Chitral mob attacks police station demanding custody of blasphemy suspect

A mob surrounding the Chitral Police Station demanding that a man accused of blasphemy be handed over to them: PHOTO/EXPRESS

CHITRAL: An enraged mob attacked Chitral Police Station on Friday demanding that a man who allegedly committed blasphemy be handed over to them. The man, who is believed to have mental health issues, allegedly committed the offensive act during Friday prayers at Shahi Masjid in Chitral and was handed over to the police by the mosque’s prayer leader.

The city is now on lockdown. A security meeting has been called by local authorities to plan a further course of action to resolve the issue.

The mob broke the windows of the police station where the man is being held, officials and eyewitnesses told The Express Tribune.

The police requested the crowd to disperse peacefully, telling them that the man was mentally disabled, but they refused to leave. The area’s district nazim, deputy commissioner and senior security officials also reached the station and tried to convince them, but failed.

The law enforcement agencies later fired in the air and used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the men, but by the time this report was filed, thousands had surrounded the police station and the situation seemed to be growing worse.

A source said security and government officials in Chitral were holding a meeting to chalk out a strategy to deal with the situation.

The Frontier Corps has been summoned to help defuse the tension, sources added.

Shelling restarted at around 8:15pm and is ongoing. At least three people are reportedly injured.

Protesters targeted the SHO’s office and the reporting room.

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The mentally-disabled man, RK*, is believed to have made blasphemous remarks while the prayer leader was delivering the Friday sermon.

The prayer leader immediately handed him over to the police to prevent worshippers from attacking him.

Sources said RK was working in Qatar but was sent back to Pakistan after he had developed mental health issues. He had also undergone treatment for his mental illness in Peshawar.

The incident in Chitral has occurred in the wake of the lynching of 23-year-old Mashal Khan, a journalism student at the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, who brutally murdered by his fellow students on April 13 after being accused of blasphemy.

*Name withheld to protect identity of the suspect

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