Dozens arrested after Pakistan school principal accused of blasphemy

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Dozens arrested after Pakistan school principal accused of blasphemy
Riot police are seen in Quetta, Pakistan, on September 7. Officials said dozens of rioters were arrested over the weekend for demonstrating against a school administrator accused of blasphemy. Photo by Jamal Taraqai/EPA-EFE

Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Dozens of people have been arrested amid riots in Pakistan that stemmed from blasphemy accusations against a Hindu school principal.

Authorities said rioters attacked a private school and a Hindu temple in Ghokti, about 260 miles northeast of Karachi, on Sunday.


"In the temple, they broke windows, and the things inside, including our idols, were also damaged," Mukhi Kika Ram, leader of the local Hindu community, told Al Jazeera.

Several nearby shops and homes were also damaged.

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A student accused principal Notan Lal of making blasphemous statements about the Muslim Prophet Mohammed during a lesson. The boy's father, Abdul Zaiz Khan, said Lal sent school staff to his house to pressure Ibtisam to recant his statement.

"We had a confrontation there, where we argued with them over this," Khan said.

Blasphemy is a serious crime in the Muslim majority Pakistan. At least 75 Pakistanis have been executed for blasphemy since 1990 -- an offense that can include insulting the Koran, attacking religious sites or insulting the Islamic prophet.

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Human rights advocates called the weekend attacks against the Hindu minority "barbaric," and Amnesty International said the rioters must be held accountable.


"The authorities must take prompt action to quell the violence and ensure the safety of the school principal being targeted," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a Twitter post. "Mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric and unacceptable."

"[Lal] is in protective custody and we are inquiring about what his role is," he said. "The student has also been questioned. The inquiry is under process."

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The rioters could also face blasphemy charges for damaging the Hindu temple, but it would be lesser charge that doesn't carry the possibility of death.

Pakistan is home to about 3.3 million Hindus.

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