Videos circulating on social media showed men using hammers to damage the temple after a speech by Muslim leaders.
Hundreds of Muslims attacked and torched a Hindu temple in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, police and witnesses said.
Videos circulating on social media showed men using hammers to damage temple walls as thick gray smoke billowed from the site.
The incident took place in a remote village in Karak district, about 100 km southeast of Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakthunkhwa.
“An indicted mob of around 1,000 to 1,200 people were incited by local Muslim clerics to destroy the Hindu temple,” district police chief Irfanullah Khan told AFP news agency.
Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is rife in Pakistan, where Muslims make up 97% of the population and Hindus just 2%.
Earlier this month, the United States placed Pakistan on a list of “countries of particular concern” for violations of religious freedom.
Khan said resentment towards the temple, which was not in regular use, had been brewing for years, especially after the recent renovations.
“The police have registered a case against about 20 people and with the help of videos we will find more culprits,” Khan added.
Kamran Bangash, the provincial Minister of Information, also confirmed the attack and the veracity of the videos seen on social networks to AFP.
“We believe in freedom of religion and those who were involved will not be spared,” Bangash said.
Local resident Sulaman Khattak told AFP the crowd marched to the temple after being stopped by Muslim leaders.
“They were prepared, some carried hammers and cans of oil with them,” Khattak told AFP.
“We will hold a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court against the attack on our temple which is one of the four greatest holy places of the Hindu community in Pakistan,” said Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, ruling party lawmaker and head of the council. Hindu from Pakistan, told the dpa news agency.
Vankwani added that Pakistan was already “facing pressures in terms of religious freedom and minority rights, which is why such acts of extremism must be stopped at all costs”.
The country’s human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, said the government has a responsibility “to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship”.
Mazari said local authorities had recorded the incident and that “further action was being taken.”
Strongly condemn the burning of a Hindu temple by a mob at Karak Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The KP government must ensure that the culprits are brought to justice. The MOHR is also evolving on this point. As a government, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship.
– Shireen Mazari (@ ShireenMazari1) December 30, 2020
The temple was vandalized and demolished in 1997 but, in 2015, the
The court ordered its restoration.
Pakistan has an estimated eight million Hindus, the majority of whom are based in the southern province of Sindh, near the border with India.