Conflicts & War

Army called in after riots erupt in Pakistan over alleged Quran burning

Islamabad, Nov 29 (EFE).- The Pakistani Army moved to the northwest of the country Monday to contain overnight protests against the alleged desecration of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, officials said.

The protesters were demanding police hand over a suspect they detained for the alleged blasphemy in the Charsadda district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

On Sunday, thousands of people demonstrated in the Mandani town against the mentally unstable suspect accused of burning a copy of the holy book.

“We called in army to help us as situation got out of our control,” area police chief Ishaq Khan told EFE.

Khan said more than 5,000 protesters gathered outside the Mandani police station Sunday evening and demanded that police hand the alleged blasphemer over to them.

“When the police refused to hand over the blasphemer to the protesters, they set the police station on fire,” the police officer said.

“They also burnt and vandalized six police posts, several police residential quarters and several public and private vehicles, motorcycles and seized police weapons.”

Police personnel vacated the station safely and shifted the alleged blasphemer to an unknown location, he said.

Khan said a protester was injured after police fired aerial shots and tear gas shells to open a safe passage for the transfer of the accused.

According to the police officer, the alleged blasphemer has not spoken at all yet.

“Maybe he is dumb or pretending to be a dumb or mentally unstable,” the police officer said, adding interrogation was ongoing.

Authorities have tried to question the alleged blasphemer, who has refused to speak.

“Maybe he is mute, or he pretends to be mute or mentally unstable,” said the police officer, adding the questioning was on.

Senior police officials, with the help of local clerics, were negotiating with the protesters to calm down the situation.

Police have registered cases against the culprits who burnt and vandalized the state property. However, police have arrested nobody so far.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan.

Blasphemy convictions carry death sentences, but no one has been executed.

Most complaints are thrown out on appeal or because of lack of evidence.

Some people use the controversial law to settle their scores too.

The law was introduced by former military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s to bring Pakistani law more in line with Islamic laws. EFE

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