A madrassa student has been arrested on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan's Punjab province for allegedly burning pages of the Quran to save them from desecration on Wednesday, according to a media report.
Junaid Ahmed, 20, a student of a seminary attached to Imdadia Mosque in Chakwal, was disposing of the pages by burning them on Monday when he was seen by some people, who severely tortured him and got a case of blasphemy registered against him.
Ahmed, who belongs to Attock district, was studying at the madrassa run by Mufti Jameelur Rahman of Tehrik Khuddam Ahl-e-Sunnat.
He got permission from a teacher to take the torn pages of the Quran to a well built for the purpose of preserving such sacred items, the Dawn newspaper reported.
When Ahmed reached the well, he found that it was already filled and some torn pages of Quran were lying scattered there. Ahmed's fellow students said they had learnt that torn pages of the Quran could be burnt if burying them or consigning them to the river or sea was not possible.
A man named Akhtar Nisar saw Ahmed burning the pages and alerted the public.
Some persons gathered at the spot and started torturing Ahmed, who said he was burning the pages to protect them from desecration. Nisar later informed police, who arrested Ahmed.
When police produced Ahmed in the court of Magistrate Aitasham Muqarab on Tuesday, he told the judge that he was a devout Muslim and could never think of blaspheming the Quran.
"Had I known that this act could be considered as blasphemy, I would never have done it," the frightened youth told the judge.
The court remanded him to judicial custody and sent him to Jhelum prison. Police will submit the 'chalan' or chargesheet against the youth in a few days.
Ahmed's counsel Qazi Umar said: "This is sheer injustice on the part of police who acted is haste to register an FIR and produce the boy in the court."
The head of Ahmed's madrassa defended his actions and pledged to fight his case in court.
"Junaid could not even think of blaspheming the holy book which he used to recite passionately and devotedly," Mufti Jameelur Rehman said.
Sharia or Islamic law permitted burning the torn pages of the Quran to save them from desecration but this was "not acceptable in our society", he said.
"There are three ways to dispose of the torn copies of Quran: bury them in flowing water, bury them in the earth or burn them if the first two options are not possible," he said.
There was no sin if Ahmed had chosen the third option, he contended. "We will fight the case in the court and I hope we will get justice," he said.
Complainant Akhtar Nisar claimed he had heard from a cleric who did his religious education in India that burning the torn pages of the Quran amounted to blasphemy.