A Muslim shopkeeper selling shoes carrying the “Om” symbol enraged the Hindu community who accused him of blasphemy and called for his arrest Monday, June 20.
Pakistani district police Farrukh Ali confirmed that they arrested a shopkeeper in the southern town of Tando Adam named Jahanzaib Khaskheli. According to The Hindu, the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) brought the matter to the Sindh government and authorities in Tando Adam area after hearing about the controversial shoe design.
“The state must play a proactive role in punishing the culprits under the blasphemy laws,” PHC patron-in-chief Ramesh Kumar Vankwani was quoted as saying during a meeting with Hindu delegates led by Engineer Hotchand Karmani.
Vankwani also said the inscription of the sacred Hindu symbol on shoes was blasphemous under the Pakistani penal code because it insulted their religion.
“As ‘Om’ is the sacred religious symbol of Hinduism which talks about the oneness of God, let’s protect this oneness peacefully for the progressive and positive face of Pakistan,” the Pakistan Hindu Seva, a non-profit charity organization, said in astatement on Facebook.
Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law, Khaskheli could be sent to a maximum 10 years imprisonment with a possible fine if found guilty.
“We will do this according to law, but prima facie it seems that he did not have any intention,” said Ali on the Muslim shopkeeper, as reported by Reuters.
“The responsibility in this case will be with the people who actually manufactured the shoes … they would probably have done it intentionally,” added Ali.
Authorities traced the manufacturer of the shoes in Lahore where Punjab police are tasked to investigate.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) reported in 2014 that those who were subjected under the country’s blasphemy laws since 1987 were 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmedis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus. According to BBC News, critics point out that the blasphemy law is largely used to target minorities.
The Pakistani government promised not to amend the current law after hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in Islamabad in March to protest its amendment and demand its strict implementation.