Elderly Christian Critically Wounded in Pakistan after False Blasphemy Charge

Muslim mob attacks after a Christian was falsely accused of blasphemy on Saturday (May 25, 2024) in Sargodha, Pakistan. (Christian Daily International-Morning Star News screenshot of video on social media)

Muslim mob attacks after a Christian was falsely accused of blasphemy on Saturday (May 25, 2024) in Sargodha, Pakistan. (Christian Daily International-Morning Star News screenshot of video on social media)

SARGODHA, Pakistan (Christian Daily InternationalMorning Star News) – An elderly Christian is fighting for his life in the hospital after a Muslim mob in Pakistan attempted to kill him due to a neighbor falsely accusing him of burning pages of the Quran, his family said.

The mob also ransacked the house and burned the shoe factory of the 74-year-old victim, Nazeer Gill, in Sargodha city’s Mujahid Colony, said his nephew Irfan Gill.

Nazeer Gill had burned some wastepaper in the street outside his house in Mujahid Colony, Sargodha District, Punjab Province, on Saturday morning (May 25) when the Muslim neighbor accused him of desecrating the Quran and instigated local Muslims to attack him, his nephew said.

Area Muslims Ayub Gondal and Muhammad Ikraam were jealous of the success of the shoe factory of Nazeer Gill and his son Sultan Gill and had pressured them to give up possession of some shops they had bought two months ago, Irfan Gill told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News by phone. The Muslims had been looking for an opportunity to attack Nazeer Gill’s family after they refused to surrender to their demands, he said.

“On Thursday [May 23], my uncle Nazeer’s teenage grandsons, Kashif and Jamal, had an altercation with Gondal’s son over the same issue,” Irfan Gill said. “Such clashes have been going on ever since they started to exert pressure on our family, but we didn’t anticipate that they would go to this extent.”

Nazeer Gill had burned the wastepaper and gone inside his home when someone threw a copy of the Quran into the fire, burning the Muslim holy book, Irfan Gill said.

“We came to know about the incident around 8 a.m. when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers urging people to gather on the scene,” he told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “Within minutes, a mob assembled outside my uncle’s home and stormed inside.”

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They forced him out to the street and started to hit him with bricks, stones and sticks, he said.

“In the meantime, some of the protesters ransacked the house and then went to the shoe factory, which is also located in the same street in a house. When they reached there, the protesters torched it, burning everything inside,” Irfan Gill said.

Most Christian residents fled their houses when they saw the mobs gathering and raising slogans associated with an extremist Islamist political party, he said.

“Some sought refuge in the nearby churches while others left after locking their homes, fearing for the safety of their families,” he said. “The situation would have gotten worse if the police had not arrived in time.”

The mob tried their best to lynch his uncle and also attempted to damage the ambulance that police summoned to evacuate him, he said.

“The police couldn’t stop the mob from torturing my uncle and damaging the property, but they did save the lives of my cousin and his family by spiriting them away from the area,” he said.

Irfan Gill, a member of the local Presbyterian church, said his uncle was put on a ventilator in a hospital, where his condition was said to be critical.

“We are all in hiding at the moment, and the police are not allowing any relative to see my uncle,” he said. “He has sustained serious injuries to his head and body, and we can only pray and hope that he survives. It will be nothing short of a miracle for us.”


Eyewitnesses described the mob as highly charged, with several people filming the incident on their phones.

A local Christian resident said the mob attacked Nazeer Gill and his property without attempting to verify 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 burned them,” the source told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal from the Muslims.

The resident said an associate of Gondal, Muhammad Ikraam, was a ticket-holder of the extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), and that he played a central role in mustering 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 were able to disperse the mob by firing tear gas shells, he said, adding that the mob retaliated by pelting stones, injuring several policemen. Punjab Police Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar and Punjab Home Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal also reached the area later in the day to investigate.

Anwar said in a press statement that police arrested 15 Muslims involved in the violence and were working to identify other perpetrators. He said 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.

Punjab Home Secretary Mengal said violence against anyone under religious pretexts would not be tolerated. He added that action would be taken against suspects accused following investigation.

At the same time police have registered a case against the victim under sections 295-A and 295-B of the blasphemy laws and Section 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to placate furious Muslims. Section 295-A calls for 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; Section 9 of ATA prescribes punishment of up to five of prison for instigating sectarian hatred.

Christians Demand Justice

National Council of the Churches in Pakistan (NCCP) President Bishop Azad Marshall said in a press statement that the distressing incident was reminiscent of the attack on Christians in Jaranwala in August of last year.

“We are alarmed by the reported presence of law enforcement officers during the attack who did not take action, suggesting a grave dereliction of duty in protecting vulnerable communities,” Marshall said. “This occurrence underscores the critical need for decisive actions to counter extremism and safeguard religious minorities.”

The senior church leader called for a comprehensive and impartial investigation as per the directives of the Supreme Court into the actions of both perpetrators and negligent law enforcement officials.

“Furthermore, we implore the authorities to guarantee the protection of individuals falsely accused of blasphemy and to take necessary measures to reestablish peace and security in Sargodha,” he said.

Minorities Alliance Pakistan Chairman Akmal Bhatti said that the mob violence in Sargodha would not have happened had the government sternly dealt with perpetrators of the Jaranwala attacks.

“Almost all of those arrested in the Jaranwala attacks cases have walked free on bail due to poor investigation and weak prosecution,” Bhatti told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “Such lapses embolden the perpetrators who exploit religious sentiments for their criminal acts.”

He added that if the government was serious in protecting religious minorities, then it should first ensure that the blasphemy laws are not misused and that those who incite violence are made an example for others.

Advocacy movement Minority Rights March in a statement condemned the Punjab government and police for “failing to learn from the Jaranwala attacks last year and taking any concrete measures to curtail the growing radicalism.”

“We condemn the state of facilitating once-banned outfits such as TLP [Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan], resulting in a Pakistan which is becoming unlivable for religious minorities with each passing day,” the group said.

They demanded an “expeditious inquiry and action through a judicial commission and the one-man commission led by Dr. Shoaib Suddle… not only against the mob involved in the attack but against the police officials and officers of the Punjab government who failed to take preemptive measures.”

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, as it was the previous year.

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