Sergio Restelli

Tourist Lynched in Swat Valley Over Blasphemy Accusation

Muhammad Ismail, a 36-year-old tourist from Punjab, was killed and his body set ablaze in Madyan, Swat Valley, after being accused of desecrating the Quran. This shocking incident occurred on Thursday evening in the scenic region often dubbed the Switzerland of Pakistan.

Ismail, from Sialkot, Punjab, was visiting Madyan, a popular tourist destination 280 kilometers from Islamabad, to escape the summer heat. According to local police, a confrontation with locals led to accusations that Ismail had torn pages from a Quran he was carrying.

Rahim Ullah, a police official in Swat, reported that officers responded swiftly, arresting Ismail and taking him to the local police station. However, tensions escalated as a large crowd gathered outside, demanding that Ismail be handed over. The mob stormed the police station, dragged Ismail out, and killed him. Witnesses described his death as a result of torture, and disturbing videos on social media showed a large crowd chanting religious slogans and surrounding a burning body.

The violence did not end there. The mob, incited by announcements over loudspeakers from a local mosque, also set fire to the police station and a police vehicle. Authorities are investigating the incident, though it remains unclear if any arrests have been made. At least eight individuals sustained minor injuries during the chaos and were treated overnight.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur condemned the killing and called for an immediate police report. The case highlights the volatile nature of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan, where the crime is punishable by death. Vigilante justice is common, with mobs often lynching those accused. Courts frequently delay trials due to fears of violent retribution against judges perceived as lenient.

Blasphemy accusations are sometimes used to settle personal scores, rights groups warn. Just last month, a mob in Sargodha, Punjab, vandalized a Christian neighborhood and tortured a man accused of blasphemy, who later died from his injuries. In 2023, one of the worst attacks on Pakistani Christians occurred in Jaranwala, Punjab, where a mob torched homes in response to blasphemy allegations.

The Swat Valley, renowned for its natural beauty, remains a popular summer retreat for Pakistani tourists. However, this recent violence casts a shadow over the region’s reputation as a peaceful escape.

About the Author
Sergio Restelli is an Italian political advisor, author and geopolitical expert. He served in the Craxi government in the 1990's as the special assistant to the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Martelli and worked closely with anti-mafia magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. Over the past decades he has been involved in peace building and diplomacy efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. He has written for Geopolitica and several Italian online and print media. In 2020 his first fiction "Napoli sta bene" was published.