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Christian protesters, police clash in Pakistan

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, March 10, 2013, 9:33 p.m.
 

LAHORE, Pakistan — Hundreds of Christians clashed with police across Pakistan on Sunday, 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.

Government spokesman Pervaiz Rasheed promised the government would help the Christians rebuild their houses, but the protesters expressed dissatisfaction with the way the government was handling the incident.

“I have been robbed of all of my life's savings,” said Yousuf Masih, standing outside his burned home. He said the government's announcement that it would give 200,000 rupees ($2,000) compensation to each family was a joke.

Police official Malik Awais said the protesters were demanding the government raise the compensation amount from 200,000 rupees ($2,000) to 1 million rupees ($10,000).

Christians are often the target of Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, which rights activists say 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, as has happened in the past.

The latest incident began Friday when a Muslim in the eastern city of Lahore accused a Christian man of blasphemy. The next day, hundreds of angry Muslims rampaged through the Christian neighborhood, burning about 170 houses.

No Christians were hurt in Saturday's attack in Lahore because they had fled. But police were criticized for failing to prevent the mob from attacking the Christians' homes.

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