December 30, 2020

PAKISTAN: Muslim Mob Led By Islamic Clerics Attacked And Set Fire To Destroy Ancient Shrine In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Region.

The Guardian News, UK
written by Hannah Ellis-Peterson and Shah Meer Baloch
Wednesday December 30, 2020

A violent religious mob has set fire to a Hindu temple in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region and attempted to tear it to the ground.

Crowds of thousands, reportedly led by Islamic clerics, descended on the Hindu temple in the village of Teri, in Karak district, on Wednesday and began to rip bricks from the walls and set it on fire.

No one was inside the temple at the time. Footage from the scene shows the crowd chanting slogans and cheers greeting the destruction.
Police and guards had been stationed outside amid security fears for the temple.

“It was beautifully renovated and the community liked the work but it always remained under threat from the extremists who destroyed it last time,” said a local resident who requested anonymity. “I can’t say how much it’s been destroyed but people say it’s been badly damaged.”

Anger had begun to build in recent days after the construction of a small property next to the temple, which locals wrongfully believed was an unauthorised expansion of the shrine.

Speaking to Dawn newspaper, another local resident said: “More than a thousand people led by some local elders of a religious party held a protest and demanded the removal of the Hindu place. Residents of nearby villages announced a protest demonstration a few days earlier which was completely ignored by police.”

The police confirmed that permission had been given for a peaceful protest, but that the people had “taken the law into their own hands” after incendiary speeches riled up the crowds.

Lal Chand Malhi, a politician from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, condemned the destruction as “an unfortunate incident”.

“Police officials have assured me that they will arrest the perpetrators as soon as possible,” he said.

Human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted: “Strongly condemn the burning of a Hindu temple by a mob in Karak, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. KP government must ensure culprits [are] brought to justice.”

Mazari said the government would be investigating the incident. “We as a government have a responsibility to ensure safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship,” she said.

As an Islamic state, Pakistan has often proved hostile to its Hindu minority and Hindu places of worship have increasingly been vandalised or been targets of violence. Earlier this year a Hindu temple in Karachi was vandalised after blasphemy allegations were levelled at a local Hindu boy.

In July, Islamic activists blocked the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad by challenging it in the courts. However, last week permission was granted by the state body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, for the project to go ahead.

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