A Chinese national working for an energy company was taken into protective custody on Saturday in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, after he endured threats over alleged insult of the Quran, news reports said citing Pakistani officials.
Lee Ping, the administration manager of a Chinese consortium building the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower project, was accused of throwing the Quran on the ground, sparking protests, the AFP news agency reported from Muzaffarabad, close to where the alleged incident took place.
Blasphemy is a serious offense in Pakistan, where dozens were charged last year and at least 16 people remain on death row, while another 20 serve life sentences, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
“We have taken [Lee] Ping into protective custody after protests erupted in the company when Pakistani laborers saw him throwing the belongings of a Pakistani worker including the Quran,” Sardar Gulfraz, a senior police official, told AFP.
Lee was reportedly moving the belongings of a Pakistani doctor, named Sajid, who was hired by the consortium and had a dispute with the management about relocation. The doctor refused to vacate the room and Lee threw out his luggage including the Quran, stirring protests.
The incident occurred at midday on Friday, when Muslims offer their main weekly prayers.
An angry mob reportedly damaged vehicles and windows inside the company premises.
Lee has been moved to a secret location for protection, police told AFP. Lee will be charged under the blasphemy law only if Pakistani authorities confirm that he was involved in a serious violation, police said.
Last July, police arrested a man who appeared to suffer from a mental disability for allegedly burning the Quran. A mob led by local clerics attacked the police station, pulled the victim out and burned him alive, the HRW report stated.
In another incident, last August, a teenage Christian girl from an Islamabad suburb with a “significantly lower mental age,” was accused of blasphemy for burning pages filled with Quran verses.
Although police successfully evaded a mob demanding that the girl be handed to them, the local Christian community, comprising some 400 families, had to flee their homes following threats. An investigation that followed found that local cleric Khalid Chishti fabricated evidence against the girl to rid the neighborhood of Christians. In September, police officials stated the girl was released and given state protection at an undisclosed location, the HRW report added.