Man freed by court killed in apparent ‘blasphemy vigilante’ attack


A trainee police constable in southern Pakistan has killed a man acquitted of blasphemy charges, in a case that has again shed light on the country’s so-called “blasphemy vigilantes.”

“Police have arrested the killer and started an investigation into the motives behind the murder,” Farhat Ali, a spokesperson for police in Punjab’s Sadiqabad district told dpa on Saturday.

Police trainee Abdul Qadir attacked Mohammad Waqas with an axe while he was returning home with his brother late on Friday, Ali said.

Waqas was arrested in 2016 over allegations of blasphemy. A court recently acquitted him of the charges and ordered his release.

Fearing a backlash from local residents, Waqas did not return home immediately after being released.

According to police, Qadir told them that he wanted to kill the man in 2016 but could not do so because he was taken to jail.

Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in Pakistan and those accused can become the targets of Muslim vigilante groups. In some cases, they have been gunned down, burned alive or bludgeoned to death.

Last year, a Pakistani-American man who belonged to the Ahmadiyya faith was shot and killed inside a courtroom during his trial on blasphemy charges.
In 2017, a vigilante mob killed a journalism student at a university campus over allegations of blasphemy.

Hardline Islamists staged massive protests against the 2018 acquittal of Asia Bibi, who was given a death sentence in 2010 over allegations of blasphemy.

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