Elderly Christian Critically Injured in Pakistan Following False Blasphemy Accusation

An elderly Christian man is in critical condition at a hospital after a violent attack by a mob in Pakistan. The mob, incited by a neighbor’s false accusation of burning pages of the Quran, attempted to kill the 74-year-old victim, Nazeer Masih Gill, according to his family.

The attackers also vandalized Gill’s home and set fire to his shoe factory in Sargodha city’s Mujahid Colony, reported his nephew, Irfan Gill.

The incident occurred on the morning of May 25 in Mujahid Colony, Sargodha District, Punjab Province, when Nazeer Gill was burning waste paper outside his house. A Muslim neighbor accused him of desecrating the Quran and provoked local residents to launch the attack, Irfan Gill stated.

Area Muslims Ayub Gondal and Muhammad Ikraam, envious of the success of Nazeer Gill’s shoe factory and that of his son Sultan Gill, had pressured them to relinquish possession of some recently acquired shops, according to Irfan Gill. Irfan Gill stated that the Muslims had been seeking an opportunity to attack Nazeer Gill’s family after they refused to comply with their demands.

“On Thursday, May 23, my uncle Nazeer’s teenage grandsons, Kashif and Jamal, had an altercation with Gondal’s son regarding the same issue,” Irfan Gill recounted. “These conflicts have been ongoing since the pressure on our family began, but we did not foresee that it would escalate to this level.”

Irfan Gill further explained that after Nazeer Gill had burned the waste paper and gone inside his home, someone threw a copy of the Quran into the fire, resulting in the burning of the Muslim holy book.

“We learned about the incident around 8 a.m. when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers, urging people to gather at the scene,” he said. “Within minutes, a mob assembled outside my uncle’s home and stormed inside.”

The mob dragged him out to the street and began assaulting him with bricks, stones, and sticks.

“Meanwhile, some of the protesters vandalized the house and then proceeded to the shoe factory, which is located on the same street. Upon reaching the factory, the protesters set it on fire, destroying everything inside.”

Most Christian residents fled their homes upon witnessing the mobs gathering and chanting slogans linked to an extremist Islamist political party, Irfan Gill reported.

“Some sought refuge in nearby churches, while others locked their homes and left, fearing for their families’ safety,” he said.

The mob made concerted efforts to lynch his uncle and even attempted to damage the ambulance summoned by the police for his evacuation, Irfan Gill noted.

“Although the police were unable to prevent the mob from torturing my uncle and damaging property, they did manage to save the lives of my cousin and his family by quickly removing them from the area,” he added.

Irfan Gill, a member of the local Presbyterian church, stated that his uncle was placed on a ventilator in a hospital, where his condition remains critical.

“We are currently in hiding, and the police are not allowing any relatives to visit my uncle,” he said. “He has sustained severe injuries to his head and body. We can only pray and hope for his survival; it would be a miracle for us.”

Eyewitnesses described the mob as highly agitated, with several individuals recording the incident on their phones.

A local Christian resident reported that the mob attacked Nazeer Gill and his property without attempting to verify the facts.

“They shouted slogans of ‘Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah,’ or ‘Prophet, I’m here,’ as they brought out furniture and packaging material from Nazeer’s house and factory and set them on fire,” the source said.

The resident indicated that Muhammad Ikraam, an associate of Ayub Gondal and a ticket-holder of the extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), played a central role in assembling the mob.

“Several Christian families sought refuge in churches because we couldn’t leave the colony in time,” the source said. “Inside the church, we prayed for God’s intervention because it seemed that the mob would not stop until they had destroyed everything.”

A large police contingent, led by the district police chief, eventually arrived and managed to disperse the mob by firing tear gas shells. The mob retaliated by throwing stones and injuring several policemen. Later in the day, Punjab Police Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar and Punjab Home Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal also arrived to investigate the incident.

In a press statement, Anwar announced that police had arrested 15 individuals involved in the violence and were working to identify additional perpetrators. He noted that 2,000 police personnel were deployed to the area to restore order and urged Christians who had fled their homes to return, assuring them of their safety.

Simultaneously, police have registered a case against the victim under sections 295-A and 295-B of the blasphemy laws, as well as Section 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), to placate the outraged Muslim community. Section 295-A prescribes imprisonment of up to 10 years for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings; Section 295-B calls for life imprisonment for anyone accused of willfully defiling or desecrating the Quran; and Section 9 of the ATA prescribes a punishment of up to five years in prison for instigating sectarian hatred.

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