Three armed sisters in central Pakistan reportedly have shot and killed a man accused of blasphemy 13 years ago, the latest incident of vigilante justice in a series of religiously motivated attacks.
Police on Thursday identified the slain man as Fazal Abbas, 45, a member of the minority Shi’ite Muslim sect.
The overnight attack happened near Sialkot, where police confirmed that the suspected assailants had been taken into custody and that an investigation was underway.
Senior area police officer Ejaz Hameed said local residents had accused Abbas of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in 2004 and that a police case had been registered. He fled the country to avoid arrest.
Hameed said Abbas had recently had returned home from Belgium and had formally joined a police investigation after a local court granted him pre-arrest bail.
On Wednesday, three women wearing traditional veils, or burqas, and pretending to be visitors showed up at Abbas’ residence, family members said. One of them took out a weapon and fired at Abbas as soon as he appeared in the guest room, they added.
The women in their confessional statement to police said they had wanted to punish Abbas after he was accused of blasphemy, but they were too young at the time.
“We have finally killed the blasphemer,” the statement quoted them as telling police. The women reportedly chanted “Allah-ho-Akbar” (“God is great”) after fatally wounding Abbas.
The incident came days after an angry mob killed a fellow student at a university campus in Mardan, accusing him of committing blasphemy.
The lynching of Mashal Khan triggered widespread condemnation across Pakistan, prompting the Supreme Court to intervene and order an inquiry, while the Parliament in a unanimous resolution condemned the killing.
Police said they had found no evidence Khan committed blasphemy, but that they had yet to conclude the investigation.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in predominantly Sunni Muslim Pakistan, where mere charges against a person mean either death or life in hiding.
More than 50 people have been killed in violent incidents after being accused of blasphemy since the 1980s, when anti-blasphemy Islamic laws were introduced, according to Human Rights Watch.
A provincial governor and a federal minister were among the victims. They both were assassinated for seeking reforms in the blasphemy laws to discourage their misuse by religious fanatics.