LAHORE, Pakistan -- Hundreds of Christians clashed with police across Pakistan yesterday, a day after a Muslim mob burned dozens of homes owned by members of the minority religious group in retaliation for alleged insults against Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Rights activists say Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws are frequently used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal disputes. Politicians have been reluctant to reform the laws for fear of being attacked by religious radicals.
The plight of other religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims, Hindus and Ahmadis, has also deepened in recent years as hard-line interpretations of Islam have gained ground. Most Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims.
The latest clashes began Friday after a Muslim in the eastern city of Lahore accused a Christian of blasphemy, an offense punishable by life in prison or death. A day later, hundreds of angry Muslims rampaged through the Christian neighborhood, burning 170 houses.
Authorities have arrested 160 suspected members of the mob, many of whom were identified through TV footage and photos published in newspapers, said police officer Abdur Rehman.
It remains to be seen whether anyone will be held to account. Mob violence is not uncommon following blasphemy allegations, and police often round up large numbers of suspects. Such arrests rarely result in actual convictions. -- AP