30 Detained for damaging the Hindu temple in northwestern Pakistan, the government ordered its reconstruction

More than 30 people, mostly members of a radical Islamic party, have been arrested after a Hindu temple was vandalized and set on fire by a crowd protesting against its expansion in northwestern Pakistan, officials said on Thursday.

The attack on the temple in the village of Terri in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Wednesday drew strong condemnation from human rights activists and leaders of the Hindu community. On Thursday, the provincial government ordered authorities to rebuild the damaged temple because it promised to bring the culprits to justice.

The temple was attacked by the crowd after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate the decades-old building, according to witnesses. The crowd, led by a local cleric and supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party (Fazal ur Rehman group), demolished the newly built work alongside the old structure, they said.

According to local police, more than 30 people were arrested, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Rehmat Salam Khattak, in overnight raids. More than 350 people have been appointed to the FIR, said KPK provincial police chief Sanaullah Abbasi. Abbasi said all sections of the terrorism law have been included in the FIR against the accused. Police will ensure the protection of minorities in the province, he added.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court became aware of the attack on Thursday and ordered local authorities to appear in court on January 5. According to a statement from the top court, Hindu parliamentarian and Pakistani Hindu council chief Ramesh Kumar Vankwani summoned Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed to Karachi to discuss the issue.

“The Chief Justice of Pakistan expressed serious concern about the tragic incident and informed the MP that he had already become aware of the issue and resolved the matter before the court on January 5 in Islamabad,” the statement said. The court instructed the Single Commission on Minority Rights, the KP Chief Secretary and the KP Inspector General of Police to visit the site and submit a report on 4 January.

Special Intelligence Assistant to the Chief Minister and KP government spokesman Kamran Bangash said on Thursday that the government would rebuild the temple, which was damaged in the mafia attack. Deputy Commissioner and District Police Officer Karak have been instructed to take immediate steps to rebuild the temple, Bangash said.

The government is obliged to protect minorities and their places of worship, he added. Pakistan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Noora Haq Qadri, has called for the destruction of the temple against the teachings of Islam. He said the country’s constitution protects the religious places of minorities.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari strongly condemned the attack and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. “Strongly condemn the burning of a Hindu temple by a crowd in Karak, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” she said in a tweet. (KP Government) must bring the perpetrators to justice. MSH is also moving on this topic. We, as a government, have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship, “she added.

Pakistan’s federal parliamentary secretary for human rights, Lal Chand Malhi, has strongly condemned the attack on the temple. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chief minister, Mahmood Khan, called the attack on the temple an “unfortunate incident”. He ordered the immediate arrest of those involved in the incident.

Khan has promised that his government will protect places of worship from such incidents. Hindu community Peshawar leader Haroon Sarab Diyal said there is a samadhi of a Hindu religious leader at the temple site, and Hindu families across the country visit samadhi every Thursday.

The Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj is considered sacred by the Hindu community. It was built where he died in 1919, in the village of Teri Karak. The controversy over samadhi broke out many decades ago.

According to details presented to the Supreme Court in 2014 in a file on it, Hindus visited the altar until 1997, when it was dismantled by locals. The 2014 Supreme Court ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to rebuild and rebuild the Hindu altar.

The order was issued on a petition from a Hindu parliamentarian who had claimed that the altar was occupied by an influential cleric in the area. According to police officials, a meeting of clerics took place at Shanki Adda in Teri, Karak before Wednesday’s attack.

The angry people raised slogans, swearing that they would not allow any construction work on the altar. The protesters were peaceful in the initial stage, but when provoked by some clerics, they became violent and attacked the altar, police said.

Hindus form the largest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 Hindu lakhs live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 Hindu lakhs live in the country.

The majority of the Hindu population in Pakistan is settled in Sindh province, where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by extremists.