Islamabad: A group of 250 Hindu pilgrims from India, the UAE, and the US is scheduled to visit this week a century-old shrine in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which was vandalized by a radical Islamist party last year, according to a media report on Thursday.
The Hindu pilgrims will visit the shrine of Paramhans Ji Maharaaj, a saint who died at Teri village in Karak district of the province in 1919. The temple was established in 1920.
A number of Hindu pilgrims from India, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States will arrive in Peshawar on January 1 to visit the Samadhi at Teri at the invitation of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), the Dawn newspaper reported.
“This is the second time that the Council has invited Hindu pilgrims from other countries so that they can see for themselves the existence of a tolerant and pluralistic society in Pakistan,” Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the PHC’s patron, told the newspaper.
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The Council has arranged the programme in collaboration with Pakistan International Airlines, the report said.
Fifty-four Hindus from India, Canada, Singapore, Australia, and Spain had visited the country last month.
The group was led by Shri Satguru Ji Maharaaj Ji, the fifth successor of Paramhans Ji Maharaaj.
In December last year, over 1,000 people led by some local clerics belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) instigated the villagers to demolish the temple and as a result, people led by local seminary students attacked the temple.
On the orders of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the temple was restored. The apex court also ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government in October 2021 to recover Rs 33 million (USD 1,94,161) from the culprits involved in vandalizing the century-old shrine.
Earlier in 1997, the shrine was first attacked and severely damaged, and the PHC head Vankwani had approached the apex court in 2015 seeking help to restore the holy place and restart the annual pilgrimage to the place.
Pakistan Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad had celebrated Diwali this year at the temple last month to express solidarity with members of the Hindu community and to welcome pilgrims from other parts of the country.
According to Vankwani, the PHC invited the chief justice only to give a message to “hate-mongers that the state is determined to foil their nefarious designs”.