after the country’s worst religious violence there in years, as a Muslim dropped blasphemy charges against a Christian he had accused of burning the Quran.
The accusations made by Mohammad Saleem Kalu against Yousaf Masih, a Sangla Hill Christian, sparked a violent reprisal on November 12 from up to 2,000 Muslims, because the Quran is regarded as a holy book by the Islamic world.
The angry crowd reportedly destroyed at least four churches as well as a convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, a girls’ hostel and houses of other Christiansin the region.
In what was seen as a major victory for Masih, who had maintained his innocence, the Muslim accuser signed a document declaring the Christian’s innocence. Saleem reportedly said he had accused Masih on the basis of "mere suspicion" and signed an affidavit declaring Masih innocent.
As part of the agreement, the Christian and Muslim communities signed a "document of peace and reconciliation." Local Christian leaders also agreed not to press charges against the mob of 2,000 Muslims who attacked the town’s Christian community, news reports said.
Police have reportedly held 88 rioters in custody since the assault and Masih also remains under arrest.
"The legal value of the documents has yet to be assessed but without any doubt, the innocence of Masih has been established,", commented Catholic news agency AsiaNews. It said the papers also help to clarify any doubts n the inquiry – still under way – into the violence on November 12.
However authorities were still pressured to deal with tensions elsewhere in the country. On Thursday, January 12, suspected tribal insurgents blew up a gas pipeline in southern Pakistan in the latest act of sabotage in the troubled region, police said.
The explosion happened near Kandh Kot in Sindh province, around 450 kilometres (279 miles) north of Karachi, the French News Agency AFP quoted local police officer Shahab Mazhar as telling reporters.
Ahead of the latest violence, Pakistani forces shot dead 12 suspected tribal militants near the Pirkoh gasfield in Baluchistan on Wednesday, January 11, following a roadside bomb blast, which killed three soldiers. (With reports from Pakistan).