Tuesday, 28 September, 2021
E-paper

Mob attacks Hindu temple in Pakistan over blasphemy row

LAHORE: Dozens of people attacked a Hindu temple in central Pakistan over blasphemy allegations, police said Thursday, in the latest incident of religious-fueled violence targeting a minority group in the Islamic republic, reports AFP.

Police said the mob attacked the temple in Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province Wednesday afternoon following the release on bail of a young Hindu boy accused of blasphemy.

“Some 70 to 80 protesters then attacked and smashed the windows of the temple,” Ahmed Nawaz, a police spokesman from the district, told AFP.

The boy had earlier been arrested over rumours that he committed blasphemy, a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan where insults against Islam and the Prophet Mohammad carry harsh prison sentences and the death penalty in some instances.

Such allegations are explosive and often result in furious outcries among large ultra-conservative groups in the Islamic republic.

Videos circulating on social media showed a group of men ransacking the temple, using iron bars to destroy portions of the property.

“The damage isn’t too extensive. The building has been partially damaged,” said Riasat Ali, a local administration official, adding that security forces had been deployed to protect the local Hindu community in the area.

The country’s strict blasphemy laws have been disproportionately used against religious minorities in the past, including the Christian community with critics arguing they are frequently abused to settle personal scores.

Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan, where Muslims make up 97 percent of the population and Hindus compromise around two percent.

The attack was just the last in a string of assaults on Hindu places of worship in recent years, including an attack late last year that saw around 1,500 people overrun and set fire to a temple in northwestern Pakistan.

The uptick in violence comes as leaders in Pakistan and India have been locked in an increasingly harsh war of words, with both sides accusing the other of inflaming religious sentiments to target minorities in their respective countries.