against him. The angry mob also threw stones at the camp, according to the South China Morning Post.
Police soon arrived at the scene and fired warning shots to disperse the crowd. A formal complaint stated that Tian had made “insulting remarks and derogatory gestures to disparage Allah and the Prophet of Muslims” while staff members collectively prayed the day before, as per VOA News.
Tian allegedly reprimanded a pair of drivers for taking too much time to pray, leading to the heated argument.
Muslims are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan, a period that involves fasting, prayer and reflection.
“The labourers said they were fasting but denied that work had slowed down, which led to an exchange of heated words,” an anonymous police officer said, according to the Daily Mail. “Later, the labourers accused the engineer of making blasphemous remarks.”
Tian’s alleged comments then spread like wildfire to nearby villages. The next day, hundreds moved to block the Karakoram Highway, the world’s highest international road connecting Pakistan to China.
Police “rescued and arrested” Tian, but the mob was not satisfied. By Monday morning, they stormed the local police station — convinced that Tian was hiding there — and left only after officers showed paperwork that he was being charged with blasphemy.
The case was eventually registered against Tian; however, a council of religious leaders that was leading the protest withheld its decision to prosecute him after the drivers admitted that they did not actually hear him make the remarks, SCMP noted.
The accusers then claimed that they heard about the allegations from Tian’s interpreter. The council reportedly summoned the interpreter, but they did not respond.
Tian, however, remains in custody. According to reports, he was flown out of Kohistan to neighboring Abbottabad, where his case will be heard by an anti-terrorist court.
Funded by the World Bank, the Dasu hydropower project has seen tightened security since 2021 after nine Chinese and four Pakistani nationals were killed in a suicide bombing. While the project is not part of China’s billion-dollar investment in Pakistan, Chinese nationals work and live at guarded residential camps in the area.