A boy was killed and several others were injured on Thursday (4 May) when crowds protesting an alleged blasphemy incident in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province turned violent and attacked a police station. The demonstrations were triggered after a Hindu man, Prakash Kumar, was accused of insulting Islam in the city of Hub.
It is the third such major vigilante attack taking place in Pakistan linked to alleged blasphemy incidents in a month. Law enforcement agencies in the region are struggling to handle the sharp surge in violence compounded by the separatist insurgency in the province.
The demonstrations started on Wednesday, 3 May, after 35-year-old Kumar, a trader, was taken into custody by the police for allegedly sharing anti-Islamic content via WhatsApp. The initial round of protests gathered steam as more people joined in on Thursday.
"When news of his arrest was published in local newspapers on Thursday, a crowd of some 500 people including traders, clerics and politicians surrounded the town's police station to demand he be handed over," police officer Abdul Sattar told the AFP news agency.
The boy, Qudratullah Khan, was injured when the protesters fired in the air, and died later, Lasbela SSP Zia Mandokhel told the Express Tribune. There was some confusion about the boy's age, with some reports saying he was 10 years old while others put his age at 13.
Mandokhel said SP Lasbela Jan Mohammad Khosa, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Tariq Mengal, some other officers and a rescue worker were injured in the mob violence.
The protesters also blocked a major highway connecting Balochistan and Sindh by erecting barricades and burning tyres. Traffic piled up in the area resulting in a major gridlock. Businesses were forced to shut down due to the violent demonstrations and paramilitary forces were called in to contain the protests. Several protesters were arrested after they refuse to disperse.
Kumar has been charged under the Pakistan's draconian blasphemy law, which critics often say is used to silence and persecute minority communities in Pakistan. A local court has ordered Kumar to be sent to a nearby jail for interrogation. Local leaders from all the communities have condemned the riots.
Note: This article was updated to include new details on the victim's death.