Pakistan protesters
Photo credit: Guardian UK

Police in Pakistan drop blasphemy charges against eight-year-old Hindu boy

Police in Pakistan have dropped charges against an eight-year-old Hindu boy charged with blasphemy after media and government pressure over his arrest.

The boy, the youngest Pakistani ever to be charged with the crime, was accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept, in July, Guardian reported.

His release on bail prompted an attack on a Hindu temple by a Muslim mob in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab.

“The charges against the boy were baseless,” said Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special representative of the prime minister on religious harmony.

Ashrafi said the police officers who had charged the boy had been arrested. “Minorities are equal citizens and these are illiterate people attacking worship places,” he said. “Our Islam does not allow attacking of any other religion’s places of worship.”

The temple has been repaired by the government and was handed back to the Hindu community in a ceremony on Wednesday. Dozens of people have been arrested for vandalising the temple and have been told by local authorities they will have to pay for repairs, according to the Guardian UK.

The boy and his family are still in hiding and under protective police custody for fear of reprisals.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said: “We are happy that the charges are dropped and the temple is repaired. It was made possible after the media pressure and government pressure on the [local] authorities.”

On Monday, Amnesty International demanded the blasphemy charges against the boy be dropped. “Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have long been abused to target minority groups, but this case marks a shocking and extreme departure,” it said.

Amnesty has called on the government to provide adequate protection for the boy, his family and the wider Hindu community.