Mushtaq Ahmed, a 41-year-old Pakistani man, was stoned to death by a mob in a Punjab village after residents claimed they saw him burning a copy of the Quran over the weekend. 

According to reports in the international press, police officers tried to intervene Saturday evening when Ahmed was cornered by a crowd at a mosque. Authorities said they tried to shield and detain the 41-year-old but were unable to do so when the mob began throwing rocks at him. 

Ahmed was killed and his body was hanged from a tree. Three police officers were injured during the incident, as well, police spokesman Chaudhry Imran told the Associated Press on Sunday. 

More than 80 men have been detained in connection with the violence, though local authorities believe more than 300 may have been involved. 

No motive was given for the alleged Quran burning, though officials said family members told them Ahmed was “mentally unstable” for years before his death. 

The lynching comes just over two months after a mob — also in Pakistan’s Punjab province — dragged a Sri Lankan business executive from his office and beat him to death in the street following similar blasphemy allegations. 

Regional and national leaders have called for an end to religious vigilante lynchings, though blasphemy against any organized religion remains a criminal offense punishable by death under Pakistani law

Blasphemy, like Mushtaq Ahmed's alleged Quran burning, is a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.
Blasphemy, like Mushtaq Ahmed’s alleged Quran burning, is a crime punishable by death in Pakistan. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Alleged Quran Burner Stoned to Death in Pakistan

When he rushed next door to the mosque, Ramzan said he saw a burnt copy of the Quran on the floor and a man nearby trying to burn another. The custodian said he shouted at the man to stop, just as the other villagers were arriving for evening prayers. 

According to witnesses, a small police team was on the scene within minutes to take custody of the alleged arsonist, but was quickly overpowered by the crowd, which began hurling rocks at the suspect and authorities. 

Officials said a mob in Pakistan stoned to death Mushtaq Ahmed near a Punjab mosque.
Officials said a mob in Pakistan stoned to death Mushtaq Ahmed near a Punjab mosque. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Two policemen suffered minor wounds, while officer Mohammad Iqbal was “seriously injured,” Imran said on Sunday. His condition as of Monday is not clear. 

After the first failed rescue attempt, Tulamba police chief Munawar Gujjar said he dispatched reinforcements to the mosque, but by the time they’d arrived, the suspect was already stoned to death and his body hanged from a tree. 

Mushtaq Ahmed Identified as Victim

Chief Gujjar told the press on Sunday that the victim had been identified as 41-year-old Mushtaq Ahmed, a resident of a nearby village. 

Ahmed, the chief claimed, was reportedly in poor mental health before his death on Saturday. 

“The ill-fated man has been mentally unstable for the last 15 years,” Gujjar said

“According to his family often went missing from home for days begging and eating whatever he could find,” he continued, adding that Ahmed’s remains had been turned over to his relatives. 

Of the 300 villagers authorities believe took part in Ahmed’s killing, at least 80 were in custody as of Sunday, according to reports. Gujjar said his department was combing through available video from the lynching to identify suspects, and that the investigation is still ongoing. 

Pakistani PM Imran Khan condemned the Punjab crowd that stoned to death 41-year-old Mushtaq Ahmed for alleged blasphemy.
Pakistani PM Imran Khan condemned the Punjab crowd that stoned to death 41-year-old Mushtaq Ahmed for alleged blasphemy. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan issued an English-language statement on Twitter late on Saturday, condemning the mobs’ actions. 

“We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands, [and] mob lynchings will be dealt with full severity of the law,” the PM wrote. 

“[I] Have asked Punjab [Inspector-General] for report on action taken against perpetrators of the lynching in MIan Channu, [and] against the police who failed in their duty,” Khan added.