ISLAMABAD -- An angry mob in southern Pakistan has vandalized several Hindu temples and property over allegations that a local school principal belonging to the minority community had committed blasphemy.
Police said on September 15 that riots broke out the previous day in Ghotki, in the province of Sindh, and quickly spread across the city and surrounding towns. Ghotki has an estimated 40 percent Hindu population.
Residents and community leaders confirmed that protesters had stormed three temples, vandalizing statues and other sacred objects inside the places of worship.
They also attacked and destroyed multiple houses belonging to Hindus, including the school run by the alleged blasphemer, prompting the district administration to call in paramilitary forces to assist in bringing the situation under control. Ghotki remained closed on September 15 amid tensions and fears of more protests.
Area police confirmed on September 15 they had arrested the school principal and an investigation was underway into accusations that he made derogatory remarks regarding the Prophet Muhammad.
Videos shared via social media showed stick-wielding angry mobs roaming the streets and damaging property.
The nongovernmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also shared a video of the violent protests, denouncing them and demanding that authorities quickly take action to ensure safety for the Hindu community.
“The video circulated earlier is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable,” the commission said.
A prominent Hindu rights activist in Pakistan, Kapil Dev, said Hindus living in Ghotki are under siege and posed the question, "Aren't we Pakistani?"
Insulting Islam and the prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations of blasphemy have led to mob lynching of suspects.
The country’s laws carry a compulsory death sentence for anyone found guilty of blasphemy, though critics say the laws are often used to settle personal feuds and persecute Pakistani religious minorities.
-- By Ayaz Gul for VOA