Pakistani Man Charged With Blasphemy Over Shoes With Hindu Symbol

Pakistani Man Charged With Blasphemy

ISLAMABAD, June 20 โ€“ Pakistani police arrested a man under the majority-Muslim countryโ€™s strict blasphemy laws on Monday for selling shoes with a sacred Hindu symbol, police and Hindu leaders said.

The shopkeeper, Jahanzaib Khaskhili, was arrested in the southern town of Tando Adam and the shoes, which carried the โ€œOmโ€ symbol, were confiscated, said Farrukh Ali, the district police chief.

Hindu community leaders called for the shopkeeper to be punished.

โ€œThe state must play a proactive role in punishing the culprits under the blasphemy laws,โ€ Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the patron of the Pakistani Hindu Council, said in a statement.

Tando Adam, about 200 km (120 miles) northeast of Karachi, is in Sindh province, where the vast majority of Pakistanโ€™s approximately three million Hindus live.

The blasphemy laws make it a crime to insult any religion and have specific sections for defiling the Koran or insulting the Prophet Muhammad that carry a life sentence and mandatory death sentence, respectively.

If convicted, the shopkeeper faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, in addition to a possible fine. Ali, the police chief, said Khaskhili had cooperated with authorities and appeared not to have intended to inflame religious sentiment.

โ€œWe will do this according to law, but prima facie it seems that he did not have any intention,โ€ said Ali, adding that police were now investigating the supplier of the shoes, who is based in Punjab province.

โ€œThe responsibility in this case will be with the people who actually manufactured the shoes โ€ฆ they would probably have done it intentionally,โ€ he said.

Pakistani rights groups say Hindus are often at risk of discrimination and hate crimes, including forced conversions and economic discrimination.

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