Blasphemy accusation in Pakistan sparks ransacking of Hindu temple and school
A crowd in Pakistan ransacked a school and Hindu temple after a Hindu principal was accused of blasphemy, police said on Monday, the latest case to raise concern about the fate of religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country.
The violence erupted in the southern province of Sindh after a student accused the Hindu principal of blasphemy in comments about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The enraged crowd ransacked the school and damaged a nearby temple, a district police chief said.
The principal had been taken into protective custody and police were investigating both the alleged blasphemy and the rioters, he added.
"It seems the principal had not done anything intentionally," the district police chief, Furrukh Ali, told journalists.
Pakistan: Education (not) for all
Some 50 million children in Pakistan are of school age, but more than 20 million of them do not attend any kind of educational institution. If funds are lacking, many parents send their children to Koran schools. By Nastassja Shtrauchler
God not geometry: two students at the Al-Nadwa madrasa memorising Koran quotes. This Islamic educational institution is not far from the capital, Islamabad. It is mainly poor families who send their children to schools like these. As well as a religious education, the schools provide the children with three meals a day and a roof over their heads
Students take an afternoon nap at the Al-Nadwa madrasa near Islamabad. There are thousands of religious schools like these in Pakistan, many of them barely subject to state control. Some are suspected of teaching a radical interpretation of Islam
Investment in the future: students at the Al-Nadwa madrasa in the Pakistani town of Murree await the call to prayer. Many parents send their children to school in the hope that this will improve the lives of the entire family
Boys and girls learn alongside one another at one of the Mashal Model Schools in Islamabad. The schools provide a free education to children aged between three and 18. Many of them have experienced poverty and war or been sexually or physically abused. The institution was founded in 2008 by Zeba Hussain and is financed through donations
It's not all work and no play: once classes have finished, students at the Mashal Model School in Islamabad play. A total of 860 students attend the school's three campuses. Some of the children used to sell flowers or wash cars on the streets before they began attending school. Here, they are able to behave like children
The computers at the Mashal Model School in Islamabad may not be new, but for most students, the idea of owning any kind of PC is pie in the sky. Here they can at least learn how to use a computer
At the Headstart School in Islamabad, students are introduced to modern technology at a young age. As well as religious schools, an increasing number of private schools are being founded in Pakistan. But only wealthy parents can afford an education of this kind
School uniforms, a canteen, modern computers: all available to those students whose parents can afford the Headstart private school in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Many parents don't trust the quality of state schools
Insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, which is about 95 percent Muslim and has among the harshest blasphemy laws in the world. No executions for blasphemy have been carried out in Pakistan but enraged mobs sometimes kill people accused of it.
Rights groups say the blasphemy law is often exploited by religious hardliners as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle scores.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the weekend violence, footage of which was recorded in a video and circulated on social media. It called on authorities should take prompt action.
"The video ... is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable," the commission said in a post on Twitter.
Hindus make up about 1.6% of Pakistan's population of 208 million, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.
In January, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of a Christian women who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy in a case that had drawn alarm from religious and human rights advocates.
In March, Pakistan's government sacked a provincial minister for making offensive comments about Hindus as tension between Pakistan and Hindu-majority neighbour India ran high after a militant attack in the Indian-controlled portion of the contested Kashmir region. (Reuters)