Islamic Cleric Lynched in Pakistan Over Alleged Blasphemy

A local Muslim religious leader was beaten to death by an angry mob in Pakistan after allegedly making “blasphemous” remarks during an opposition party rally, which came at a time when lynchings due to blasphemy allegations continue to rise in the country.

According to a local police official, who requested anonymity when interviewed by Al Jazeera, Nigar Alam was asked to speak during a rally organized by the Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, whose members include former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in the village of Sawaldher in the Mardan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan.

After Alam was invited to speak, the crowd turned against him and killed him after he reportedly “passed some blasphemous remarks that angered people.” Police initially managed to bring Alam to safety at a nearby shop, but the angry crowd broke through the door, forcibly dragged him out, and beat him with batons until he died.

Footage of the incident became viral on Pakistani social media, showing the Pakistani police trying to stop the angry crowd from beating Alam, but their efforts ended in vain. The local police official said Alam was taken to the hospital, and investigations are being conducted.

We have filed a first information report where police itself is the complainant, but due to sensitivity of the matter, the FIR is sealed,” the official said.

Blasphemy remains a hugely sensitive issue in the Muslim-majority country, where even unproven allegations can result in violence, lynchings, and death. Last April, a woman was arrested for claiming she was an Islamic prophet, and a man was sentenced to death for reportedly spreading blasphemous remarks. However, the country does not carry out the death penalty for blasphemy. 

A man jailed for blasphemy charges was also a victim of lynching when a frenzied mob in Lahore broke through a police station, where he was detained before being beaten to death.

But it’s not only Pakistanis who fall victim to mob violence for unproven allegations of blasphemy. In December 2021, Priyantha Kumara, a factory manager from Sri Lanka, was lynched and burned by an angry mob in Sialkot for blasphemy.

The shocking incident became notorious and drew condemnation from many individuals, including then-Prime Minister Imran Khan, who called Kumara’s death a “day of shame for Pakistan.” Hundreds of Pakistanis were arrested for participating in the lynchings.

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