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Pakistan: 2 years after being attacked over a false allegation of ‘blasphemy’, Hindu teacher awarded life imprisonment

The student who accused Notan Lal of blasphemy had later confessed that he had blamed him falsely because the teacher had scolded him in class. Local Islamists had attacked the school and had vandalised the temples of the poor Hindus in the area over the false allegations.

A Pakistan court on Tuesday sentenced Notan Lal, a Hindu teacher, to life imprisonment on the charges of blasphemy. Lal, owner and principal of a private school was accused of ‘insulting’ Prophet Muhammad during a Urdu class as accused by a student named Muhammad Ihtisham who later said he had lied.

Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul said that the Pakistan Courts failed to consider Muhammad Ihtisham’s confession and convicted Notan Lal under pressure.

A copy of court order shared by Pakistan-based journalist Naila Inayat mentioned that he has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

A fine of Rs 50,000 has also been imposed on him.

In September 2019, an FIR had been filed against a Hindu principal of the Sindh Public School for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad.

After the false accusation by the student, violence and vandalism was unleashed by residents of Ghotki protested on the streets, damaging the school and also a Hindu temple in the area. The Police in order to control the situation and avoid further damage had detained Lal under Article 295 (c) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The demonstrators had already vandalized three temples, a private school and multiple houses belonging to the Hindu community posing threat to the minority community in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had also reported mob violence after accusations of blasphemy in Ghotki. “Hindu community is in danger”, it had quoted a tweet.

According to the reports, Lal was taken into the custody and was questioned about the incident. Also the child Muhammad Ihtisham was interrogated. Ibtisam had then confirmed the allegations that Lal ‘insulted’ the prophet during a lesson on his life and travel between two holy cities.

But as the matter erupted on larger scale on social media and other parts of Pakistan, Muhammad Ihtisham confessed that he had lied. “Notan Sir never said anything like that. He had scolded me for not being able to remember the lesson. So I got furious and posted the video. I didn’t know this would take such a massive turn”, he had posted on social media.

Image Source- Twitter post of Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul

It is notable here that it is rather common in Pakistan to attack, jail and even kill members of the minority Christian and Hindu community over frivolous charges of ‘blasphemy’. In 2021, a Sri Lankan man was brutally lynched to death by a violent mob in Pakistan over an allegation of ‘insult’ to Prophet Muhammad.

According to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), more than 75 people have been put to death since 1990 in connection with allegations of the crime and more than 40 are either serving lifetime imprisonment or are on a death row for blasphemy in Pakistan.

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