ISLAMABAD (AP) — A man walked into a police station Friday in northeastern Pakistan and shot and killed a member of a minority sect accused of blasphemy, officials said.
Officers arrested the assailant after the shooting in the town of Sharqpur, north of the eastern city of Lahore, said Moazzam Ali, the police officer in charge of the station where the shooting happened.
The victim was arrested four days ago under the country's strict blasphemy law, Ali said.
The victim was a member of the Ahmadi sect, he said. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims but are not recognized as such by the government or much of the general population.
Ahmadis are prevented by law in Pakistan from "posing as Muslims," declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer.
Salim Uddin, a spokesman for an organization representing Ahmadis, demanded officials protect the sect and said that police should have protected the man accused of blasphemy once he was in police custody. He said the blasphemy law was being used by people as a way to settle personal scores under the guise of religion.
Blasphemy is an extremely heated topic in Pakistan, where people convicted of the crime can receive life in prison or the death penalty. But crowds or individuals in Pakistan often take the law into their own hands.
This climate of fear makes it difficult to prosecute blasphemy cases. Judges often hold court sessions inside jails because it's considered one of the only safe places, and witnesses are reluctant to testify in defense of people accused of blasphemy because they might be attacked as well.
On May 7, gunmen in the city of Multan killed a lawyer who was representing a university professor on trial for blasphemy.