A Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy and attacked by a mob has died of injuries

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy and attacked by a mob last month died of his injuries on Monday, a police official said.

Police in eastern Punjab province arrested more than 100 Muslim men and charged them under anti-terrorism laws for attacking a Christian father and son over allegations they desecrated pages of Islam’s holy book.

Nazir Masih, 72, suffered severe head injuries during the May 25 violence and was taken to a Rawalpindi hospital.

He died despite twice undergoing surgery and was buried in the city of Sargodha amid tight security, said district police officer Assad Ijaz Malhi.

Videos from Sargodha showed Christians carrying Masih’s coffin through the street. They shouted “Praise to Jesus” and “Jesus is great.” The casket was draped in black cloth and bore a small crucifix.

Malhi said police have registered cases against 500 people for attacking Masih's home.

The mob went on the rampage after locals said they saw burnt pages of the Quran outside the house and accused Masih’s son of being behind it.

The violence brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Pakistani Christians in 2023, when thousands of people set ablaze churches and homes of Christians in Jaranwala, also in Punjab.

Muslim residents at the time also claimed they saw two men desecrating the Quran.

Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan and under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic figures can be sentenced to death.

While no one has been executed on such charges, just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynchings and killings.