Persecution Article

Gujranwala mob beats Christian teen over alleged burning of Quran

On Aug 25, 2017 05:28 PM EDT
(REUTERS / Akhtar Soomro)Supporters of cricketer-turned-opposition politician Imran Khan take part in the Freedom March in Gujranwala August 15, 2014.

The 16-year-old Christian, whose real name has been withheld to protect his privacy, was accused by Muslim cleric Qari Rana Arshad Ali of taking a copy of the Quran from the shrine of Sundhay Shah and setting it on fire. The imam also claimed that the teen confessed to the crime and that a witness named Muhammad Nawaz heard it, the Tribune relayed.

According to Sub-Inspector Pervez Iqbal, the teen had confessed to the allegation so there was no need to take statements from other witnesses. He added that police rescued him from mob violence.

"The police saved him from the enraged mob," said Iqbal, who said the boy's family should thank them. "The mob surrounded the police station but we pacified the protesters with the help of the notables of the area."

However the Christian teen's father insisted that the blasphemy accusation against his son was merely a frame-up. He said the boy "collects papers and used bottles from garbage" at the shrine and sells them to help his family. The father added that one of the witnesses has a grudge against the teen because the latter's scrap collection affected his business.

Meanwhile, rights groups have called on Pakistan to have its blasphemy laws repealed in light of the dozens of deaths related to such accusations. Earlier this month, the Islamabad High Court asked the parliament to change the rules so that no one would be falsely accused of the crime, Al Jazeera reported.

Blasphemy in the form of insulting the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death, and the accused could also face jail time or be ordered to pay a fine. The chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mehdi Hasan, welcomed the court's move towards amending the controversial law. He told Al Jazeera that some people are misusing the law to settle personal issues against their opponents.



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