Swat police register 2 FIRs over man’s lynching in Madyan; arrests yet to be made

Published June 21, 2024
A view of Madyan police station in Swat on Friday. — Photo by author
A view of Madyan police station in Swat on Friday. — Photo by author

The Swat police on Friday registered two first information reports (FIRs) over the previous night’s lynching of a man in Madyan with arrests yet to be made.

A mob had brutally lynched a man — who had been detained for the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran — inside the Madyan police station on Thursday evening. The mob then set fire to the suspect’s body, the police station and a police vehicle.

This was the second incident of someone being lynched on suspicion of blasphemy in recent weeks; a man was killed in Sargodha last month over similar allegations.

According to locals, some individuals announced in a market that a man had committed blasphemy, leading others to apprehend him and hand him over to the police. But shortly afterwards, announcements were also made from mosques in Madyan, a known tourist destination in Swat, mobilising the people towards the police station in anger.

According to witnesses, the mob asked police to hand over the suspect to them, and on their refusal, forced their way into the police station. Police officials had to flee to save themselves, while more reinforcements were called in to deal with the tense law and order situation.

Videos of the incident circulating on social media made for macabre viewing: some clips showed the Madyan police station on fire, while in other clips, a large crowd can be seen surrounding the motionless body of the deceased before it is doused with fuel and set on fire.

Talking to the media today at the Madyan police station regarding the incident, Regional Police Officer Muhammad Ali Gandapur said: “We have launched an inquiry into the incident to gather information. The police have filed two first information reports, one against the deceased and the other against the mob for breaking into the police station, breaking and torching records, and vehicles.”

He added that further information would be shared with the public after the investigation was completed.

Madyan Station House Officer (SHO) Islamulhaq told Dawn.com that the FIRs were sealed for “security purposes” and no arrests had been made so far.

The SHO added that the investigation process was still ongoing and any arrests would be made after that.

The SHO further said the deceased had identified himself as a Sunni Muslim when he was brought to the police station and denied committing the alleged act. The SHO identified the man as Mohammed Suleman, a resident of Sialkot.

He said that a mob arrived at the police station a few moments after the man was brought.

“When I sensed the danger, I shifted the man to a police servant quarter but the mob managed to enter the police station and after searching for him, came to the quarter and took him,” the SHO added.

He said that at least nine vehicles, including a police van, and ten motorcycles were torched in the incident.

Meanwhile, Swat District Police Officer (DPO) Dr Zahidullah Khan said that the situation in Madyan and in Swat was “completely normal and peaceful”.

“We have deployed additional security in the area and life is normal. Luckily, tourists are still coming from different parts of the country,” he told Dawn.com.

While speaking to the media, he said the markets in Madyan were open and roads were clear for transport as well. Terming the incident an “unfortunate and isolated” one, he said no other tourists were injured.

The DPO said as per the preliminary information available with the police, 11 people and five police officials suffered minor injuries.

Meanwhile, the president of the Malakand Division Traders’ Federation, Abdur Rahim, termed the incident a “pre-planned project to sabotage” the peace of Swat and disrupt tourism.

“We ask people from across the country to come to Swat without any fear, and the people of Swat will protect them,” he told Dawn.com, adding that locals would never allow negative elements to sabotage peace in the valley.

The deceased stayed at Skyways Hotel near Madyan Bridge on the Swat River. According to the owner of the hotel, Haider, the man checked into the hotel on June 18 and two days later, some other guests alleged they had seen burnt pages of the Holy Quran in his room.

He said that the hotel management called the police and handed the man over to them.

The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) strongly condemned the incident and emphasised that neither Islamic law nor the Constitution and laws of Pakistan permitted the killing or immolating of any human being.

A joint statement by PUC Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi and others expressed deep regret over the increasing frequency of such incidents.

The PUC said that it was the responsibility of the state and judiciary to administer punishment to a suspect of blasphemous actions and condemned the ongoing trend of individuals taking the law into their own hands, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, as “wholly unacceptable”.

The council urged the government and all state institutions, particularly the police and judiciary, to handle such cases decisively and without any compromise, vested interests or fear.

PML-N stalwart and former federal minister Khawaja Saad Rafique harshly condemned the incident and called on the KP government to identify and arrest all perpetrators.

He warned that the issue could spread like fire across the whole country and said any ignorance would be an injustice against the religion and the state.

Fuelled by an extremist religious worldview, violence against non-Muslims in Pakistan has escalated rapidly ever since Gen Ziaul Haq made blasphemy punishable by death. Between 1927 and 1986, only 14 incidents of blasphemy were reported in what is now Pakistan. But after the changes were made in the law, the number surged quickly.

At least 2,120 persons are reported to have been accused of committing blasphemy between 1987 and 2022.

Additional reporting by Murad Ali Khan and input from APP.



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