A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Quran

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Hundreds of Muslims in eastern Pakistan went on a rampage over allegations that a Christian man had desecrated the pages of Islam's holy book, ransacking and burning his house and beating him before police officers rescued the man and his father, officials said.

The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha, a city in Punjab province, said district poIice chief Ijaz Malhi. He said police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men.

Malhi said the situation was under control and officers were investigating the allegations.

The incident brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan in August 2023, when angry mobs burned churches and attacked dozens in Jaranwala, a district in Punjab province. Muslim residents claimed they saw a Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Quran and throwing them on the ground. No one was killed. In 2009, six Christians were killed and some 60 homes burned down in the district of Gojra in Punjab following allegations of insults to Islam.

Malhi said police on Saturday dispersed the crowds and were also seeking help from religious scholars to defuse tensions. The Punjab government condemned the attack.

The man's small shoemaking factory was also burned down, Malhi said.

Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan.

Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been executed for blasphemy, often just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.