Mob Lynches Tourist in Pakistan for ‘Blasphemy’

Pakistan Blasphemy
AP Photo/Naveed Ali

Pakistan police on Friday said they launched an investigation into the lynching and burning of a tourist whom a Muslim mob murdered for allegedly burning pages from the Quran.

The incident occurred on Thursday night when a Pakistani man from Punjab visited Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was accused of blasphemy by an angry mob.

Swat Valley is a major tourist destination, thanks to its stunning natural beauty. Swat Valley is also noted for grim Islamic fundamentalism, having long served as a base of operations for Tehrik-e-Taliban, the “Pakistani Taliban.”

The Pakistani Taliban has roughly the same position on topics — such as Sharia law, banning girls from school, and enforcing blasphemy laws — as the Taliban in Afghanistan does. The Pakistani military ostensibly expelled the Taliban from Swat Valley in 2018, bringing tourism and commerce back to the region, but some of the old attitudes linger.

The tourist was accused of “insulting the Quran” while he was strolling through a market in Swat Valley. Accounts of exactly what he supposedly did are confused. The Times of India (TOI) cited a report that he allegedly damaged a Quran while in his hotel room.

Local police heard people shouting accusations of blasphemy in the market and immediately took the tourist into custody, as Pakistan has strict laws against blaspheming Islam, and mobs quite often take those laws into their own hands by murdering alleged offenders.

Later statements from police officials claimed the officers tried to “rescue” him from the mob by taking him to a police station. However, it was not much of a rescue because local mosques used their loudspeakers to tell the crowd exactly where the “blasphemer” had been taken, and an even larger mob soon converged on the station.

Some area residents said the police opened fire on the mob, injuring up to eleven of them, an accusation the police had not commented on by Friday evening. In any event, the mob tore down the gates of the station, drove the police officers away, set fire to the building and a police vehicle, and dragged the alleged blasphemer into the street.

The tourist was then savagely beaten to death and set on fire. The mob triumphantly dragged his flaming corpse through the street, as seen in numerous videos uploaded to social media. After beating the flaming dead man some more, they hanged him for good measure.

According to local police chief Muhammad Ali Gandapur, the victim was himself Muslim and was visiting the Swat Valley area to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The police said hundreds of suspects are under investigation for the murder, some of them as young as 13. Additional security forces have been dispatched to the area, while other tourists are just as quickly “scrambling to leave,” as the BBC put it.


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