Dozens of people have been arrested in connection to the death of a mentally ill man who was stoned to death by an angry mob for allegedly desecrating the Qur’an.
The man, identified as Mushtaq Ahmed, 41, was lynched by the mob after he allegedly burned pages of the Qur’an inside a mosque in a village in the province of Punjab on Saturday evening, Associated Press reported.
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Mian Mohammad Ramzan, a custodian of the local mosque, “saw smoke inside the mosque, which is adjacent to his home, and rushed to investigate.” He saw Ahmed burning a Quran and told him to stop. People were reportedly starting to gather outside the mosque for their evening prayers when the incident occurred.
Officer Mohammad Iqbal and his colleagues arrived at the scene to take Ahmed away, but members of the mob snatched the man away from the authorities while assaulting them. They also assaulted the police as they tried to save Ahmed.
Chief of Tulamba Police Station, Munawar Gujjar, called for reinforcements, but by the time they arrived, the mob had already stoned Ahmed to death and hung his corpse from a tree.
“The ill-fated man has been mentally unstable for the last 15 years and according to his family often went missing from home for days begging and eating whatever he could find,” Gujjar said.
“Who could possibly justify the barbaric act of stoning to death a mentally ill person?” Tahir Ashrafi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative on religious harmony, said in a televised press conference, The Guardian reported.
“The man’s family say that he was mentally ill and his mental health wasn’t right for the past 10 to 15 years,” Ashrafi continued. “This is not the religion of my prophet, to kill people under your own interpretation of religion.”
Although around 80 people living within the mosque’s vicinity have been put into custody, authorities suspect that around 300 people were involved in the incident.
Khan condemned the killing in a tweet on Sunday, saying: “We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands & mob lynchings will be dealt with full severity of the law. Have asked Punjab IG for report on action taken against perpetrators of the lynching in Mian Channu & against the police who failed in their duty.”
Officers eventually retrieved Amhed’s corpse and handed it to his family.