Peshawar: Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said on Friday that his government will rebuild a Hindu temple that was vandalised and set on fire by a mob in the province early this week.
Addressing a health card distribution ceremony here, Chief Minister Khan said the government has issued orders to rebuild the temple.
The attack on the temple in Terri village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Karak district on Wednesday drew strong condemnation from human rights activists and the minority Hindu community leaders.
Khan vowed to protect the religious sites of minorities and said the police has arrested several suspects involved in the temple attack.
Over 45 people, mostly members of a radical Islamist party, have been arrested for destroying the temple. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Rehmat Salam Khattak was among those arrested.
On Thursday, Chief Minister Khan’s Special Assistant for Information and spokesman for the KP government Kamran Bangash said that the provincial government has ordered authorities to reconstruct the damaged temple.
Deputy Commissioner and District Police Officer Karak have been issued directives to take immediate steps for reconstructing the temple, Bangash said.
The government is bound to give protection to the minorities and their worship places, he added.
The temple was attacked by the mob after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate its decades-old building, according to witnesses.
The mob, led by a local cleric and supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party (Fazal ur Rehman group), demolished the newly constructed work alongside the old structure, they said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday took notice of the attack and ordered the local authorities to appear before the court on January 5.
According to a statement by the apex court, Hindu lawmaker and the Pakistan Hindu Council chief Ramesh Kumar Vankwani called on Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed in Karachi to discuss the issue.
”The chief justice of Pakistan showed grave concern over the tragic incident and informed the member of parliament that he has already taken cognisance of the issue and has fixed the matter before court on January 5, at Islamabad,” according to the statement.
The court has issued directions to one-man Commission on Minorities Rights, KP chief secretary and KP inspector general of police to visit the site and submit a report on January 4.
Meanwhile, a commission on rights of minorities headed by Dr Shuaib Suddle along with lawmaker Ramesh Kumar and Chief Secretary Dr Kaazim Niaz on Friday visited the temple, which was vandalised by the mob.
The delegates held a meeting with the members of the local peace committee and the Hindu community and condemned the unfortunate incident. The peace committee members disowned the tragic incident, saying the attackers were not from the local community or resident of Karak district.
Chairman of the commission Dr Suddle and Member of National Assembly Ramesh Kumar expressed confidence in the steps taken by the KP Government to pacify the situation.
The commission head and MNA Ramesh Kumar also met Chief Minister Khan in Peshawar and exchanged views over the incident. The commission condemned the incident in strong words.
Chief Minister Khan has assured the commission that strict action would be taken against culprits involved in the incident.
Leader of Hindu Community in Peshawar Haroon Sarab Diyal said that a samadhi of a Hindu religious leader exists at the temple site and Hindu families from across the country do visit the samadhi on every Thursday.
The Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj is considered sacred by the Hindu community. It was built where he died in 1919 in Teri village of Karak.
The controversy over the samadhi erupted many decades ago.
According to the details submitted to the Supreme Court in 2014 in a case about it, the Hindus had been visiting the shrine till 1997 when it was dismantled by the locals.
The apex court in 2014 ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to restore and reconstruct the Hindu shrine.
The order was issued over a petition of a Hindu lawmaker who had claimed that the shrine had been occupied by an influential cleric of the area.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.
The majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by the extremists.