Blasphemy accusation in Pakistan sparks ransacking of Hindu temple, school

Blasphemy law is often exploited by religious hard-liners as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle scores. Above, activists carry placards against Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was released after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy, in Karachi on November 21, 2018. (AFP file)
Updated 16 September 2019

Blasphemy accusation in Pakistan sparks ransacking of Hindu temple, school

  • The violence erupted in the southern province of Sindh after a student accused the Hindu principal of blasphemy

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: A crowd in Pakistan ransacked a school and Hindu temple after a Hindu principal was accused of blasphemy, police said on Monday, the latest case to raise concern about the fate of religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country.
The violence erupted in the southern province of Sindh after a student accused the Hindu principal of blasphemy in comments about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The enraged crowd ransacked the school and damaged a nearby temple, a district police chief said.
The principal had been taken into protective custody and police were investigating both the alleged blasphemy and the rioters, he added.
“It seems the principal had not done anything intentionally,” the district police chief, Furrukh Ali, told Reuters.
Insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, which is about 95 percent Muslim and has among the harshest blasphemy laws in the world.
No executions for blasphemy have been carried out in Pakistan but enraged mobs sometimes kill people accused of it.
Rights groups say the blasphemy law is often exploited by religious hard-liners as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle scores.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the weekend violence, footage of which was recorded in a video and circulated on social media. It called on authorities should take prompt action.
“The video ... is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable,” the commission said in a post on Twitter.
Hindus make up about 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s population of 208 million, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.
In January, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of a Christian women who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy in a case that had drawn alarm from religious and human rights advocates.
In March, Pakistan’s government sacked a provincial minister for making offensive comments about Hindus as tension between Pakistan and Hindu-majority neighbor India ran high after a militant attack in the Indian-controlled portion of the contested Kashmir region.


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.