06/17/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Two Muslims accused of blasphemy murdered in two days

by Qaiser Felix
The first victim is an imam accused of burning some pages of the Qur'an. The other is a man accused of uttering blasphemous words during an altercation with a lorry driver and was murdered near a courthouse.

Muzaffargarh (AsiaNews) – In just two days two Muslims accused of blasphemy have been murdered in Pakistan's Punjab region according to the local press.

The first case occurred last Thursday when Imam Hafiz Qamar Javed was killed by a mob in Choonawala, near Hasilpur. He had started a fire to burn some trash near his mosque. In doing so he attracted some neighbours, including people from a rival sect, who accused him of burning pages of the Qur'an. In no time, the crowd turned into a mob that began beating him. When another local religious leader came to Javed's rescue he, too, was beaten. Eventually, Javed fell unconscious and then died.

Yesterday the police registered a case of homicide and one of assault under the existing blasphemy legislation.

The body of Hafiz Javed Qamar was buried at Choonawala in the presence of a large number of people despite tight security.

In the second incident, Abdul Sattar Gopang had just entered the court compound in police custody when two men, later identified as Iqbal Ahmad and Muhammad Imran, attacked him with daggers.

The police authorities said two officials, Sub-Inspector Abdul Ghafoor and Constable Altaf Karim, also suffered wounds when they tried to overpower the attackers.

When the assailants were overpowered at last, Gopang was said to be bleeding profusely. He was wheeled to the Muzaffargarh District Headquarters Hospital where he died before any medical aid could be provided.

Initial investigations revealed that the attackers were interns at an Islamic school in Muzaffargarh's Shehr Sultan area. Some eyewitnesses said the assailants did not try at all to flee but shouted slogans when the police took them into custody.

Gopang had been arrested last March 13 following a complaint by Maulana Abdul Rasheed, a local office-bearer of the Aalmi Majlis Tahafuz-i-Khatam-i-Nabuat, who alleged that whilst exchanging hot words with a lorry driver over fees, Gopang had uttered blasphemous words against the prophet Muhammad.

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