Police arrest 6 more primary suspects in Khanewal lynching case

Published February 14, 2022
Police officers stand outside a mosque on Sunday, a day after a mob lynched a man in Tulamba Village, in Mian Channu, Punjab. — Reuters
Police officers stand outside a mosque on Sunday, a day after a mob lynched a man in Tulamba Village, in Mian Channu, Punjab. — Reuters

Punjab police on Monday arrested six more primary suspects involved in the lynching of a man accused of blasphemy in Khanewal, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the incident and sought a report from the provincial police on action taken against the perpetrators.

With the latest arrests, the number of primary suspects in custody has risen to 21, while a total of 102 have been detained so far and are being interrogated for their suspected involvement in the crime, a spokesperson for Punjab police said in a statement.

In an incident that brings back the memories of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara's lynching in December, the middle-aged man was stoned to death by a mob over alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in Khanewal district's Tulamba on Saturday.

The victim rep­orte­dly claimed innocence but the villagers first tied him up to a tree and then hit him with bricks until he died.

The six primary suspects arrested on Monday "could be seen [in a video] provoking the mob as well as torturing the victim with bricks and sticks", the police spokesperson said.

He said the prime suspects had been charged with sections of terrorism and heinous crimes in the first information report (FIR).

"The identification and arrest of more suspects are underway with the help of available footage and evidence," the spokesperson added.

Police teams conducted raids throughout the previous night while a secret operation was also underway, according to the statement.

The incident has drawn condemnation from political circles, with the prime minister tweeting on Sunday: "We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands and mob lynchings will be dealt with [the] full severity of the law.

Separately, in a press conference yesterday, Special Representative to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Ashrafi said that the victim was not mentally sound and had been suffering from a mental illness for around 15 years.

He had also appealed to the chief justice to conduct speedy trials of blasphemy cases.

The incident

The FIR of the incident, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was registered at Tulamba police station on the complaint of police officer Munawwar Hussain under Sections 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly of people), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 302 (intentional murder) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The FIR stated that when police officials reached the village, a man accused of burning the Holy Quran was found tied up with ropes and being subjected to violence by a large mob.

The FIR said the police tried to placate the crowd but to no avail, adding that the 33 identified suspects and around 200-300 others eventually killed the man after beating him with rods, sticks and bricks.

"The suspects hung his body from a tree which spread immense fear," the FIR said, adding that the body was recovered after much effort and taken for a postmortem examination.

The FIR said the police officers were also subjected to violence by the suspects due to which a sub-inspector suffered injuries and required medical treatment.

Subsequently, Chief Minister Buzdar had issued directives that all requirements of justice must be met and said no one would be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

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