Police had rescued the Christians from the crowd near Lahore on Tuesday, a relatively unusual intervention in a country where those accused of blasphemy are sometimes lynched on the spot.
Police officer Sohail Zaffar Chattha said the cleric leading the mob demanded that police arrest the couple and charge them with blasphemy against Islam.
“I told him I would not register a case because no blasphemy has been committed. But I have registered a case against the cleric and 400 others for inciting violence and endangering the lives of the couple,” Chattha said in a telephone interview.
About 500 people in Sadar Farooqabad town attacked Owais Masih and his wife after a neighbour complained that they were sleeping on a plastic sheet with verses from the Quran written on it.
Police rescued the couple as the mob began to beat them. The couple were later taken into protective custody and moved to an undisclosed location.
“The mob meant business. They wanted to kill them right there,” Chattha said. “And all because they are poor, illiterate people who didn’t realise that a line from the Quran was written on a sheet they had purchased.”
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. The charge is hard to fight because the law does not define clearly what is considered blasphemous.
Even presenting the evidence in court can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.
Last year, a British man with a history of mental health illness was sentenced to death for blasphemy. The same year, a court upheld a death sentence for blasphemy for a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, in a case that drew global headlines after the assassination of two prominent politicians who took up her cause.
Minorities in Pakistan complain that the state fails to protect them from violence.
Christians make up about 4 per cent of Pakistan’s population.
Last year, a policeman hacked a man to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the companions of the Prophet Mohammad.
Days earlier, a mob beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies in a brick kiln.
The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily