GHOTKI: Communal tensions ran high in Sindh's Ghotki district on Wednesday, after a Hindu man was arrested for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran a day earlier.
Two Hindu men were shot having tea at a stall in Ghotki's town of Mirpur Mathelo during an attack by a mob Wednesday. One of the victims, 17-year-old Dewan Sateesh Kumar, succumbed to his injuries while his friend Avinash is in a critical condition, police said.
Local leaders of the Hindu community while talking to journalists here demanded protection of their lives and properties in wake of the tensions.
"A local trader Dewan Satesh Kumar has been killed," Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ghotki Masood Ahmed Bangash told Dawn.
He said police with the help of Rangers are trying to diffuse the tense situation, which emerged after villagers in Mehran Samejo near Daharki "caught" a Hindu man desecrating pages of the Quran.
Locals told Dawn that the Hindu suspect, Amar Lal, is a drug addict who had begun living in a mosque after converting to Islam a few month ago, adding that his mental condition is "unstable".
Bilawal condemns unrest in Ghotki
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday took notice of unrest in Ghotki district and directed the concerned officials to ensure community's protection in the district.
According to a statement issued by Bilawal House Karachi's media team, Bhutto-Zardari directed PPP MNA Ramesh Lal to visit the victim's family and offer condolences and solidarity on his behalf.
The PPP chairman asked Sindh government to maintain communal harmony in Ghotki.
"Antisocial elements are fanning hatred and violence," the statement quoted Bhutto-Zardari, adding, "Nobody should be allowed to take the law into his hands."
Earlier in the day, Sukkur Deputy Inspector-General Syed Feroze Shah visited Ghotki to supervise the security arrangements undertaken by police and Rangers.
"Police and Rangers had arrested 84 people involved rioting after the ugly incident of the desecration of Holy Quran in a village near Dharki," Shah told local journalists.
"Police has arrested the accused and interrogation is underway," he added.
Shah met the family of Dewan Sateesh Kumar, who was shot dead while having tea at a stall during a mob attack, and assured full justice.
All big and small towns of Ghotki district including Daharki, Mirpur Mathelo, Ubauro and Khan Pur Mehar remained closed on Wednesday due to communal tensions, with cities deserted for the second consecutive day.
Local leaders of religious parties including Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ) have demanded "severe punishment" for the accused.
In Daharki, where some burnt pages of the holy book were found outside an old mosque, emotionally charged protesters on Tuesday assembled at a section of the National Highway and held a sit-in for five hours, demanding the arrest of the culprit, who was taken into custody by Daharki police.
Soon after the incident, protesters in most of the towns took to the roads and staged demonstrations against the alleged sacrilege. They also burned tyres, tried to ransack shops owned by Hindus and clashed with police.
Sukkur SSP Amjad Shaikh went to the protest site in Daharki along with his team and tried to persuade people to end their sit-in but his vehicle came under attack and sustained damage.
The accused was booked and shifted to an undisclosed location by police. SSP Bangash told Dawn that police and law enforcement agencies personnel arrested over 150 people on rioting charges in overnight raids in the district. He said said heavy contingents of police had been posted at sensitive areas particularly outside the houses of Hindus living in the area.