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#Pakistan #PPP - Will have to fight undemocratic forces to save federation: Bilawal

Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Sunday that they would have to fight undemocratic forces in order to save the federation.
Addressing a workers’ convention in Larkana, the PPP chairman said a few people were unable to tolerate the 18th amendment of the constitution.
“In the past too, people were unable to tolerate the 1973 constitution,” he told the attendees. “We’ll have to fight undemocratic forces. We’ll have to save the federation.”
Bilawal said his party’s government in the past took revolutionary steps like that of introducing the Benazir Income Support Programme.
“Asif Zardari saved the country by chanting ‘Pakistan Khappay’,” he said, in reference to the resentment among the masses following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The PPP chairman said his party granted autonomy to the provinces and a unanimous constitution to the country.
“In our tenure, power lied with the people. [Zulfiqar Ali] Bhutto Shaheed brought back 90,000 prisoners of war,” he noted.
“The undemocratic forces disliked Bhutto’s achievements and put him in jail, yet he remained firm on his principles.”
Bilawal accused the incumbent government of “plundering the constitutional and financial rights of the provinces”.
“The government didn’t give a single rupee to Karachi in the last one year,” he said. “It wants to seize the city on the pretext of garbage.”
The PPP chairman said the current rulers thought that they could bring a puppet government in Sindh by throwing its leadership into jails.
“Asif Zardari has previously served his time in prisons and can serve it now as well,” he said. “But he will not bow before this government.”
Bilawal dared the government to arrest whosoever it wanted to, asserting that they would not make a compromise on their principled stance.
“We will not make a compromise on the 18th amendment, economic justice and democratic principles,” he said.
“These people are busy trying to break our members for the past one year,” the PPP chairman said, noting, “We form government with the power of the people.”
He said the people of Sindh had given their mandate to the PPP and they were ready to respond to the puppet government in the centre.
“The people of Sindh will not tolerate a puppet chief minister,” he said.
Bilawal further criticised the government for incarcerating the entire political leadership of the country “without having been sentenced”.  “If Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur have done any wrong, then why do [you] not punish them?”
He shamed the government for depriving the masses of employment and shelter, despite having promised them 10 million jobs and 5 million houses.
“The government compromised the country’s economic sovereignty by bowing before the IMF,” the PPP chairman slammed.
Concluding his address, he gave a deadline of the year’s end to the government for mending its ways.
“We have always refused to stage a sit-in in Islamabad,” Bilawal said. “However, if the coalition partners and selectors of the government will not send it home, then we will come to Islamabad and do it.”

Hindus fear for their lives after Pakistan blasphemy riots

Communal riots have erupted in Ghotki, a southern Pakistani town, after a charged mob attacked a school due to blasphemy accusations against its Hindu principal. Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in the Islamic country.

Violent protesters attacked a school on Sunday after a blasphemy case was filed against Nautan Lal, principal of the Sindh Public School.
Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student's father, complained to the police that Lal had insulted Islam.
Blasphemy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan, is a sensitive topic in the country, where 97% of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim.
Rights activists have demanded reforms of controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas.
According to rights groups, around 1,549 blasphemy cases have been registered in Pakistan between 1987 and 2017. More than 75 people have been killed extra-judicially on blasphemy allegations. Some of them were even targeted after being acquitted in blasphemy cases by courts.
Pakistan's Christians and other religious minorities have often complained of legal and social discrimination in their country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.
Hindus locked inside their homes
Ghotki, a small town in southern Sindh province, has a considerable population of Hindus, who have been living there before the partition of British-ruled India in 1947.
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Christians in Pakistan fear increasing intolerance

Sindh province is known for its mystical ethos, where Hindus, Sikhs and Christians have coexisted with Muslims for centuries. But in the past few years, extremism has gripped the region, with hardline Muslim groups attacking temples and forcing Hindus to convert to Islam.
The riots in Ghotki have forced the Hindu community to remain indoors, as authorities have deployed police forces in the city.
Jaipal Chhabria, the president of the Pakistan Hindu Forum, told DW that the Hindu community in Ghotki feels more insecure after the riots.
"Nautan Lal only scolded a Muslim boy for not completing his homework. The boy accused him of blasphemy and that triggered violent protests in the city. The Hindus in the area are frightened and have locked themselves in their houses," Chhabria said.
Chhabria claimed that a local religious leader and his supporters were involved in the Sunday school attack.
The school principal and his family have reportedly gone into hiding, fearing mob attacks.
"How can they live in Ghotki anymore?" said Rajesh Kumar, a Ghotki resident. "Once a person is accused of blasphemy, they cannot live in that area. In the past, mobs have killed many people on blasphemy allegations."
Some reports say the police have taken the principal into custody and moved him to an undisclosed location due to security concerns.
Inadequate state help
Rights activists have demanded the provincial government protect the Hindu community in Ghotki.
Hari Lal Bhagia, the secretary-general of the Upper Sindh Hindu Panchayiat, told DW that the authorities are trying to restore peace in the area. "But these extremist groups are quite powerful, and even the government looks helpless. That is why the Hindu community in the area feels even more vulnerable to attacks," Bhagia said.
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'Holi' in Pakistan: celebrating to honor spring and harmony

