[The following story contains descriptions of violence and graphic videos.]
On Saturday, February 11, a mob attacked a police station in Nankana Sahib, in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The crowd entered the premises, grabbed an alleged blasphemy suspect in his cell, took him outside and lynched him.
A video of the mob breaking into the police station was tweeted by Pakistani multimedia journalist Shiraz Hassan. Shiraz wrote, “Total madness!!! An angry mob attacked the police station in Nankana Sahib. Reportedly an accused of blasphemy was killed and body burnt by the mob. Apparently police was unable to control the situation.”
Total madness!!! An angry mob attacked the police station in Nankana Sahib. Reportedly an accused of blasphemy was killed and body burnt by the mob. Apparently police was unable to control the situation. pic.twitter.com/1kdNGFmqro
— Shiraz Hassan (@ShirazHassan) February 11, 2023
Against the backdrop of this incident, many social media personalities shared a video of a mob celebrating while a body can be seen burning. It is being claimed that the video is of the same incident and the victim hailed from the Christian community, who are in minority in Pakistan.
Sharing the video on Twitter, Major Surendra Poonia, a pro-BJP right-wing media personality, wrote, “Waris Issa, A Christian arrested on blasphemy charges in Nankana Sahib of Pakistan. Islamic mob attacked Police station, dragged him out on streets & set him on the FIRE with slogan of Allah-o-Akbar.” The tweet can be viewed by clicking on this link.
We performed a keyword search on Google and came across a report by The Guardian published on February 12. According to this report, the man accused of blasphemy is actually a Muslim man named Muhammad Waris, who was in his mid-30s.
Speaking to The Guardian, a police spokesperson said, “The angry mob stormed the police station using a wooden ladder, dragged him out and beat him to death. After lynching, they were still not satisfied and tried to burn his body.” The police statement matched the visuals shared by journalist Shiraz Hassan on Twitter.
Alt News spoke with journalist Shiraz Hassan who confirmed to us that the victim, Muhammad Waris, was a Muslim. A report by BBC Urdu mentions the name of the mother of the victim, Nooran Bibi. As per the mother, the failure of Waris’ first marriage disturbed him and he was mentally unstable. Both BBC and local media outlets identified the victim as Waris Ali and not Muhammad Waris.
Additionally, Alt News spoke with journalist Sher Ali Khalti who helped us confirm that the victim was a Muslim and his name was Waris Ali, contrary to what has been reported by some media outlets.
We also found a news report which said that after the completion of the postmortem examination, Waris’ family did not come forward to claim his body. The report also mentions that his first wife had divorced him and his second wife lived separated from him.
The backdrop of the incident
As per an Ary News correspondent, locals from the Warburton police station area alleged that Waris had defaced pages of The Quran and had thrown them on the street. As soon as the police came to know of this, they took the accused into their custody. Following this, hundreds gathered outside the police station and forcefully entered the premise to take away the accused.
According to Dawn, police immediately locked Waris in the bathroom of the police station as more people started gathering outside the building. The local mosques made announcements asking them not to take the law into their hands. In the days leading up to the incident, Warburton police received three calls over the purported desecration of The Quran. The report mentions that “In the last such call, the local residents claimed they found the burnt pages of the Holy Quran and a picture of Waris’s ex-wife at the spot.”
Speaking to the media, a senior official said that Waris was released from jail in mid-2022 in a blasphemy case registered in 2019.
واربرٹن میں اھل محلہ نے توھین مزھب کا الزام لگا کر وارث نامی شھری کو قتل کردیا۔واقع کی اطلاع ملنے کے فوری بعد ڈی آئی جی شیخوپورہ رینج بابر سرفراز الپہ تھانہ واربرٹن میں پھنچے اور حالات کنٹرول کرنے کعبد میڈیا نمائیندگان سے گفتگو کررھے ھیں۔
Posted by واربرٹن ورلڈ نیوز on Saturday, 11 February 2023
So far 50+ arrests have been made in this case and the police are reviewing hundreds of video footage to take action against other perpetrators.
To sum it up, a Muslim man accused of blasphemy in Pakistan’s Punjab province was lynched by a mob. Sharing videos of the incident, many social media users falsely claimed that the victim was a Christian.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.