A police station in northwestern Pakistan was held in detention by a suspect of blasphemy. It was besieged by thousands of protestors. The mob set fire to the building after officers refused to surrender the suspect.
Local media reported that several police checkpoints were also attacked in the violence on Sunday night in Charsadda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A video of the incident shows the crowd watching the blaze from the distance.
Public anger was sparked by news reports that police arrested a suspect of desecrating the Koran. According to Pakistani law, the act can result in death. However, in some instances, the court may order lynching if the agitated believer refuses to accept that justice has been served.
Law enforcement officers estimated that the crowd was between 4,000 and 5,000 strong. They demanded that the police surrender the suspect. As the police refused to surrender the suspect, the situation escalated. The officers had to flee. In the stand-off, there were no reported casualties.
Before being set on fire, the police station was robbed and ransacked. It also contained its criminal record archive as well as several vehicles that were parked out front. The officers suspect weapons may also have been taken from the station’s arsenal.
Riotor’s attacked 4 police checkpoints in the other part of the district. A sit-in demonstration was also held, but local officials and elders were able to subdue the protestors and persuade them to leave.
Police described the unidentified suspect in blasphemy as mentally unstable. According to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa law minister Fazle Shakoor Khan (Charsadda), officers moved the suspect out of the station prior to the attack and then transferred him to safety. Multiple media outlets claimed that the suspect was being transferred out of the area due to concerns about his safety.