An enraged mob tortured a Pakistani Christian couple and incinerated their bodies in a brick kiln in eastern Pakistan on Tuesday after they were accused of burning a Quran, police officials said.
The killings, which happened in the town of Kot Radha Kishan in Punjab Province, were the latest violent outbreak of religious intolerance in Pakistan, where members of minorities are frequently accused of blasphemy.
The two victims, Shahzad Masih and Shama Masih, who had four children and were believed to be in their mid-20s, both worked as laborers at a local brick kiln. The accusations against them began after burned pages of the Quran were said to have been found in their trash.
On Tuesday, as word spread, the couple were locked up in a room adjacent to the brick kiln by their employer, Yousaf Gujjar, who also had a running dispute with the couple over money. Some accounts in local news media suggested that Mr. Gujjar accused them of blasphemy after they refused to repay money he had lent them.
Meanwhile, local clerics made incendiary announcements and urged people to gather. Hundreds of people converged on the couple’s home, and witnesses said some in the crowd broke down the door and dragged the couple out. The police said they were tortured and then burned in the kiln.
“By the time police arrived, the couple was already dead,” Jawad Qamar, the local police chief, told local news media outlets. “Their bodies were totally burned.” He said a criminal case had been filed against at least 460 people, and 48 people had been arrested. The police were conducting raids to detain more suspects.
According to Pakistan’s much-debated blasphemy laws, such accusations can be punishable by execution. But more often, blasphemy accusations end up leading to vigilante violence. Rights activists say such accusations are frequently used to settle personal vendettas or to harass religious minorities. Mere criticism of the blasphemy codes has even led to threats and violence.
SOURCE: WAQAR GILLANI
The New York Times