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Pakistan mob sets fire to Hindu temple Heavy deployment of police to keep the peace

KARACHI, March 16, (AFP): An angry mob of dozens of Muslims set fire to a Hindu temple in a southern Pakistani city over the alleged desecration of a Quran, officials said Sunday as police were deployed to quell tensions. The arson took place on Saturday night in Larkana, the home town 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,” senior local administration official Ghunwar Leghari told AFP. 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.

Another senior police official, Khadim Hussain Rind, confirmed the incident and said two Muslims had been arrested for their part in the violence. Reacting to the attack, Zardari tweeted: “I consider attack on temple akin to attack on GKB (Garhi Khuda Baksh).perpetrators will be brought 2 justice as will people who spread lies and incited violence.” Garhi Khuda Baksh is a village which houses the Bhutto family mausoleum. Hindus account for around nine percent of Larkana’s population of around 400,000, with many running their own businesses. Minorities are particularly suspectible to accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan, where Muslims make up 97 percent of the population and insulting the Prophet Mohammed can carry the death penalty.

The incident also had repercussions in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, 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, senior local police official Syed Ashfaq Shah told AFP.

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