Communal riots hit Sindh, Balochistan cities

Mob sets fire to Hindu temple; PM Nawaz and Ulema lead chorus of condemnation; government orders inquiry.

Shezad Baloch/sarfaraz Memon March 16, 2014
Community members inspect the damage at the Hindu temple in Larkana. PHOTO: REUTERS


Communal tensions gripped Larkana Saturday night following the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran by a Hindu youth.

“The law and order problem surfaced in the city Saturday evening after residents accused a Hindu youth, of burning pages of the Holy Quran,” said Deputy Commissioner Ghunwar Leghari.

Residents reported that the youth, allegedly desecrated a copy of the Holy Quran. A dry cleaner, who witnessed the alleged incident, informed people in the neighbourhood. Workers of religious parties and residents gathered at the youth’s house and reportedly tried to hurt him.

However, the police and paramilitary Rangers arrived in time and took him into custody.

But violence erupted in the area soon after the incident and a mob torched a Hindu Dharamshala at Royal Chowk after destroying everything inside. The skeletal structure of the temple still stands. They also damaged properties owned by the Hindu community in the city.  On Sunday, angry residents also organised protests in other cities and towns of upper Sindh, as well as in Suhbatpur, Dera Murad Jamali, Dera Allayar, Gandakha and Usta Mohammad in Balochistan.

Three protesters and one policeman were injured during clashes in Usta Muhammad, while 10 shops owned by Hindus were set ablaze, according to senior police official Syed Ashfaq Shah. Police used tear gas shells and fired gunshots into the air to disperse the enraged protesters.

According to a Balochistan home department official, security forces, police and Balochistan Levies have been deployed at the worship places of Hindus and Christians.

However, in Larkana, the situation was brought under control and heavy contingents of police and Rangers have been deployed to maintain order, said Ghunwar Leghari.

“The desecration of the Holy Quran is so far a rumour so we will treat it like that for now. The situation is very sensitive so without proper investigation, we cannot confirm or deny anything,” he told The Express Tribune.

Separately, senior police official Khadim Hussain Rind said two men have been detained for their alleged part in the violence.

Meanwhile, a six-member inquiry committee, comprising police officers, religious scholars and elders of the Hindu community, has been formed to probe into the alleged desecration.

This was decided at a high-level meeting attended by the commissioner, deputy commissioner and SSP Larkana, MNAs Ramseh Lal and Ayaz Soomro as well as religious scholars and elders of the Hindu community in Larkana’s Circuit House.

The meeting requested the citizens to maintain peace and harmony and also asked the traders to open their shops, besides requesting the Hindu community to celebrate Holi festival and assured them of full protection. The damage caused will be compensated accordingly, the meeting was informed.

However, Mukhi Eshwar Lal Makheja, the president of Hindu Panchayat, Sukkur, said the Hindu community throughout upper Sindh has decided to cancel celebrations of the Holi festival.

Meanwhile, Larkana’s Hindu Panchyat President Kalapna Devi expressed her shock and sorrow over the incident. “I strongly condemn the desecration of the Holy Quran and demand the accused be punished if he really has committed [blasphemy]”, she told The Express Tribune.

Security official keeps watch over Holi celebrations
in Lahore. PHOTO: APP

Condemning the incident, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed anguish and concern over the damage done and directed all provincial governments to take measures to protect to the life and property of Hindus and other minorities.

In a statement, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi demanded a judicial inquiry into both the incidents. He urged the government to provide protection to the Hindu community and suspend officers who did not take action against those who burnt the holy text and set the Hindu temple on fire.

Urging PUC and other religious organisations to help in restoring peace and stability in Larkana, he said, “We also expect Hindu leaders to join hands with their Muslim counterparts [in this endeavour].”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2014.


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