Lahore: A violent mob vandalised three Hindu temples, as well as houses belonging to the Hindu community and a school in Ghotki in Pakistan's Sindh province, over allegations that a school principal from the minority community had committed blasphemy. The violence took place on Saturday after an FIR was registered against the principal of Sindh Public School on the complaint of Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student's father who claimed that the principal had committed blasphemy.
The FIR was lodged under Article 295(c) - that pertains to "derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet - of the Pakistan Penal Code. Videos, showing a frenzied mob wielding sticks venting their anger on a Hindu temple and the Sindh Public School over the alleged incident of blasphemy, were doing the rounds on social media.
The houses of Hindu families were also attacked, with the mob blocking off roads in the area.
Large contingents of police and paramilitary Rangers were deployed in Ghotki on Sunday following protests. Residents of the area have demanded that the police arrest the principal. Religious groups and organisations called for a shutter down strike in the wake of the incident. All business centres in Ghotki remained closed on Sunday. Sukkur Region's Additional Inspector General Jamil Ahmed said on Sunday that the accused principal was in "safe custody" of the police. He said a fair investigation would be ensured after confirmation of the facts and justice will prevail.
The "situation in Ghotki is back to normal," the officer said on Twitter. Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani said a First Information Report had been registered in the case. Ghani said it was an act of an individual and the entire Hindu community had no fault in it. "If the allegations are proven, then action will be taken against the accused in accordance with the law," he said, appealing to local religious figures and the general public to remain calm.
"We regard the public sentiment, but an entire community cannot be blamed for an individual's act," he said. Advocate Veerji Kolhi, the special assistant to Chief Minister Sindh on Human Rights, told Dawn: "The situation is being handled properly to avoid further damage or riots." Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also the head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, told Dawn that the case has been handed over to Hyderabad Deputy Inspector General Naeem Shaikh who will investigate the matter. He added that the principal was kept at an undisclosed location for safety reasons and will be handed over to Shaikh.
"I have talked to Sindh Inspector General of Police Kaleem Imam who has assured me the police will fully protect the accused, therefore, I am going to hand (the principal) over to police either in Karachi or in Hyderabad today," he said. Vankwani said that the protesters had vandalised three temples, a private school and multiple houses belonging to the Hindu community and added that he had asked the police to register an FIR against people involved in the riots.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also shared a video of protesters breaking the infrastructure of the school and expressed concern over the situation. The rioters allegedly included supporters of radical religious leader Pir Abdul Haq alias Mian Mithu, who is widely accused of involvement in forced conversion of Hindu women in Sindh.
Protests were also held in surrounding towns of Mirpur Mathelo and Adilpur, where demonstrators blocked roads and demanded the principal's arrest. According to rights activist Sattar Zangejo, the Hindu community of the area was forced to remain indoors due to the riots.
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