Swat District Police Officer (DPO) Dr Zahidullah Khan said on Sunday that at least 23 persons had been arrested for allegedly leading a mob and lynching a man in Madyan earlier this week.

The 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 had then set fire to the suspect’s body, the police station and a police vehicle.

According to locals, some individuals had announced in a market that the victim had committed blasphemy, leading others to apprehend him and hand him over to the police. 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 victim to them, and on their refusal, forced their way inside 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 could be seen surrounding the motionless body of the deceased before it was doused with fuel and set on fire.

This is the second such incident to be reported in recent weeks. Last month, police had saved a Christian man from an enraged mob in Sargodha following allegations of desecrating the Holy Quran. He had died nine days later from his injuries.

On Friday, Swat police had registered two first information reports (FIRs). “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,” Regional Police Officer Muhammad Ali Gandapur had said.

Madyan Station House Officer (SHO) Islamul Haq had told Dawn.com that the FIRs were sealed for “security purposes”.

A press release issued by the Swat DPO’s office today said that a case was registered under Sections 302 (punishment for murder), 324 (attempted murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act against those involved in the incident.

“The case was registered against 49 known and 2,500 unknown accused named in the FIR,” he said.

DPO Dr Zahidullah further told Dawn.com that a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), headed by the SP investigation Badshah Hazrat Khan, had been formed to ascertain the facts.

He said that the JIT comprised Upper Swat Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Muhammad Halim Khan, Madyan Sub-divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Syed Zaman Shah, Madyan Investigation Officer Inspector Muhammad Karam, Madyan SHO Haq, Assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Gauhar Khan [In-charge IT Investigation Swat] as well as Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), Special Branch and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials.

He said that the JIT had systematically collected evidence, under which 23 of the named accused were arrested in various operations the previous night.

“Identification of other unknown suspects involved in the incident is ongoing,” he said, adding that further updates would be provided in due course.

NA passes resolution

Meanwhile, the National Assembly on Sunday passed a resolution strongly condemning mob lynchings in Swat and Sargodha.

Law Minister Azam Tarar presented the resolution during a session marred by ruckus. He said that the “upsetting and painful events” in Swat and Sargodha were part of a “chain”.

The resolution, moved by Azam, stated, “[The] right to life is the most cherished right as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. Every person is to be dealt with in accordance with the law and not otherwise.”

It also urged the federal and provincial governments to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of all citizens, including minorities.

It further called on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to “take all necessary measures to ensure that persons involved in these incidents are identified, investigated and prosecuted under the relevant laws”.

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