Riots erupt as Mirpurkhas vet booked in blasphemy case

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As news of the alleged blasphemy spread, some residents of the area took to the streets and damaged the doctor's clinic. — Photo courtesy BBC Urdu
As news of the alleged blasphemy spread, some residents of the area took to the streets and damaged the doctor's clinic. — Photo courtesy BBC Urdu

Mirpurkhas police on late Monday registered a blasphemy case against a veterinary doctor in Phuladiyon and took him into custody.

The doctor, who is from the Hindu community, was accused of blasphemy after a man alleged that he had provided medicines wrapped in paper that he claimed "had Quranic verses printed on them".

The man who had received these medicines for his livestock informed a local cleric Mohammad Ishaq Nohri, who then registered a complaint with Phuladiyon police in Sindhri police station, said Mirpurkhas DIG Saqib Ismail Memon. In his statement to the police, Nohri claimed that he found damaged pages of Islamic books at the vet's clinic.

DIG Memon said that a first investigation report was registered against the doctor under sections 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 295-B (defiling, etc., of Holy Quran) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Phuladiyon is situated 40km away from Mirpurkhas and according to an estimate, the total population of this area is around 6,000 to 7,000 people with a majority of Hindu citizens, according to BBC Urdu.

As word spread about the incident, riots broke out in the area and according to DIG Memon, a mob burnt down the doctor's shop, a cabin that belonged to his brother, and a motorbike.

DIG Memon said that the mob also tried to attack the police station and damaged its door in the process. Six suspects were taken into custody for rioting and damaging the vet's property.

A source within the police department said that the doctor was taken into custody as there was fear that he may be harmed by the mob. Police, while speaking to BBC Urdu, said that the doctor says "all this is a mistake".

Mirpurkhas SHO Javed Iqbal told BBC Urdu that the people that attacked the doctor's practice neither had love for Islam nor for their neighbours, "they were just miscreants".

According to DIG Memon, two FIRs were registered against rioters under sections 395, 506, 147, 148, 149, 436, 427, 324, 353, 147, 148, 149 and 504 of the PPC — dealing with dacoity, rioting, attempt to murder — and sections 6 and 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act.

A civil rights activist Punhal Sario told Dawn.com that the doctor's family feels unsafe following the incident.

He alleged that the cleric had provoked the local Muslim community against the doctor at his mosque. Phuladiyon town committee chairman Babu Lachman, however, told BBC Urdu that the cleric has distanced himself from the miscreants.

Sario said that had the cleric lodged a non-cognisable offence report, the situation might not have gotten out of control.

He further said that the doctor's brother had told him that while police was deployed at their residence, he was uncertain about his family’s security once police leave the area.

The activist added that latest reports suggest that some villagers have been guarding the doctor's family. He said that a mob had tried to attack the family as well but some residents had intervened and prevented the attack.