The unidentified victims belong to the Ahmadi Muslim sect, which believes in a prophet that followed Mohammed. By Pakistani, law they are not Muslims; many Pakistanis regard them as heretics.
Police in the town of Gujranwala said a fight started Sunday over "objectionable material" allegedly posted on Facebook by a young Ahmadi man, specifically a depiction of the holy Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which contained nudity. As police negotiated with a mob demanding an arrest, homes of Ahmadis were burned.
The three victims died of suffocation, a police official said, and the unnamed person accused of the Facebook entries was not injured.
"The attackers were looting and plundering, taking away fans and whatever valuables they could get hold of and dragging furniture into the road and setting fire to it ... Some were continuously firing into the air. A lot of policemen arrived but they stayed on the sidelines and didn't intervene," said witness Munawar Ahmed.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. There have been over 100 accusations of blasphemy this year in Pakistan, compared to only one in 2011, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said. Seventeen people convicted of the crime are on Pakistan's death row, and 19 others have received life sentences.
Additionally, at least 60 people have been killed in Pakistan since 1990 is extrajudicial incidents, the Pakistani Center Research and Security Studies reported. The victims have included alleged blasphemers, their lawyers and politicians who call for a change in the law.