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Mob torches Hindu temple in Pakistan

December 31, 2020

A historic Hindu temple was attacked and set on fire by a mob in northwestern Pakistan. Local officials have blamed the incident on Muslim clerics.

A policeman stands guard at the burnt Hindu temple a day after a mob attack in a remote village in Karak district
There have been a number of attacks on Hindu temples in Pakistan in recent yearsImage: Abdul Majeed/AFP/Getty Images

A mob destroyed a Hindu temple in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday by setting it on fire, officials said.  

Footage posted to social media showed thick smoke billowing from the site as men used hammers to damage the structure's walls.

Local Muslim clerics from the town of Karak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had told authorities that they would be organizing a peaceful protest against the alleged expansion of the centuryold temple, Rahmatullah Wazir, a police officer told news agency Reuters.

He said that during the protest, the clerics started giving "provocative speeches," after which the mob set the temple ablaze.

The Associated Press quoted local police as saying that they arrested at least 14 people in overnight raids over the temple attack.

Pakistani Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari condemned the attack on Twitter and urged the provincial government to "ensure culprits [are] brought to justice." She later confirmed that a police report had been filed against the attackers.

District police chief Irfanullah Khan told Reuters nine suspects had been arrested following the attack.

The temple, first built in the early 1900s as a shrine, was vandalized in 1997. In 2015, the Supreme Court ordered it to be reconstructed. 

"We will stage a protest in front of the Supreme Court against the attack on our temple which is one of the four largest holy sites of the Hindu community in Pakistan," Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, head of the Pakistan Hindu Council and a ruling party lawmaker, told Germany's dpa news agency.

"This is not the first incident of its kind, unfortunately, intolerance towards religious minorities has been growing in Pakistan for the last five years, with more frequent attacks on places of worship," said Hindu rights activist Kapil Dev.

Muslim-majority Pakistan has around 8 million Hindus, most of whom live near the Indian border in the southern province of Sindh.  

Sculpting Hindu gods in an Islamic country

In July, a mob attacked the construction site of the first Hindu temple in the capital, Islamabad.

That prompted calls from human rights body Amnesty International for Pakistan to "protect the right to freedom of religion and belief for the country’s beleaguered Hindu community, including the construction of temples to exercise that right."

dvv/nm (AP, dpa, Reuters)