CHITRAL: A man was brutally beaten inside a mosque by a mob of angry worshippers who accused him of committing blasphemy following Friday prayers in Chitral, days after a journalism student was killed over a similar allegation.
According to eyewitness account, the man, who was believed to have mental health issues, allegedly committed the offensive act in Shahi Masjid. As worshippers began beating him, the mosque’s imam, fearing for the man’s life, called the police.
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Police took the man to the Chitral Police Station for his protection. They said they were trying to ascertain the man's mental health. The enraged mob, meanwhile, tried to break into the police station to attack the man.
Police had to open fire in the air and lob tear gas shells to disperse the agitating crowd. The city was on lockdown. A security meeting was 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 was 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 situation in the area became volatile after law-enforcement agencies fired in the air and used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
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 also been summoned to help defuse the situation, sources said and added at least three people were reportedly injured in the shelling.
The protesters reportedly 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.
Moreover, local sources said a mob of young men had set on fire the vehicle of the Imam of the Shahi Masjid.
In the adjacent Upper Dir district, the deputy commissioner imposed Section 144 under CrPC for a period of one month, according to an official notification, fearing that bigger crowd might hold demonstrations that could endanger peace and tranquility in the area.
*Name withheld to protect identity of the suspect