February 17th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha & Ahmed Saeed
The family of a victim of mob lynching in Khanewal has raised questions over allegations of blasphemy levelled against the mentally challenged man alleging he might have been accused of desecration to cover up the torture inflicted upon him on suspicion of theft.
On the other hand, the marks of torture revealed on Mushtaq Ahmed’s dead body seem to cloud investigation in the case. Fingers on both hands of the deceased had been amputated by a sharp-edged instrument with an apparent surgical precision. Seeing this evidence, it is hard to come to the conclusion whether it is the handiwork of an enraged mob or is there another explanation to to the clues in hand.
“In the videos circulating on social media, the angry mob can be heard chanting slogans of thief and terrorist while torturing his brother,” Zulfiqar Ahmed, brother of Mushtaq Ahmed, tells Voicepk.net in an interview at his village home in Basti Makhdoom Pur.
Rana Khalil, one of Mushtaq’s neighbours, says one of the family’s acquaintances in Talamba town who visited the mosque in the evening when the lynching took place had told them there was no evidence of anything being burnt there.
Mushtaq suffered from schizophrenia: brother
According to Zulfiqar Ahmed, 38-year-old Mushtaq, who was the youngest of five brothers, suffered suffering from mental illness for the last 17 years. “A retired army psychiatrist had diagnosed him with schizophrenia,” says Zulfiqar Ahmed. He says the family had sold off acres of farmland to pay for his treatment
On the day of the accident, Mushtaq Ahmed had gone to Tulamba to his sister and took money from her and left the house at 10 in the morning and everyone thought he was going out for his usual cigarette. Zulfiqar Ahmed says his deceased brother would often forget his way back home and on occasions passersby had escorted him back.
In his opinion, Mushtaq might have wandered to the isolated Shah Muqeem mosque more than five kilometers away from his sister’s house after losing his way home due to his illness.
Appeal for compensation
Mushtaq Ahmed has three children- a 12-year-old daughter and two sons aged eight and six years respectively. “Mushtaq’s wife had divorced him because of the mental illness,” says Zulfiqar Ahmed. He appealed to the government to provide financial assistance to the victim’s orphaned children for their upkeep and education.
The children lived in Karachi with their grandmother and elder uncle Muzaffar Ahmed. Two months ago, Mushtaq Ahmed returned to his hometown to meet relatives after living in Karachi for two years. “He looked very weak and people had difficulty recognising him,” says Rana Khalil.
Avid soccer player and cricketer
In his youth, Mushtaq Ahmed was considered the most handsome of all the brothers, reminisces Zulfiqar Ahmed, adding that his late brother was an avid soccer and cricket player. “Uptil now, he dressed in trouser and shirt instead of shalwar kameez, seen as the normal men’s attire in his village,” Mushtaq’s eldest brother says.
Police have so far claimed to have arrested 38 accused in the case while 119 suspects have been arrested whose role is being determined. Mushtaq Ahmed’s family members expressed satisfaction over the police action. However, Zulfiqar Ahmed called on tougher government measures to prevent misuse of religion to commit such heinous crimes.
In the past week, there have been four incidents of mob violence following allegations of blasphemy. In three incidents, the police have managed to rescue the accused, but the recurrence of such incidents calls for societal reflection to prevent any further such tragedy.