09/17/2019, 10.23
PAKISTAN
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Sindh, 50 Muslim radicals arrested for sectarian violence against Hindus

The attackers are blamed for damage to places of worship, revolt and complicity. None of these offenses provides for the death penalty. The Hindu principal accused of blasphemy, which the radicals wanted to punish, risks the death sentence instead. Another 150 people investigated for blocking the streets.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Police in the Pakistani province of Sindh have arrested 50 people guilty of turning the city of Ghotki upside down to punish the Hindu community and its places of worship and gathering. The incidents took place on September 14 and kept the town and the population hostage to the rioters for hours. The Islamic radicals gave rise to the devastation of three temples, a school and Hindu shops, after the spread of the news - still to be ascertained - that a Hindu principal was guilty of blasphemy.

The attackers are blamed for violating section 295 (damage or desecration of a place of worship, with the intention of insulting the religion of that class), 147 (revolt) and 149 (connivance) of the Pakistani Penal Code. The authorities then registered complaints against 150 people for blocking the province's roads.

None of these charges is punishable by the death penalty, as opposed to the one recorded against the Hindu principal, blamed by his Muslim pupil. Notan Mal, the principal, risks a death sentence if the judge finds him guilty. Meanwhile he is held in custody in a secret location awaiting trial.

In Pakistan the mere suspicion of contempt of the prophet Mohammed is enough to stir up spirits and perpetrate mass lynching, such as the one in which Mashal Khan, a university student was beaten to death in Mardan University. In the country no condemned has ever been executed, but the trials continue for a long time because of the threats directed to the judges and to those who investigate the cases. According to the US State Department, there are 77 suspects in the country's prisons.

Activists complain that the blasphemy accusation is used to resolve personal disputes, rather than to defend the prophet's honor. This is the case of the student Khan, acquitted of all charges months after his death. Or that of Christian Asia Bibi, freed this year after spending nine years in prison, including eight on death row. Even several Muslims and secular intellectuals, who risk the retaliation of the radicals, have been forced to flee abroad.

Today an editorial published in Dawn, the main Pakistani newspaper in English, urges: "The time has come for the state to take religious experts on board and outline a strategy to stop the rampant abuse of the law - often used to resolve disputes over property, on money and for personal reasons. At the same time, it could demonstrate a bit of political courage by penalizing those who took the law into their own hands at Ghotki."

According to the editorialist, "the devastation of temples and the destruction of private property, following the registration of a blasphemy complaint against a Hindu principal, reminds us once again of how much the social fabric of Pakistani society has eroded"

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