The police in Pakistan arrested 14 people after a Hindu temple was set on fire and damaged by supporters of a local cleric in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak district, officials said on Thursday, Dawn reported.
The police said the accused were detained in overnight raids and more such operations were being conducted to arrest those who participated or provoked the mob to demolish the shrine. The incident took place after the Hindu community was granted permission from local authorities to renovate the temple.
A mob, led by a local cleric and supporters of a religious political party, attacked the shrine on Wednesday. A local resident told DawnNewsTV that “more than a thousand people” demanded the removal of the shrine. He said that the mob moved towards the temple and set it on fire after delivering speeches.
Videos on social media showed a large crowd chanting slogans as they pulled down the walls of the building. The police said that they dispersed the crowd after the incident. Karak District Police Officer Irfanullah said the attack affected the law and order situation in the area.
Residents said that the mob was angry as the shrine was being “secretly expanded”, the police said, according to Geo News. Irfanullah said that the residents of the area had called for a protest, saying it would be peaceful but a cleric instigated the crowd.
The district police officer told Dawn that a first information report has been registered against two local clerics identified as Maulana Faizullah and Maulvi Mohammad Sharif and many unidentified persons.
The local clerics claimed that the Hindu community had given a contract for expanding the shrine and that it was not acceptable to the people. The local residents claimed that the Hindu community gave funds for the expansion and that it was in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment. In 2015, the court had ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to restore and reconstruct the Hindu shrine on a petition claiming that the temple was occupied by a local cleric in the area.
Government condemns incident, chief justice takes note
Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri called the attack “a conspiracy against sectarian harmony”. He said attacks on places of worship of minority religious groups were not allowed in Islam and “protection of religious freedom of minorities is our religious, constitutional, moral and national responsibility”.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari also condemned the attack. “KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] government must ensure culprits brought to justice,” she tweeted. “MOHR [Ministry of Human Rights] also moving on this. We as a govt have a responsibility to ensure safety & security of all our citizens & their places of worship.”
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed took notice of the incident and fixed the matter for hearing on January 5, 2021. A statement from the Supreme Court said that Ramesh Kumar, a member of the National Assembly and Pakistan Hindu Council chief, discussed the matter with the Karachi registry.