A young Hindu businessman was the center of the third major mob action against an accused blasphemer in Pakistan in less than a month.
Prakash Kumar, 34, from Lasbela in the Baluchistan province, was arrested by the police after allegedly sharing blasphemous content on the WhatsApp social-media platform.
After a mob descended on the police station where he was held, violence erupted when the police refused to hand him over – a fate which certainly would have seen him lynched to death by the crowd.
In the ensuing violence, a 13-year-old boy was killed and five others wounded (including police officers) in the riot which lasted three hours. Thousands of fundamentalists, who shouted against Kumar as well as the entire Hindu community, also succeeded in pressuring the government to close all businesses owned or controlled by the Hindu community.
Even after Kumar was sent to prison, the atmosphere in the area remained tense for three days after the incident, forcing the entire Hindu community to leave the area. For those who wish come back, they know it will be a long process before the dust is settled.
Although non-Muslims make up only five percent of Pakistan’s population, in this southwest province, 70% of businesses are run by the small Hindu community that did not immigrate to India in 1947, at the time of Pakistan’s independence.
In recent years, there has been a slow exit of Hindus who sold their businesses and left the country because of pressure from the Muslim community.
Accusations of blasphemy are often used to intensify this pressure or settle personal scores. Blasphemy laws, originally introduced to control minority populations in Pakistan, have now engulfed every aspect of life in the country as witnessed by the world, which recently looked on horrified as Mishal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student at Mardan University, was lynched to death in the name of blasphemy while police refused to intervene.
Still, the Pakistani government is not considering any amendments to the laws covering blasphemy.
And apparently, no action is being considered by minority parliamentarians, who never speak up against these atrocities.
Dr.Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, an active Hindu parliamentarian from the ruling Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif, vocally defended the country’s first family during the Panama scandal, but in this case, he did not utter a single word and has yet to visit the community he represents in the National Assembly of Pakistan.
Senator Kamran Michael, a Christian parliamentarian and minister for human rights, has also not been heard.
These so-called minority representatives are never allowed by their controllers to speak beyond their specific ambit.
However, from time to time, they are sent to Western countries on special missions to assure the world that minorities are safe in Pakistan. Surprisingly, they are believed to be telling the truth.
Kaleem Dean is human rights activist and journalist from Pakistan. He currently lives in the UK. He was the publisher of Christian Monitor in Pakistan, a leading Christian newspaper which covers minority issues. He presently writes for various Pakistani papers. Write to him at Kaleem.Dean@mail.com