Hundreds of people surround a Hindu neighborhood and attack the Sheetal temple in Karachi after allegations of blasphemy on Nov. 1. (Photo supplied)
An ancient Hindu temple was vandalized by a mob of Islamists in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi over allegations of blasphemy against a member of the minority community.
The incident took place at Lee Market in the city’s impoverished Lyari town on Nov. 1 evening.
Hundreds of people surrounded the Hindu neighborhood and attacked the Sheetal temple. The mob also broke idols of Hindu gods and relics and defaced the temple before paramilitary rangers and police were called in to defuse the situation.
The rioters also surrounded a police vehicle that arrived to control the situation, SAMAA TV reported.
Rangers and police have been deployed in the area, which remains tense.
Lal Malahi, a Hindu lawmaker, confirmed the desecration of the temple and criticized the Sindh government.
“Incidents of discrimination against minorities are increasing in Sindh under PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] rule. Yet another Sheetal temple vandalized in Lee market,” Malahi said.
“In another incident near the PSO office, the Hindu community was not allowed Bhandara [distribution of cooked food and sweets],” he added.
On Nov. 2, police arrested a 33-year-old Hindu man under Section 295-A of the Penal Code, which relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,” the punishment for which may be a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years or both.
Allama Muhammad Ahsan Siddiqui, chairman of the Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony, denounced the desecration of the temple.
“Islam doesn’t permit or teach attacking minority places of worship. Some miscreants try to disturb peace by exploiting blasphemy laws for their own interests. We demand the Sindh government arrest and expose such elements stoking religious tension and practical steps should be taken to protect temples and churches,” he said.
On Oct. 23, a Hindu temple was attacked in Tharparkar district of Sindh province during an annual religious festival.
The raid was reported on Oct. 23 night after the community finished Navratri (nine nights festival) prayers in Tharparkar's Nagarparkar subdistrict. According to police, the assailants smashed the head of one idol with a sledgehammer.
On Oct. 10, police arrested Ismail Sheedi, a Muslim, in connection with an attack on a Hindu temple in Kario Ghanwar in Badin district.
Hindus make up around 2.5 percent of Pakistan's 220 million population. The majority of them, over 90 percent, live in Sindh province.