Pakistani police arrested more than a dozen people in nighttime raids a day after Hindu temple Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi was set on fire and badly damaged by a mob in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakthunkhwa, reported officials announced Thursday.
Wednesday’s attack on the temple in the town of Karak, about 100 km southeast of the provincial capital Peshawar, drew condemnation from human rights activists and the Hindu minority community.
Local police said they detained at least 14 people in nighttime raids and that more raids were underway to arrest those who participated in or instigated crowds to attack the temple.
The attack came after residents were ostensibly offended by a planned extension of the temple, which has been under renovation for years.
The temple was severely damaged in attacks in 1997 and provincial authorities had carried out only limited renovations until the Supreme Court ordered a full renovation by the Supreme Court in 2015.
The Hindu community – which comprises less than 2% of Pakistan’s 200 million people – had planned to expand the temple as part of the renovations, according to district police chief Irfanullah Khan, who spoke with AFP.
He said a house adjacent to the temple had been purchased by the community and was being renovated, offending locals who denounced the move, saying the 2015 Supreme Court ruling was on condition that the temple not is not enlarged.
According to witnesses, the crowd was led by a local cleric and supporters of the Pakistani party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
The country’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri, called the attack a “plot against sectarian harmony”.
He took to Twitter on Thursday, saying that attacks on places of worship of minority religious groups are prohibited in Islam and that “protecting the religious freedom of minorities is our religious, constitutional, moral and national responsibility.” .
Prime Minister Imran Khan assured Pakistani minorities of their safety.
“I would like to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship will be treated strictly. Our minorities are equal citizens of this country, ”Imran Khan tweeted in February.
Protest in Karachi
In Karachi, the capital of Sindh province and where most of the country’s Hindus live, more than 200 people protested at the Supreme Court to demand justice.
“You must respect the religion of others. We are Pakistanis, and for God’s sake no one needs to give us a certificate of loyalty, ”said Mangla Sharma, Hindu member of the Sindh provincial assembly.
Gopal Kamuany, chairman of the Hindu Council of Pakistan, accused local authorities of staying there during the attack.
“In the video of the attack, the administration silently watches the crowd dismantle the temple. What sort of justice is this? Kamuany said.
The attack comes weeks after the United States placed Pakistan on a list of “countries of particular concern” for violations of religious freedom.
Pakistani Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari said on Wednesday that the government has a responsibility “to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship”.
The incident comes weeks after the government allowed Hindu residents to build a new temple in Islamabad on the recommendation of a clerical council.
Although Muslims and Hindus generally live in peace in Pakistan, there have been other attacks on Hindu temples in recent years.
Most Hindus from the Pakistani minority emigrated to India in 1947 during the partition of India and Pakistan.