Pakistan arrests second cleric for `blasphemy` mob attack on Christian couple
Pakistan police on Friday arrested a cleric accused of leading a mob trying to kill a Christian couple for allegedly committing blasphemy, a senior officer said.
Islamabad: Pakistan police on Friday arrested a cleric accused of leading a mob trying to kill a Christian couple for allegedly committing blasphemy, a senior officer said.
Police had saved the couple on Tuesday from a Muslim mob who were attempting to lynch them in the village of Makki in Punjab province.
"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, told AFP.
Another cleric was arrested earlier in the week.
The incident, which took place in the village of Makki in Punjab province on Tuesday, represents a rare successful intervention by authorities in a country where even unproven allegations of blasphemy can result in a bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.
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.
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.
"Muslims of the town gathered there and dragged the poor couple who didn`t know what they had done. They were being beaten to death," Chattha wrote on Facebook.
"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," he later told AFP.
Pakistan`s tough blasphemy laws, which carry the death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, are often invoked against minorities and the poor by those wishing to settle personal scores, according to rights groups.
Christians, who make up around two percent of Pakistan`s mostly Muslim population of 200 million, have been increasingly targeted in recent years, by both mob violence and militant attacks.
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 in a crazed reaction to rumours they had thrown pages of the Koran into the garbage.