Tourist Accused of Blasphemy Beaten to Death and Set Ablaze in Northern Pakistan

Farrukh Saif

June 21, 2024

lynched by an angry mob

On June 20, 2024, a horrific incident occurred in the Madyan area of Swat district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. A tourist from Punjab province was brutally lynched by an angry mob over allegations of blasphemy, specifically the desecration of the Quran.

The victim, identified as Mohammad Ismail, was initially taken into protective custody by local police after accusations of blasphemy emerged. Swat police chief Zahid Ullah stated that police initially rescued the man from the attackers and sheltered him at a police station in Madian. However, the enraged mob broke down the gate of the police station, entered the building, poured gasoline on the man, and set him on fire. They then continued to beat his lifeless body while dragging its body through the streets.

During the attack, the mob also vandalized the police station, burning three police vehicles and setting fire to the building itself. The violence resulted in injuries to at least 11 people, with three requiring hospitalization.

Mob Violence

This tragic event is part of a disturbing pattern in Pakistan, where blasphemy accusations have frequently led to mob violence and extrajudicial killings. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which carry potential death sentences for insulting Islam, have long been a source of controversy and criticism.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have their roots in the British colonial era but were significantly expanded and strengthened during the 1980s under the military government of General Zia-ul Haq. These laws prohibit a wide range of actions deemed insulting to religious beliefs and practices, including desecration of the Quran and insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Critics argue that these laws are often misused to persecute religious minorities and settle personal disputes. Between 1987 and 2017, at least 1,500 people were charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, and at least 75 people involved in blasphemy accusations were killed. Despite the severity of the laws, no judicial execution for blasphemy has ever occurred in Pakistan.

The mere accusation of blasphemy is often enough to spark violent public reactions, as evidenced by this recent incident. The United Nations Committee against Torture has reported that Pakistani authorities have made “inadequate efforts” to protect vulnerable individuals from such mob violence.

Attempts to reform or amend the blasphemy laws have been met with fierce resistance and even violence. In 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a prominent critic of the blasphemy laws, was assassinated by his own bodyguard. The following year, Religious Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who had also spoken out against the laws, was killed.

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Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.


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