Incited by local clerics, several hundred Muslims set fire to a Hindu temple in Karak, in the north of the country.
Several hundred Muslims attacked and burned down a Hindu temple in northwest Pakistan on December 30, according to police and witnesses. Videos circulating on social media show men attacking temple walls with hammers as dense gray smoke rises from the site.
Today in Naya Pakistan: Hindu temple set ablaze and razed to the ground by a charged mob led by clerics in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. pic.twitter.com/6v1mkXnqgB
– Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) December 30, 2020
The attack took place in a remote village in Karak district, about 100 kilometers south-east of Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakthunkhwa province. The crowd “was instigated by local Muslim clerics to destroy the Hindu temple,” district police chief Irfanullah Khan told AFP. According to him, feelings of hostility towards the temple – which was not regularly open for worship – have increased especially after recent renovations. “The police have opened a judicial investigation against twenty people and with the help of videos, we will identify other culprits,” he added.
The temple was built in the early 1900s as a shrine, but the Hindu community left it in 1947. By 1997, the site was taken over by local Muslims, but in 2015 the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered that it be returned to the Hindu community and the sanctuary rebuilt – on condition, however, that it is not enlarged, as specified by Reuters.
Kamran Bangash, the provincial information minister, confirmed the attack and the veracity of the videos posted on social media. “We believe in religious freedom and those who were involved will not be spared,” he told AFP. Pakistani Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari stressed that the government has the responsibility to guarantee “the security of all citizens and their places of worship”.
“This is not the first such incident, unfortunately intolerance towards religious minorities has grown in Pakistan over the past five years, with more frequent attacks on places of worship,” lamented the minister. Hindu human rights activist Kapil Dev. Discrimination against religious minorities is common in Pakistan, where Muslims represent 97% of the population and Hindus barely 2%. In December, the United States placed Pakistan on a list of countries “of particular concern” with regard to violations of religious freedom.