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Mob led by Islamic clerics attack Hindu colony

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October 12, 2000 


QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) - A mob led by Islamic clerics attacked homes of Hindus living in southwestern Pakistan after a Hindu woman apparently destroyed a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, a police official said Wednesday.

A woman, who could neither read nor write, apparently took a book she believed to be her son's old school book, tore the pages from it and used the pages to wrap sweets that she distributed in the streets of Dalbandin on Tuesday, said Abdul Ali Tarin, a police spokesman.

Residents of Dalbandin, 330 kilometers (198 miles) west of Quetta, took the pages to Islamic clerics in the area who said they were pages of the Arabic-language Koran.

According to Tarin police tried to assuage the clerics explaining the woman responsible was illiterate and unaware of the fact that the book was the Koran.

However, a mob gathered and attacked the homes of several Hindu families, destroying the houses and a temple, said Tarin.

Four Hindu men have been arrested in connection with the incident, he said. Meetings are being held between the Islamic clerics and local administration to try to ease tensions, said Tarin.

It wasn't immediately clear whether any charges have been laid.

In Islamic Pakistan, a controversial blasphemy law calls for the death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or the Koran.

Pakistan's army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf promised to make it more difficult to lay charges under the blasphemy law in an attempt to reduce abuses, however he reneged on that promise after Islamic clerics protested threatening to launch countrywide demonstrations.

The blasphemy law has been criticized by human rights groups in Pakistan and abroad because of the death penalty and because charges can be laid upon the complaint of an individual and without any prior investigation.

Pakistan is mostly Muslim. Minorities, including Hindus and Christians, make up about five percent of the population. Christians are the largest minority.

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