A day after a man was lynched at a political rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Mardan by a crazed mob over blasphemy accusations, police officials said the situation in the city was “under control” and authorities had begun investigations.

Mardan Senior Superintendent for Operations Rokhanzeb Khan told Dawn.com that the incident took place during a PTI rally on Saturday night in the Sawal Dher area.

He said Nigar Alam — a local cleric — was attacked by hundreds of people attending the rally after he allegedly “passed blasphemous remarks” as the gathering was about to conclude.

“When we saw that the people [in the area] had gotten riled up and were planning to attack Nigar, we escorted him to a shop in the market [where the rally was being held]. But people broke into the shop and started attacking him with punches, kicks, and clubs,” Khan said.

He added that Alam died during the mob attack.

Separately, District Police Office (DPO) Najeebur Rehman told Dawn.com that the police later dispersed the crowd and recovered the body.

The police have begun collecting evidence from the site and investigations are underway, he said.

However, a first information report (FIR) of the incident has not been registered yet, and no arrests been made so far, Rehman added.

This is not the first time a man has been lynched over blasphemy accusations in Mardan. Five years ago in Mardan, 23-year-old Mashal Khan — a Mass Communication student at the Abdul Wali Khan University — was also lynched by a mob and shot at over allegations of blasphemy on April 23, 2017.

Mashal Khan’s lynching took place within the premises of his university and was caught on video which was later circulated on social media. The horrific incident shocked the nation and sparked a debate on the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Dozens killed over blasphemy allegations since 1947

In February 2022, a middle-aged man was stoned to death by a mob over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in a remote village of Khanewal district.

The killing had come on the heels of an identical incident in Sialkot, where a Sri Lan­kan engineer was lynched by factory workers on Dec 3, 2021, on blasphemy charges.

In January 2022, the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in a report stated that as many as 89 citizens were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy in the country since independence. The report said that from 1947 to 2021, 18 women and 71 men were extra-judicially killed over blasphemy accusations. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men.

Out of the total, 1,287 citizens were accused of committing blasphemy from 2011- 21. “The actual number is believed to be higher because not all blasphemy cases get reported in the press,” the report had said, adding more than 70 per cent of the accused were reported from Punjab.

The report had said misuse of blasphemy laws is often described by courts as an unlawful act. It had said the Islamabad High Court had previously suggested to the legislature to amend the existing laws to give equal punishment to those who level false blasphemy accusations.

The report had said the origin of the blasphemy laws dated back to the British era when these were promulgated in 1860.

Initially, four blasphemy laws — section 295, 296, 297 and 298 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — were introduced and in 1927 section 295 was supplemented by 295A after the case of Ilmuddin, a Muslim carpenter, who killed Mahashe Rajpal for publishing a blasphemous book.

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