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September 17, 2019

Ghotki case


September 17, 2019

We have on our hands yet another case of blasphemy in a country where such cases, many of them used to target people for various reasons and on flimsy grounds, continue to multiply. As has happened before, the person accused, the principal of the Sindh Public School in Ghotki, is a Hindu. Members of minority communities are especially vulnerable to charges of blasphemy, even though most of the hundreds currently behind bars on blasphemy charges are Muslim. It is unknown what event triggered off the horrors that were seen in Ghotki. On Sunday, mobs ran riot through the city, attacking temples, the school itself and homes of Hindus based in Ghotki. The minority community is obviously terrorised.

The situation arose after the parent of a Muslim student brought the allegation against the principal, said to be a respected educationist. Police and the administration struggled to bring the situation under control but now cases have been registered against 43 individuals for attacking a major Hindu temple and PTI MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, has said that the accused will remain at a safe, undisclosed place and later be handed over to the DIG to ensure his safety. Human rights activists have spoken out angrily against the events in Ghotki including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan which has demanded they be brought under control. But controlling the inflamed feelings of people may not prove to be an easy task. In the past, it has been seen that extremist elements are quick to leap into blasphemy cases, or the slightest hint of one, and use their offices to whip up further hatred. This leads to the accused not being able to obtain justice easily (or at all).

In Bahawalpur, lecturer Junaid Hafeez remains imprisoned six years after he was first charged of blasphemy. His lawyer was shot while attempting to defend him. It seems obvious that legislative reforms are needed so as to protect people from misusing the law for malicious purposes or to settle scores. This will help prevent the gross injustices we continue to see and helplessly follow. Perhaps, the PM can be persuaded to act on this, given that his party stands for justice and came to power on this slogan. What we are seeing today is not justice but blind persecution.

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