ISLAMABAD: Pakistani police said on Tuesday that they foiled an attempt by a mob to lynch a blasphemy suspect inside a police station in Islamabad.
The suspect, Shaukat Ali, was recently arrested on charges of insulting Islam. “He has been accused of sharing anti-Islam content on social media,” local police said.
The mob, comprising dozens of villagers wielding batons and iron rods, with some carrying pistols, had stormed Islamabad’s Golra police station on Monday night after police refused to hand them over the suspect.
While the suspect remained unharmed, at least six police officials were sustained injuries in the attack, Asim Ghaffar, a local police chief, said.
According to police, when law enforcers brought the suspect to the police station, scores of people gathered at its gate that the personnel had locked to keep the angry mob outside. However, police added, they managed to enter the police station after overpowering the guards.
The officials said the attackers started damaging the offices of investigating officers and the station house officer (SHO).
During the attack, the policemen reportedly tried to protect themselves as well as the suspect by locking themselves up in the lock-up and other rooms. They then sought help from a police contingent. Upon getting information, police reinforcement, including personnel of counterterrorism department, anti-terrorist squad and anti-riot unit reached the spot and rescued the staff.
To disperse the mob, the law enforcers resorted to teargas shelling and baton-charged the protesting villagers. The angry protesters, however, also put up resistance. After over an hour-long police action, the law enforcement officials succeeded to push back the Islamists and get the police station vacated.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law carries life imprisonment or death penalty. In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are common and often motivated by personal vendetta. Rights groups, however, claim that blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities. In the past, such accusations had often ended up in lynchings or street vigilantism.