CHITRAL: Tension griped the district on Friday as the police took a man into custody for allegedly declaring himself a messiah to take the people to paradise.
Locals said a young man, Rashid Ahmed, belonging to the far-off Rech village of Torkhow tehsil came to the Shahi Masjid in Chitral town and asked the imam to allow him to deliver a speech before the Friday prayers.
The imam didn’t give him the mike on which he turned to the people and proclaimed himself to be a messiah and said he had come to take people to paradise.
Realising the sensitivity of the situation, the imam of the mosque said the man was of unsound mind and called the police who shifted him to the police station.
The news spread like a jungle fire, as hundreds of people gathered at the Parade Ground soon after the Friday prayers and besieged the Police Lines.
District Nazim Maghfirat Shah tried to pacify the angry people, but they tried to attack the police station but were pushed back by the police through shelling.
Deputy Commissioner Shahab Hamid Yousafzai and Commandant of Chitral Scouts Colonel Nizamuddin Shah also reached the spot and tried to pacify the protesters, who were asking them to hand the alleged blasphemer over to him.
The deputy commissioner told reporters that a case had been registered against the alleged blasphemer and
he was being grilled. He said it seemed the alleged blasphemer was mentally unstable. However, he said after medical examination and investigation it would become clear whether it was true or there was some conspiracy behind the incident.
Colonel Nizamuddin Shah said it could be some conspiracy to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. He urged the people to exercise restraint.
At least five people were injured due to shelling and subsequent baton-charge, eyewitnesses said.
The injured were taken to the District Headquarters Hospital in Chitral where their condition was stated to be stable.
The officials along with religious leaders tried to persuade the crowd to disperse, vowing to initiate proceeding against the man under the blasphemy law. However, the people dispersed late in the night.
The angry people also torched the vehicle of the imam of the mosque for handing the accused over to the police.
The sources said the man had been working in Qatar and returned recently after developing some mental problem.
The sources said police had also arrested his brother and further investigation was continuing.
Almost all the exit and entry points to the Chitral town were closed after the incident and personnel of the Frontier Constabulary deployed at sensitive spots.
Also, it was reported that the authorities announced to cancel the Qaqlasht festival apparently to avoid any untoward incident.