A bank manager was shot dead by its security guard allegedly over blasphemy allegations in Punjab's Khushab district on Wednesday, police and relatives said.
Malik Imran Hanif, the manager of the National Bank of Pakistan branch in Quaidabad tehsil of Khushab, was shifted to a local hospital after he was shot by the guard from a rifle. Due to his critical injuries, he was taken to Lahore where he succumbed to his wounds at the Services Hospital.
Khushab District Police Officer (DPO) retired Capt Tariq Wilayat told Dawn it would be premature to comment on the motive behind the murder, but confirmed that the security guard, who was arrested after the incident, had claimed to have killed Hanif over blasphemy.
In a video of the suspect that was shared on social media, the guard could be heard saying that the deceased manager had "insulted the prophet".
DPO Wilayat said police were investigating the incident. Quoting initial reports, he said the security guard and the manager had been quarrelling for some time. The guard was reportedly fired a few months ago; he was subsequently rehired and had an argument with Hanif a few days ago, the officer added.
Speaking to Dawn, police sources also expressed doubt over the guard's claim that he had killed the manager over blasphemy. They suggested that the guard had committed the murder due to personal grievances.
Another guard of the bank branch, Razaq, was ending his night shift when the incident took place. He said the suspected killer had started duty at 7am, while the manager arrived at the bank around 8:40am.
Razaq said he was changing his uniform when he heard the sound of gunfire. He said he rushed towards the bank office, where the suspect had fired two shots. He said he stopped the suspect from firing a third shot.
Razaq further said he had not heard any conversation between the manager and the suspect before the killing took place.
No first information report (FIR) of the incident has been registered as yet. Police said they would lodge the FIR upon receiving a complaint from the deceased's family, who were transporting his body back to Khushab from Lahore. A post-mortem was likely to take place in Khushab.
Videos shared on Twitter showed the guard being greeted by a crowd of supporters after killing the manager. The security guard and the mob then raised slogans as they walked on the street.
The suspect was then joined by the leaders of a religious group, all of whom raised slogans and addressed supporters from the rooftop of the Quaidabad Police Station. Police personnel could be seen standing nearby recording videos.
In another video, a maternal uncle of the deceased manager stated that the security guard had shot dead Hanif due to a personal issue. He denied the suspect's claim that Hanif had insulted any prophet, saying they were Muslims and not Ahmadis. He demanded that the murder be investigated on merit and the suspect be brought to justice.
Human rights groups say blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities or even against Muslims to settle personal rivalries. Such accusations can end up in lynchings or street vigilantism.
Up to 80 people are known to be imprisoned in the country on such charges — half of whom face life in prison or the death penalty — according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In July, a US citizen of Pakistani origin on trial over blasphemy allegations in Peshawar was shot dead in a courtroom by a teenager who told bystanders he killed him for insulting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).