Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of two Muslim clerics for inciting a violent mob of hundreds of Muslims to brutally beat, torture, burn and murder a married Christian couple in the Punjab Province in early November.
The court also ordered disciplinary action to be levied against five police officials, who were present during the time of the beatings but took no action to protect the two individuals. Additionally, the court ordered a complete investigation into the incident and also ordered compensation payments to be made to the family of the victimized couple.
After being accused of burning pages from the Koran, Shamah Masih, who was a 24-year-old mother of four and four months pregnant at the time, and her husband, Shahzad Masih, were surrounded by an enraged mob, who gathered around the brick kiln in the village of Kot Rodha Kishan where the couple was located.
According to a 17-page report conducted for the three-member bench by Punjab police, the mob, which consisted of about 500-600 people, began to torture the couple in front of members of their family and in the presence of police officials.
The report further indicates that police officers in the area attempted to stop the violence, but the officers' actions were halted by the large crowd. After having had their legs broken and having been tortured, over 15 people from the mob picked the couple up and thrust them into the kiln, while they were still alive.
The police have charged 138 people for the crime and already have 59 people in custody, while 79 are still at large. Although the police report states that only as many as 600 people were included in the mob, witness testimony idicates that as many as 1,500 people could have been involved with the mob.
Although police officers in the area initially tried to stop the mob, the court's Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk said that the police department failed to use the more extreme measures it has at its disposal to protect the Christian couple. Mulk also questioned why the police in the area failed to react when their demands for the mob to halt the violence were ignored.
"Why they did not make an attempt to secure the Christian couple, as they could disperse the mob through aerial firing," Mulk questioned.
The Express Tribune reports that an advocate for the police department told the court that the police officers in the area were also tortured by the mob when they tried to respond, which prevented the officers from taking further action. However, the chief justice asked if their was medical proof to show that the officers were in fact tortured, and the police advocate replied that "there is no such report in this regard."
The attorney representing the owner of the brick kiln told the court that kiln owner had warned police prior to the incident that "some clerics" were "inciting people", but no security measures were taken.
Initially calling for the investigation into the murders were the couples' surviving family members, who claim that they were threatened and even bribed to drop their plea for an investigation.
"All we want is fair investigation of this case," the brother of Shahzad, Shahbaz Masih, said according to The Express Tribune.
Unhappy with the 17-page report the Punjab police filed on the incident, the court labeled the report as unsatisfactory and adjourned the case until Jan. 15, as they await more details to come from a more comprehensive investigation.