Protesters gather beside burning vehicles outside a police station during a demonstration in Kuchlak town about 16 kilometres north of Quetta on June 16, 2012. —AFP Photo

QUETTA: A mob attacked a police station in Pakistan on Saturday demanding a man detained for allegedly desecrating the Quran be handed over, leaving one person dead and 19 with gunshot wounds.

Violence erupted after police arrested a “mentally retarded” man said to have burnt pages of the holy book in Kuchlak, about 16 kilometres north of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, senior administration official Qambar Dashti told AFP.

“Angry protesters, mostly Afghan refugees, torched several vehicles and pelted police with stones,” Dashti said.

“Chanting the man should be killed for blasphemy, they later entered the police station and started firing,” he said, adding that a senior police officer narrowly escaped while his police guard was wounded in the shooting.

Police fired tear gas shells and opened fire in self defence, Quetta police chief Qazi Wajid said.

The clash left one protester dead and 19 people wounded including eight policemen, he said. “All the wounded people have bullet injuries,” he added.

The protesters said the man deserved death for blasphemy and demanded police hand him over to them, he said.

“The man appeared to be mentally retarded, we have taken him into custody and ordered an investigation,” Wajid said, adding that control had been restored.

Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws make defaming Islam or the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), or desecrating the Quran, punishable by death.

Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was shot dead in January last year by one of his police bodyguards for opposing the blasphemy law.

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