A woman and her two grand-daughters, belonging to the Ahmadi sect, were killed by a mob in Pakistan on Sunday after a member of their sect was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook, Pakistani police said, according to a Reuters report.
Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslim but believe in a prophet who came after Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan passed a law in 1984 that declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and bans Ahmadis from using Muslim greetings, saying Muslim prayers or referring to their places of worship as mosques. While the country's law does not define blasphemy clearly, according to the Dawn, a local newspaper, the community's members are considered heretics by many Pakistanis.
The violence in the town of Gujranwala, 140 miles southeast of the capital, Islamabad, began with a dispute between young men, one of whom was an Ahmadi accused of uploading “objectionable material” on Facebook, police said in the report.
"Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused," one police officer reportedly said, adding that "as police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis."
The dead have been identified as a 55-year-old woman named Bashiran, a 7-year-old girl named Hira, and her younger sister, Kainat, all of whom belong to the Ahmadi community, a Dawn report said. The young man who was accused of making the objectionable post on Facebook was not injured in the attack, Reuters reported.
This is the worst attack on the Ahmadi community since coordinated attacks on Ahmadi places of worship four years ago killed 86 Ahmadis, Salim ud Din, a spokesperson for the community, reportedly told Reuters.
"Police were there but just watching the burning. They didn't do anything to stop the mob," he reportedly said, adding: "First they looted their homes and shops and then they burnt the homes." However, a police officer claimed that police had tried to stop the mob, according to Reuters.
Blasphemy cases are on the rise in Pakistan, and human rights workers say that the country’s blasphemy law is increasingly being used by the majority population to settle personal vendettas or to grab property from minority communities. While only one case was recorded in 2011, at least 68 cases were recorded in 2013, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. In 2014, more than 100 people have so far been accused of blasphemy.