GUJRAT - A Gujrat police officer Wednesday night murdered a detainee with an axe alleging him of committing blasphemy, a day after an enraged mob murdered a Christian couple accused of the same crime in Kot Radha Kishan.

Syed Tufail Haider, a 50-year-old from the minority Shia sect, was arrested a day earlier for allegedly making derogatory remarks toward the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) while sitting at a tea stall and brought to the Civil Lines police station in Gujrat.

According to another account, Tufail was arrested for wounding two people. Police said Syed Tufail Haider came to Madina Syedan in Gujrat three days ago to attend a Muharram majlis.

Assistant Sub-Inspector Faraz Naveed, 36, reportedly got into a heated argument with Tufail and he struck him on the neck with an axe lying in the room, a blow which resulted in his immediate death. The officer later accused Tufail of uttering derogatory statements against companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), with other police officials saying Tufail was mentally unsound.

“Tufail was kept in the lock-up but he continued uttering derogatory remarks and hurled abuse at policemen. He looked like a malang (wandering preacher) and seemed mentally imbalanced,” duty officer Ali Raza told AFP. “ASI Faraz became very angry on hearing the derogatory remarks against the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) and he killed the detainee with an axe in the lock up,” he added.

Police had arrested ASI Faraz and taken the axe into custody. District Police Chief Rai Muhammad Ejaz confirmed the incident and added that Naveed had brought Haider into his own room and locked the door before killing him. The body of the slain prisoner was sent to a local hospital for a post-mortem. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the murder and ordered for investigation of the incident.

Around 1,000 Shias have been killed in the past two years in Pakistan, a heavy toll on the community that makes up roughly 20 percent of the country’s 180 million-strong population, most of whom are Muslim. The historical split between Sunnis and Shias originated over who among Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) companions should succeed him as caliph of the growing Muslim state following his death.

There has been a recent surge in extra-judicial killings linked to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which were put in place during the period of British rule and strengthened by former military ruler General Ziaul Haq in the 1980s.

A Christian bonded labourer and his pregnant wife were killed Tuesday for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Quran in a rural suburb of Lahore, the seat of provincial government and power base of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, whose leadership has been maintaining close ties with Wahabi dominated Saudi Arabia.

Some prominent leaders of the party like Rana Sanaullah, who was home minister of the province until a couple of months ago, are known to have close links with anti-Shia militant organisations. The killing of the couple sparked widespread condemnation, including from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

A Christian woman who has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during an argument with a Muslim woman lost an appeal last month.

The latest incident also has shades of the shooting in September of an elderly British man with severe mental illness, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in January.

An internal investigation revealed by AFP found that the guard had been radicalised and goaded into the shooting by Mumtaz Qadri, a police bodyguard who murdered the Punjab governor in 2011 for suggesting reform of the blasphemy laws.