By BosNewsLife Asia Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistan police have detained a cleric accused of leading a mob trying to kill a Christian couple who allegedly desecrated the Koran, deemed a holy book Muslims. Police rescued the Christians from the crowd near the eastern city of Lahore this week in what was seen as a relatively unusual intervention in the heavily Islamic nation, where those accused of blasphemy are sometimes lynched on the spot.
The illiterate Christian couple had obtained an old panaflex advertisement awning which contained the names and slogans of various colleges, which they were using as a mat to sleep on in their home in Chak 460, a village some about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Lahore.
Arabic inscriptions, allegedly from the Koran, were found among the colleges’ slogans, leading the local barber as well
as the two clerics to accuse the couple of committing blasphemy, police investigators said.
“One of the clerics who led the mob demanding the arrest of the couple and their death was at large, he was arrested today (Friday) and we are looking for a barber who ignited the whole issue,” Sohail Zafar Chattha, the district police chief, said in published remarks.
“Muslims of the town gathered there and dragged the poor couple who didn’t know what they had done,” he explained, adding that they were almost beaten to death.
Church sources said their heads were shaved during the ordeal. However, “Police intervened in time and rescued the couple from the mob and shifted them to Lahore and handed over them to the elders of Christian community,” claimed Chatta.
Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws, which can carry the death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, are often used against minorities and the poor by those wishing to settle personal scores, according to rights groups.
Christians, who make up around two per cent of Pakistan’s mostly Muslim population of 200 million, have been increasingly targeted in recent years, by both mob violence and militant attacks, said the Legal Evangelical Association for Development (LEAD), a non-profit Christian law firm that takes up cases of persecuted minorities.
“We demand the Punjab government act against the people who subjected the Christians to such inhuman treatment,” stressed Sardar Mushtaq Gill, head of LEAD.
In one of the most notorious incidents bonded labourer Shehzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi were beaten by a mob of 1,500 people then thrown into a lit furnace last year.
The incident followed allegations they had thrown pages of the Koran into the garbage.