LAHORE: An enraged mob beat a Christian couple to death and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked on Tuesday for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Holy Quran, police said.
The incident took place at the town of Kot Radha Kishan, some 60 kilometres southwest of Lahore, and is the latest example of mob violence against minorities accused of blasphemy.
“A mob attacked a Christian couple after accusing them of desecration of the Holy Quran and later burnt their bodies at a brick kiln where they worked,” local police station official Bin-Yameen told AFP.
“Yesterday an incident of desecration of the Holy Quran took place in the area and today the mob first beat the couple and later set their bodies on fire at a brick kiln,” he added.
Another police official confirmed the incident.
The victims were only identified by their first names, Shama and Shehzad, and were a married couple.
Pakistan's brick kiln workers are often subject to harsh practices, with a study by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan estimating that 4.5 million are indentured labourers.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has constituted a three-member committee to fast track the investigation of the killings and ordered police to beef up security at Christian neighbourhoods in the province, an official from his media office told AFP.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the country, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence. Anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.
A Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during an argument with a Muslim woman.
An elderly British man with severe mental illness, sentenced to death for blasphemy in January, was shot by a prison guard last month.
Editorial: Death for blasphemy
This editorial was published in Dawn on March 29, 2014
The reality of Pakistan today is that mere accusation of this crime, howsoever unsubstantiated, instantly imperils the life of the individual concerned, and that threat persists not only throughout his incarceration, but even after acquittal.
Minorities are particularly impacted by the blasphemy law. Firstly, they are disproportionately targeted as compared to their actual representation in the population.
Secondly, when one of them is accused, the entire community is made to suffer, as illustrated by the mob violence in Joseph Colony, Gojra, etc or in lesser known cases where communities have been intimidated into moving en masse out of the locality. In fact, the desire to grab land or settle personal scores often underlies blasphemy allegations. That is all the more reason the law needs to be revisited.