Pakistani Hindu principal arrested after alleged ‘blasphemy’

Islamabad, Sep 16, 2019-

A school principal from the minority Hindu community in Pakistan has been arrested by authorities on charges of alleged blasphemy following riots in Sindh province’s Ghotki town.

The principal, identified as Notan Lal, was booked and then arrested on charges of alleged blasphemy on Sunday and was attacked by a mob. A temple was vandalized and five shops owned by members of the Hindu community, besides a private school were set alight.

According to the Additional Inspector-General for Sukkur, Jamil Ahmed, protests erupted in Ghotki district after an FIR was filed against the principal of Sindh Public School (SPS) on the complaint of Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student’s father who claimed that the teacher had committed blasphemy by making derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad.

Lal was arrested following the protests, road blockages and riots in Ghotki city and its adjacent small towns.

“Legal action would be completed against the accused and justice would be meted out lawfully,” the Sukkur police officer said, adding that the situation in Ghotki was under control.

Abdul Haq, a controversial religious figure who is alleged to have played a key role in forcible conversions of Hindu girls in the province, and his men were reportedly involved in the attacks in Ghotki. He is also known as Mian Mithoo.

The main protest, in which the mob attacked SPS, where the incident reportedly occurred, was allegedly led by Mian Mithoo’s elder brother, Mian Aslam.

But Mian Mithoo told The Express Tribune that he knew nothing about the riots and denied any involvement in the violence. “I did not lead the protest.”

“I was in Ubaro in a meeting,” he claimed, adding that he was unaware of the situation in Ghotki. “I don’t have any idea. I just heard someone (a Hindu) pass comments against our Prophet.”

As the events unfolded, civil society activists and political leaders took to social media and demanded the Sindh government and law enforcement agencies to ensure security for the Hindu community living across the district.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari advised Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to bring the situation under control.

PPP leaders Saeed Ghani and Nasir Hussain Shah – Sindh’s Information Minister Saeed Ghani and local government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah reached Ghotki, where they met leaders of the Hindu community.

The two Ministers, flanked by local political and religious leaders visited the Sacho Satram Das temple and assured the Hindu community of their full support. They even announced the government will compensate for the damage caused to the temple.

Rights activist Sattar Zangejo said the Hindu community of the area was forced to remain indoors due to the riots.

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