Hindu sanitation worker arrested in Pakistan over alleged blasphemy

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A Hindu sanitation worker has been arrested in Pakistan for allegedly committing blasphemy by burning pages of a religious book following a series of protests by an extremist group, a senior police official said on Monday.

Ashok Kumar was arrested after the extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Sunday staged protests in front of a building housing Hindu families over the alleged blasphemy incident that took place in Hyderabad city on Friday.

A Hindu community leader in Hyderabad, who did not want to be named, said the police had arrested Kumar without carrying out a proper investigation into the incident.

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“The Hindu families living in a building where the incident occurred are scared after the protests organised by the TLP and held outside their building on Sunday,” he said.

According to the senior police official, the pages of an Islamic studies book were allegedly burnt on Friday after which the TLP organised protests all over Hyderabad and demanded the registration of a blasphemy case and the arrest of the accused.

Ravi Dawani, a prominent Hindu leader, has appealed to the Sindh government to hold an impartial inquiry into the matter.

The TLP was declared a proscribed organisation in April last year after violent protests by the group forced the government to expel the French ambassador over the issue of blasphemous cartoons published in France.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan gave his permission to remove the extremist group from the list of banned outfits in November last year, succumbing to the hardline Islamists to end the deadly anti-government agitation.

The TLP was established in 2015 and has held protests over the years, mostly against the alleged desecration of the Prophet.

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Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan where suspects are often attacked and sometimes lynched by mobs.

In December last year, a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations. The attack caused widespread outrage, with then Prime Minister Khan calling it a “day of shame for Pakistan”.

Critics have long called for reforming Pakistan’s bloodthirsty blasphemy law, saying it is often abused by influential members of society and extremists to intimidate religious minorities and pressure opponents into settling personal feuds.

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