Christian couple burnt alive in Pakistan

2014-11-04 20:28

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Islamabad - An angry mob on Tuesday burnt alive a Christian couple in eastern Pakistan for allegedly desecrating the Muslim holy book the Qur'an, police said, in another incident highlighting persecution of religious minorities.

Several dozen Muslim men led by local clerics in Kot Radha Kishan town of Punjab province first tortured the couple and then threw them into the fire of a brick kiln, police official Muhammad Binyamin said.

Shahzad Masih, 35, and his wife Shammah Shahzad, 31, were laborers at the kiln in Kasur district, some 50km from the provincial capital Lahore, Binyamin said.

The kiln's owner locked the couple in a room along with their four children after accusing them of burning pages from the Qur'an on Monday, the police official said.

They were burnt alive the next morning by a mob when local people learnt of the blasphemy allegations, Binyamin said.

Young men wanted to kill their children as well but they were saved by other members of the mob.

Emmanuel Sarfraz, a relative of the couple, said the blasphemy allegation was not true.

He claimed the husband and wife wanted to quit their jobs at the kiln because the owner was not paying them well.

"They exchanged some bitter words with the owner and he accused them of blasphemy," Sarfraz said.

Police have arrested around 50 people after the provincial chief minister ordered an investigation into the incident, district police chief Jawad Qamar said.

False blasphemy accusations

Members of religious minorities often face false blasphemy accusations in Pakistan.

Last month, a court in Punjab upheld the death sentence of a Christian mother for allegedly passing derogatory remarks about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad during an argument with fellow village women.

The woman denied allegations but has been languishing in jail for four years.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which seek death for insulting the religion, have been a source of social fragmentation in the country of 180 million mainly Muslim population.

An estimated 1 300 people have faced charges of blasphemy since 1986, according to the human rights unit of the Law Ministry.

Around 50 were lynched by angry mobs before their trials concluded.

Read more on:    pakistan  |  religion

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