The mob lynching of Waris Ali, a man accused of blasphemy in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan, is going viral with claims that he was a man of Christian faith. BOOM found that these claims are false, and a spokesperson from the Nankana Sahib police station confirmed that Waris Ali was Muslim.
On February 11, 2023, a mob stormed the Nankana Sahib police station after a man accused of blasphemy was held in custody there. According to Reuters, Waris Ali was taken into custody after a mob attacked him for desecrating the Quran, a serious offence in Pakistan. The mob brought Waris Ali out of custody, and proceeded to beat him to death and tried to set him ablaze.
Blasphemy is considered a serious offence in Pakistan, punishable by death. Violence can arise even if a person is merely suspected of committing blasphemy. One of the most notable cases in this matter was the lynching of Sri Lankan man Priyantha Kumara, who worked as a factory manager at Sialkot. In December 2021, Priyantha was beaten to death and burnt after a mob suspected him of committing blasphemy.
Amid this, the video of a man set ablaze by an angry mob is going viral as the video from this incident. It is also being shared with the claim that Waris Ali was Christian. The caption reads, "Another day, another #blasphemy lynching. Its #NankanaSahib the Mecca for Sikhs. A Christian Waris Issa, arrested for alleged desecration of Quran. Mad mob attacked Police Station, beat him, stripped him naked, dragged in the streets & set him on fire! Chanting ALLAH-O-AKBAR."
BOOM has not included tweets containing the video due to its graphic nature.
BOOM found that Waris Ali belonged to the Muslim faith and was not Christian. We reached out to the spokesperson of Nankana Sahib, Waqas Khalid, who confirmed that Ali was Muslim. "The accused is a Muslim. His father's name is Mohammed Isa and his mother is Nooran Bibi."
A report by The Guardian identifying Waris as a Muslim was our first clue into his identity.
Waqas Khalid also informed that Waris Ali had been brought in by the police after a mob found out he had desecrated the Quran.
A report by Dawn also mentioned that Ali had been accused of blasphemy in the past. Quoting Babar Saeed Alpa, the Regional Police Officer, the report mentioned how Ali's wife 'had separated (from him) after filing a divorce case and the victim (Ali) was involved in alleged witchcraft by “placing his wife’s pictures in the Holy Quran'."
This was spotted by a few people who accused Ali of blasphemy and tried to hang him. By this time, the police was informed of the incident and backup arrived in about 30-40 minutes.
Khalid then said that the mob did not want Ali to be let loose and therefore decided to take matters into their own hands. They stormed the police station at Warburton, brought Ali out of the premises and beat him to death. They also drenched him in petrol in an attempt to burn him, but the police recovered the body from the crowd and performed the last rites according to the customs.
Nankana Circle DSP Nawaz Virk and Warburton SHO Feroze Bhatti were suspended following this incident, and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ordered an investigation into the matter.
A report by BBC Urdu also confirms Ali's mother's identity. According to Ali's mother Nooran Bibi, Ali's mental condition had "deteriorated" after his divorce, leading to his supposed blasphemy.
Since the spokesperson of Nankhana Sahib Waqas Khalid mentioned that the mob was not successful in burning Ali's body, BOOM could not independently verify if the viral video is from the same incident. We were, however, able to confirm that Waris Ali was not Christian.