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Hindu sanitation worker arrested in Pakistan over alleged blasphemy

Prominent leader Ravi Dawani has appealed to Sindh govt to hold an impartial inquiry
Representational file image
Representational file image

PTI   |   Karachi   |   Published 22.08.22, 10:25 PM

A Hindu sanitation worker, who escaped lynching by a mob of Islamic extremists in Pakistan's Sindh province, has been arrested over alleged blasphemy following a personal clash with a local resident, police said on Monday.

Ashok Kumar was arrested after the extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Sunday staged protests in front of a building housing Hindu families over the alleged blasphemy incident that took place in Hyderabad city on Friday.

Police used force to disperse the violent mob, a police official said, adding that the sanitary worker was targeted because of a personal clash with a local resident.

A Hindu community leader in Hyderabad, who did not want to be named, said the police had arrested Kumar without carrying out a proper investigation into the incident.

"The Hindu families living in a building where the incident occurred are scared after the protests organised by the TLP and held outside their building on Sunday, he said.

According to the senior police official, the pages of an Islamic book were allegedly burnt on Friday after which the TLP organised protests all over Hyderabad and demanded the registration of a blasphemy case and the arrest of the accused.

Ravi Dawani, a prominent Hindu leader, has appealed to the Sindh government to hold an impartial inquiry into the matter.

Meanwhile, the city remained tense with most markets closed on Monday. At some places, protesters belonging to the TLP incited people and set properties and vehicles on fire.

SSP Amjad Sheikh said around 44 people were arrested for their involvement in the violence. Seven policemen, including a SHO, were injured in the stone pelting incidents, he added.

The TLP - established in 2015 - was banned in April last year after violent protests by the group, demanding expulsion of the French ambassador over the issue of blasphemous cartoons published in France. Later, the group was removed from the list of banned outfits on the orders of then Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan where suspects are often attacked and sometimes lynched by mobs.

In December last year, a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations. The attack caused widespread outrage, with then Prime Minister Khan calling it a day of shame for Pakistan .

Critics have long called for reforming Pakistan's bloodthirsty blasphemy law, saying it is often abused by influential members of society and extremists to intimidate religious minorities and pressure opponents into settling personal feuds.

According to a report by the Centre for Peace and Justice Pakistan, the Muslim-majority country is home to 22,10,566 people from the minority Hindu community, comprising only 1.18 cent of the total registered population of 18,68,90,601.

The report, based on data collected from National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), said that minorities constituted less than five per cent of the total population of Pakistan, with Hindus being the largest minority community.

The majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by extremists.

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