Police probe reveals religious sentiment stirred to cover monetary dispute | As word spread, mob burnt Larkana Dharamshala | Confirming desecration became secondary | Religious organisations disassociate | Curfew clamped.
The arson took place on Saturday night in the hometown of opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is the son of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. It was the latest example of violence over an alleged violation of Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws, which rights groups say are often abused to settle personal scores.
“The law and order problem surfaced in the city Saturday evening after local residents accused a Hindu youth, Surjeet Kumar, of burning pages of the holy Quran,” said senior local administration official Ghunwar Leghari. Dozens of enraged Muslims attacked a Hindu temple in the city and set fire to its sanctuary, Leghari said, adding the situation had been brought under control overnight and Kumar was in police custody. He added that there was a heavy deployment of police and paramilitary Rangers to keep the peace on Sunday.
PPP MNA Faryal Talpur has announced to get the damaged Hindu temple repaired from her own pocket.
The incident of burning of temple comes when the Hindu community is celebrating the festival of Holi.
The preliminary findings of a committee comprising administration officials, ulema and Hindu leaders suggest that some criminal elements orchestrated the incident by giving religious colouring to a monetary dispute. The committee which has been tasked to collect evidence has further submitted in its report that no activist of any religious organisation was found involved in the incident.
As per details, a robbery incident took place at Morad Wahan, (Larkana) residence of 40 year old Balu alias Sanjeet some fifteen days back. Armed men made away with Rs 0.7 million along with gold ornaments meant for dowry of his two sisters who run beauty parlours in the vicinity. An FIR of the incident was also lodged at Darri police station.
According to President of Larkana Union of Journalists, Murtaza Kalhoro, some people carrying a copy of the Holy Quran came to Balu’s house and sought a deal to evade charges or to seek exemption from payment of the looted amount.
Balu declined to accommodate, saying that he had saved the amount to meet marriage expenses of his sisters. But he did not commit any blasphemy.
Without any confirmation, a local news channel later aired the news that Balu had committed sacrilege of the Holy Quran. SMS were also exchanged which incited public sentiment. People riding motor bikes had a round of the city and set ablaze the Hindu temple and properties without confirming the news. Police took Balu and his sisters in protective custody.
On Sunday, in a meeting at Larkana Circuit House, representatives of different political and religio-political parties distanced themselves from the incident.
PPP MNA Muhammad Ayyaz Soomro, MNA Ramaish Lal and representatives of JUI, JUP, Jamat Ahle Sunnat as well as Shia and Sunni ulema attended the meeting among officials of the district administration.
Another senior police official, Khadim Hussain Rind, said two people had been arrested for their part in the violence.
It was the latest example of furiousness over an alleged violation of blasphemy laws.
The incident also had repercussions in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where protesters angry at the alleged blasphemy in Larkana clashed with police in the towns of Osta Muhammad and Dera Murad Jamali. Two protesters and one policeman were injured during the clashes in Osta Muhammad, while four shops owned by Hindus were set ablaze, according to senior local police official Syed Ashfaq Shah.
Hindus account for around nine percent of Larkana's population of around 400,000, with many running their own businesses. This city, in the southern Sindh province, is the power bastion of Pakistan Peoples Party and home town of opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
PPP TAKES NOTICE
Reacting to the attack, Zardari tweeted: "I consider attack on temple akin to attack on GKB (Garhi Khuda Baksh). Perpetrators will b brought to justice…."
Garhi Khuda Baksh is a village which houses the Bhutto family mausoleum.
Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also talked to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on the phone and directed him to immediately control the situation. The chief minister summoned a report from Larkana DIG.
Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, who hails from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), also took notice of the situation and directed the law-enforcement agencies for expeditious steps to contain violence.
ALTAF DENOUNCES VIOLENCE
MQM chief Altaf Hussain denounced the violent situation, asserting the attack on the properties of Hindus stands in stark contradiction with Islamic teachings.
Expressing sorrow over alleged burning of holy pages and ensuing violence, he demanded the government arrest the accused and those involved in attacking Hindu temple. He called on the government to provide protection of life and property to Hindu community.
The Hindu Panchayat Council, a representative body of Hindu minorities, has appealed on Hindus to keep a low profile while celebrating the ongoing Holi festival of colours.