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Mob burns girls' school in Pakistani city over alleged blasphemy

The mob was angered by a supposedly blasphemous note from a teacher. That the burning happened in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural hub, worries analysts.

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A mob attacked a girls' school in the city of Lahore, Pakistan,  Wednesday, demanding that teachers hand over the principal and a teacher, after rumors emerged that the teacher had insulted the prophet Muhammad.

Though it is unclear just what the teacher said, more than 200 people ransacked the school, set a nearby car on fire, and graffitied the phrase “school management are blasphemers” on the wall of the Farooqi Girls's High School, which is considered one of the better schools in Lahore. 

The police arrested the principal, Asim Farooqi, on blasphemy charges, which carries the death sentence in Pakistan. The accused teacher, Arfa Iftikhar, has reportedly gone into hiding.

Analysts say that the fact that that the incident happened in Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, raises serious concerns about the lack of control Pakistani authorities have over extremist elements even in progressive parts of the country. 

“The rise of extremism in Pakistan's urban center has been a visible trend since the last one decade," says Raza Rumi, who is from Lahore but currently works for the Jinnah Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad. "Lahore is no exception to this trend and has witnessed the onslaught of extremists’ incursions into the public space.” 

Some say the blasphemy law is increasingly being used by right -wing groups to undermine moderate discourse in Pakistan.

“This has been done to serve some other vested interests, and we have demanded that Chief Minister of Punjab set up a commission to investigate the real reasons behind this,” says Adeeb Jadwani, a friend of the school principal, and the president for All Pakistan Private School Management Association in Lahore.

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