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Pakistani Facebook blasphemy case sparks mob riot, 3 killed

Published time: July 28, 2014 11:29
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Ahamdi women walk past graves at the Ahmadi graveyard in the town of Rabwa December 9, 2013 (Reuters / Zohra Bensemra)

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Ahamdi women walk past graves at the Ahmadi graveyard in the town of Rabwa December 9, 2013 (Reuters / Zohra Bensemra)

Two children and their grandmother, who belonged to a religious sect, have been killed in Pakistan by an Islamist mob, after a sect member was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook. Four others are in a critical condition.

A seven-year-old girl, Hira, her baby sister Kainat, and their 55 year-old grandmother, Bashiran Bibi, were killed, after their homes were set on fire, the Ahmadiyya Times reports. The three family members were Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims and many Pakistanis consider them heretics.

The incident happened on Sunday evening in the town of Gujranwala, which is 220 km southeast of the capital, Islamabad, after an altercation between young men, one of whom was an Ahmadi. He was accused of posting objectionable material.

"Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused," said one police officer who declined to be identified, according to Reuters.

"As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis," the officer added, who also stated that the youth who was accused of making the Facebook post has not been injured.

The police officer said they had tried to stop the mob. However, Salim-ud, who is a spokesman for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, said the fire truck responding to the fire was turned back by the mob and the local police were not interested in letting people put out buildings on fire. He also added that this was the worst attack on the community since simultaneous attacks on Ahmadi places of worship killed 86 Ahmadis four years ago.

Resident Munawar Ahmed, 60, said he drove terrified neighbors to safety as the mob attacked.

"The attackers were looting and plundering, taking away fans and whatever valuables they could get hold of and dragging furniture into the road and setting fire to it... Some were continuously firing into the air," he said.

"A lot of policemen arrived but they stayed on the sidelines and didn't intervene," he added.

Dr. Basharat Nazir, who is a national spokesperson for the Ahmadi Muslim community in the UK, stated through his private Twitter account that the ultimate blame for the anti-Ahmadi crimes rest with the government of Pakistan.

"The Pakistan government continues to refuse that Ordinance XX makes Ahmadis fair game for arson, murder, harassment anytime anywhere." wrote Dr. Nazir.

Under Pakistani law, Ahmadis are banned from using Muslim greetings, saying Muslim prayers or referring to his place of worship as a mosque.

Accusations of blasphemy are rocketing in Pakistan, from one in 2011 to at least 68 last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. About 100 people have been accused of blasphemy this year.

Human rights workers say the accusations are increasingly used to settle personal vendettas, or to grab the property of the accused.