But Sajjad Ali Soomro, a local rights activist, said that the indifference of state authorities has emboldened extremist groups in a province that used to be a beacon of religious harmony in the country.
"On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered outside the police station and later started attacking Hindu houses, businesses and temples. The authorities did not intervene," Soomro said.
Senator Taj Haider, whose Pakistan People's Party — headed by Bilawal Bhutto — governs Sindh province, admitted that the police should have stopped the mob from attacking Hindu properties.
Haider, however, insists that the provincial government is not to be blamed for religious disharmony in the area.
"We handed over a list of 300 religious seminaries that have been propagating hatred and extremist ideas to the federal government, but it did not take any action against these elements," he told DW.
Police have booked several people for damaging public property and inciting violence in Ghotki.
Religious minorities feel 'unsafe' in Pakistan
Hindus make up around 2.5% of Pakistan's population. The majority of them, over 90%, live in Sindh.
There have been reports that the number of Hindus migrating to neighboring India has increased in recent years.
Pakistan's Christians, and other religious minorities, have often complained of legal and social discrimination in their country.
Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent years on death row in Pakistan on a blasphemy charge, left for Canada to join her family in May. Bibi and her family had to stay in hiding even after she was acquitted by the country's Supreme Court in October 2018.
Recently, Baldev Kumar, a former legislator from Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, sought asylum in India for himself and his family. The 43-year-old politician alleged that Pakistan is an "unsafe country" and that the Imran Khan-led government mistreats minorities there.
In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.
In one case, a young Christian girl with Down Syndrome was accused in August 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her hometown and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada.
In 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln.
In September last year, a Christian man in Pakistan was sentenced to death for sharing "blasphemous" material on WhatsApp.

Pakistani police detain Hindu school principal over 'blasphemy'


Pakistani police have detained a Hindu school principal in the southern town of Ghotki, after he was accused of committing blasphemy by a student, prompting riots by far-right protesters, police officials and Hindu community leaders say.
Notan Lal, the owner and principal of a private school in Ghotki, located about 425km north of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, was taken into "protective custody" on Sunday, senior police official Farrukh Lanjar told Al Jazeera.
"He is in protective custody and we are inquiring about what his role is [in the incident]," said Lanjar. "The student has also been questioned. The inquiry is under process."
Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where at least 75 people have been killed since 1990 in connection with allegations of the crime, according to an Al Jazeera tally.
The crime, which includes insulting the Quran (Islam's holy book), attacking religious sites or insulting Prophet Muhammad, can carry a mandatory death penalty.
At least 40 people are serving life sentences or are on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, according to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
On Sunday, an angry mob ransacked the school where the incident allegedly took place and attacked a Hindu temple, badly damaging its interior, members of the Hindu community told Al Jazeera.
"In the temple, they broke the windows, and the things inside, including our idols, were also damaged," said Mukhi Kika Ram, the leader of the local Hindu community.
Ram said several shops and homes were also damaged by rioters.

'Tempers high'

Police said they intervened on Sunday with a heavy deployment of personnel to bring the town back in order, and registered a blasphemy case for the attack on the temple.
"We ensured that minorities be protected and their places of worship and homes be protected," said Lanjar. "We have deployed additional personnel there."
Later on Sunday, government officials held talks with the religious leaders leading the protests to end the violence, said provincial Information Minister Saeed Ghani.
"We are investigating and going through every person possibly involved, but tempers are high and people are charged and we want to make sure the situation is calm before we proceed ahead and verify details," said Jamil Ahmad, a senior police official, adding that Lal's statement had been recorded.
On Sunday night, Ahmad said Muslim religious leaders spent the night with Hindu representatives of the area at the temple that was attacked as a show of solidarity.
"The community around the school and temple has shown great maturity. Clerics of every sect showed up in solidarity at the temple. And the Muslim community and clerics provided security to Hindu families."

Blasphemy case

The accusation against Lal centres on comments he allegedly made while sitting in on an Urdu lesson, said Abdul Aziz Khan, the complainant in the case.
Khan's son, 15-year-old Muhammad Ibtisam, alleges that Lal insulted the prophet during a lesson on his life and travel between two holy cities.
Khan alleged that Lal had later sent school staff to their residence to pressure Ibtisam to recant his statement, resulting in a violent altercation between Khan's family and the staff.
"We had a confrontation there, where we argued with them over this," he said, adding that following the violence he registered the blasphemy case at the local police station.
On Sunday, local religious parties, including the Sunni Tehreek and the Jamiat Ulema Islam, led protests in Ghotki, forcing businesses to shut and resulting in the attacks on the temple and school, residents told Al Jazeera. Videos from the protests showed Muslim leaders called for "blasphemers" to be put to death.
Khan, himself under police protective custody, condemned the violence, saying Lal should only face any punishment under the law.
"Whoever has done this, it is completely wrong," he said. "Our religion does not give permission for this. Our Prophet Muhammad, on whose name we are pursuing this case, says for no one to ever be harmed, even if they are non-Muslim.
"If one heretic has committed heresy, then the police must arrest him, the court must hear him and then he will face his punishment."

Hindus fear for their safety

Pakistan human rights body called the mob violence against the minority community "barbaric" while Amnesty International said the perpetrators of the attack must be held "accountable".
"The authorities must take prompt action to quell the violence and ensure the safety of the school principal being targeted," said the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a Twitter post following the violence.
"The video circulated earlier is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable."
Hindu community leaders, however, said they continued to fear for their safety in Ghotki.
"We are very hurt by the idea that if one person commits a mistake, then the whole Hindu community is punished for it," said Jewat Ram Manglani, a community leader. "We respect both our temples and also mosques, and people should also respect us."
Pakistan is home to roughly 3.3 million Hindus, a small minority in a country of 207 million people. The majority of the country's Hindus live in the southern province of Sindh, where Ghotki is located.