Ghotki violence

Updated September 17, 2019

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THE vandalism of temples and the destruction of private property, following the registration of a blasphemy case against a Hindu school owner in Ghotki, once again reminds us of the extent to which the social fabric of Pakistani society has been eroded.

Though the Hindu community has been living in Sindh for centuries, violent incidents like these leave them defenceless.

The case against the school owner was registered when a student claimed he heard him making objectionable religious statements; he told his father, who then informed the police.

Earlier in May, violence erupted in Mirpurkhas when a local vet allegedly used paper inscribed with religious texts to wrap medicine. After the incident, a mob vandalised shops and houses, mostly belonging to the local Hindu community.

Though it can be argued that those whose religious sentiments have been hurt have the right to protest, no one can be absolved of taking the law into their own hands and targeting another community.

It is a sad reality that the land of Sufis is falling prey to violence committed in the name of religion.

The Ghotki police have registered a case against the rioters for damaging places of worship. Let us hope that the cases are pursued to their logical conclusion, even in the case of potential political opposition.

Unfortunately, there have been several incidents that show the blasphemy law’s potential for being misused.

A Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan (Kasur) were accused of blasphemy in 2014, following which they were beaten and burnt by a mob because they demanded their wages from their employer.

Similarly, in 2013, a dispute among two friends led to the burning of a whole Christian settlement in Gojra (Toba Tek Singh) on blasphemy charges.

Society’s attitude towards the issue is just as big a challenge.

Mashal Khan, a student of the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, was killed even before accusations against him could be pursued according to the law.

Prof Khalid Hameed only needed to be seen as ‘anti-Islam’ for his student to stab him to death.

It is about time the state took religious scholars on board to chalk out a strategy aimed at stopping the rampant misuse of the law — often for settling property, monetary and personal disputes. Meanwhile, it can demonstrate some political grit by penalising those who took the law into their own hands in Ghotki.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019