Violence erupted in Lasbela district’s Hub area after police refused to hand over a Hindu man suspected of blasphemy to an angry mob, DawnNews reported, with locals resorting to pelting stones at police when their demands were not met.
Prakash Kumar, a local business owner, was suspected of sharing a picture containing allegedly blasphemous content on WhatsApp, Hub police officials said.
A First Information Report was registered against Kumar on the complaint of various community members under Sections 295-A and 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The suspect was shifted to Gaddani Central Jail.
An hours-long protest outside the Hub city police station turned violent, with protesters pelting stones at police, after law enforcement officials refused the protesters’ demand that police hand over the Hindu man to the community so they could administer justice themselves and ‘punish’ Kumar.
Hub City police dispersed the crowd of enraged protesters through tear gas shelling and aerial firing, and took 20 protesters into custody.
Search operations were underway to arrest those suspected of inciting the mob to violence, police said.
Hub Circle Deputy Sub-Inspector Police Jan Mohammad Khosa as well as Police Constable Mukhtiar Ahmed, and Additional Deputy Commissioner Tariq Javed Mengal were injured in the violence, along with an Edhi rescue official and a child.
The child later succumbed to his injuries, as he had received bullet wounds which turned fatal. The deceased boy is yet to be identified.
Shops owned by members of the Hindu community were shut down and all roads connecting Sindh to Balochistan via Hub were closed for operations until further notice.
Blasphemy is considered a highly sensitive religious issue in the country and it is not the first time when accusations of blasphemy ensued into acts of violence.
A few weeks ago a vigilante mob lynched 23-year-old Mardan university student Mashal Khan over allegations of blasphemy. He was shot and tortured to death even in the presence of police whereas police high ups said that the LEA personnel present at the scene were unable to control the massive mob.
A few months ago, several bloggers were also accused of blasphemy. Some of them were allegedly kidnapped and later released. After a hue and cry on media, the Islamabad High Court took notice of the issue and ordered concerned authorities to purge social media and the internet of blasphemous content.
Following the Mashal murder case, lawmakers and religious scholars alike repeatedly stressed that mobs cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands. They also asserted that even if someone was accused of blasphemy, police should be allowed to follow due process and the case should be decided only in a court of law.