Islamic clerics arrested after mob attack Pakistani Christian couple

Pakistani Christians protested for greater protection after suicide bomb attacks on two churches in Lahore in March this year.Reuters

Police in Pakistan have arrested two Islamic clerics after a mob turned on and tried to murder a Christian couple rumoured to have committed blasphemy.

The couple's alleged offence was to have found some discarded advertising awning that they turned into a sleeping mat. The awning carried some lettering and slogans in Arabic which the mob, led by the clerics, decreed might have been from the Qur'an.

The couple, who are illiterate, narrowly escaped with their lives thanks to quick intervention by Sheikhupura police in Makki village in Punjab.

"One of the clerics who led the mob demanding the arrest of the couple and their death was at large, he was arrested and we are looking for a barber who ignited the whole issue," Sohail Zafar Chattha, the district police chief, told AFP. "Police intervened in time and rescued the couple from the mob and shifted them to Lahore and handed over them to the elders of Christian community."

Chattha also wrote on Facebook: "Muslims of the town gathered there and dragged the poor couple who didn't know what they had done. They were being beaten to death."

Another cleric has also been arrested.

Blasphemy in Pakistan is crime punishable by the death penalty, and is committed when a person is said to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

Christians, who make up less than five per cent of the country's population, are increasingly the target of attacks.

Authorities in Pakistan have not always intervened so successfully. Just before Christmas, when Shehzad Masih and his wife Shama Bibi, were accused of blasphemy after burnt pages of the Quran were found near their house. There was widespread international disgust after they were burnt alive by an angry mob.