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The New Arab Staff

Mob sets Hindu temple on fire in Pakistan

Eight million Hindus live in Muslim-majority Pakistan [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 December, 2020

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The mob attacked the shrine in northwest Pakistan amid rumours of its expansion.
A mob attacked and set fire to a Hindu temple in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Videos shared online showed locals tearing apart the temple's walls using stones and sledgehammers, with dark smoke from a fire billowing into the sky.

Muslim clerics had organised a protest to alleged plans to expand the Hindu temple, insisting the demonstration would be peaceful.

Rahmatullah Wazir, a police officer in the town in the northwestern Karak district, said the clerics gave "provocative speeches" before the crowd began to attack the temple.

"It was a mob and then nobody was there to stop them from damaging the temple," Wazier told Reuters.

Nine people were arrested in connection with the attack, district police chief Irfanullah Khan told Reuters.

The temple was built in the early 1900s but the local Hindu community left the area in 1947, when the South Asian subcontinent was divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India.

By 1997, the site had been taken over by local Muslims but was ultimately handed back to the Hindu community - Pakistan's largest minority - in 2015.

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled the shrine could be rebuilt as long as it would not be expanded in the future.

Devotees in the area travel to the temple every week, said Haroon Sarbdyal, a leader of the local Hindu community.

The attack has sent a "wave of insecurity" through the Hindu community, Sarbdyal told Reuters.

Pakistan's minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, condemned the incident on Twitter.

Earlier this year, Islamist activists halted the construction of what was set to be Islamabad's first new Hindu temple since the country's founding.

The project to build a temple in the Pakistani capital had earned backing from Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of a pledge to protect religious freedom in the country.

But construction fell to a halt after activists petitioned the validity of state funding for the project, also claiming the move would be "unpermissible" in Islam.

Eight million Hindus live in Pakistan.

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