Police: Mob attacked Christian couple Tuesday at the kiln where they worked
They were beaten and thrown into the burning kiln
Rights group calls it a "callous murder"
Provincial government says it will give family approximately $49,000
Fifty people have been arrested in connection with this week’s killing of a Christian couple who were beaten and pushed into a burning kiln in eastern Pakistan, a police official said Thursday.
Investigators believe the 50 were part of a mob that killed the couple Tuesday after the pair were accused of desecrating the Quran, said Bin Yameen, a police official in the Kasur District in Punjab province.
Police said the attack in the village of Kot Radha Kishan came after a local mullah declared the couple were guilty of blasphemy.
The mob allegedly marched to the couple’s home, broke down their door, dragged them outside, beat them and threw them into the brick kiln where they both worked.
Police officials identified the woman as Shyman Bibi Urf Shamar, and her husband as Sajjad Nasir Zurjah Nazir Nasir. The village is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Lahore, the capital of Punjab.
The province’s government will pay the couple’s family 5 million Pakistani rupees – about $49,000 – as compensation for their deaths, the province’s chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, said in a news release.
The government also will give the family 10 acres of land, Sharif said.
Desecration of the Quran is punishable by death or life imprisonment under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law.
Human rights groups have long urged the country to repeal the law, arguing that it has led to discrimination, persecution and murder.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it sent a team to the village, and that the team “did not come across any evidence of desecration of the Holy Quran.”
The commission said that the couple had three young children – two sons and a daughter – and also indicated that the slain woman was pregnant.
But a postmortem examination later revealed no evidence that she was pregnant, CNN affiliate GEO News reported.
Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law often is used to settle personal vendettas, rights groups say, and people accused of the committing the crime are frequently targeted by mob violence.
That, according to the HRCP, appeared to be the situation in Kot Radha Kishan, and that the incident stemmed with a dispute over money the kiln’s owners said the couple owed them.
An accusation that the couple had desecrated the Quran “was spread to nearby villages and announcements (were) made through mosque loudspeakers,” the HRCP said.
The mob that went to the kiln was estimated at around 500 people, the rights group said, citing local police.
The HRCP said its team learned that four policemen went to the kiln to demand that the couple be handed over for protection from the mob, but that the owners “instructed their employees not to hand the couple over and the policemen were also beaten up.”
The kiln’s owners were among those arrested, the rights group said, quoting police.
Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad and Hilary Whiteman wrote from Hong Kong; Jason Hanna wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Aliza Kassim also contributed to this report.