Dozens of men have been arrested in Pakistan's Punjab province after a man accused of blasphemy was stoned to death there over the weekend by an enraged mob. The BBC reports the lynching took place on Saturday evening in Tulamba, located in the district of Khanewal. Police spokesman Munawar Hussain tells Reuters the man was allegedly spotted by the son of a prayer leader burning pages of the Koran in a mosque. Police were called, but by the time they got there, a mob had already set upon the accused. "The villagers armed with batons, axes, and iron rods" attacked the man and then "hanged his body from a tree," Hussain says.
The AP, which IDs the deceased as 41-year-old Mushtaq Ahmed, reports that three police officers trying to quell the mob were also attacked and injured, one seriously. Munawar Gujjar, the chief of Tulamba's police department, tells the outlet he sent even more officers to the scene once he got wind of what was happening, but by the time they arrived, it was too late for Ahmed. Gujjar describes him as being "mentally unstable," and that, per his family, he "often went missing from home for days, begging and eating whatever he could find."
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and both the AP and Reuters note that mob killings in such cases aren't unusual. However, human rights advocates say blasphemy charges are often trumped up to go after religious minorities and to settle personal vendettas. Ahmed's family was able to retrieve his body, and a funeral was held Sunday. A government rep tells Reuters more than 60 people have been arrested; police put that number at more than 80, per the BBC. In a Sunday tweet, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said police had "failed in their duty" and that any such lynchings would be addressed "with full severity of the law." He added: "We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands." (Read more Pakistan stories.)