KARACHI: Police in Pakistan's Sindh province today arrested a shopkeeper under the tough blasphemy laws for selling shoes inscribed with the sacred Hindu word 'Om' and seized the offensive footwears after protests by the country's minority community.
Jahanzaib Khaskhili of Tando Adam Khan town was arrested after Hindu community leaders lodged a complaint, district police chief Farrukh Ali told reporters.
He said the offensive shoes have been confiscated.
"We are also carrying out raids in the market to see if any other shop is also selling these shoes," he said, adding that initial investigations indicated that the shopkeeper had not deliberately tried to hurt the sentiments of Hindus.
"It appears even he was not aware of the Om symbol until it was reported in the press and he has since cooperated in the investigations," Ali said.
If convicted, the shopkeeper faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, in addition to a possible fine.
Tando Adam, which is about 200 kilometres from Karachi in the southern Sindh province, where the vast majority of Pakistan's approximately three million Hindus reside.
Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) patron-in-chief Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told PTI that the swift police action was appreciated by the Hindu community.
Vankwani said police have found that the shoes were purchased from a manufacturer in Lahore and Punjab police were being approached for taking action against them.
It is unethical and immoral to insult any religion, either of a minority or a majority, he said.
"The state must play the proactive role for punishing the culprits under the blasphemy laws," Vankwani said while talking to a Hindu delegation vising him over the issue.
The PHC had lodged protests with the Sindh government and authorities in Tando Adam Khan area after it was brought to the notice of the Hindu community that shoes were being sold with the sacred word 'Om' inscribed on them.
The PHC patron-in-chief said the sale of these shoes were an insult to the Hindus in Pakistan as it is blasphemous to use the sacred word 'Om' on shoes.
"It is most unfortunate that some shopkeepers in Tando Adam Khan are selling shoes on the occasion of Eid ul Azha with the Hindu sacred word inscribed on them and the purpose just appears to be to insult the sentiments of the Hindu community," Vankwani has said.
"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. Let's appeal the authorities concerned to take notice of the matter immediately to override any expected mistrust within the locals," the Pakistan Hindu Seva has said in a separate statement.
Local newspapers have reported that similar shoes were also being sold in some other places of the Sindh province.
Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws it is a crime to insult any religion and they have specific sections that carry life sentence and mandatory death sentence.