ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the rebuilding of a Hindu temple that was badly damaged by an angry mob near the north-western town of Karak last week.
During a hearing in the capital Islamabad, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed ordered that the Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi temple be rebuilt by the government and that expenses be charged to a local Muslim leader who was allegedly responsible for the mob violence that led to the damage.
On December 30, hundreds of protesters, riled by local religious leaders, marched on the temple in the remote village of Teri, located in Karak district, about 85 kilometres (53 miles) south of the provincial capital Peshawar.
They broke the temple down with pickaxes and set fire to parts of it, footage of the incident showed.
The incident appeared to have been incited by plans to expand the premises of the temple, which was built in 1920 and had been reopened under court orders in 2015, after more than 10 years of being shut down.
Pakistan is home to an estimated 3.5 million Hindus, who form a 1.6% minority of the country’s 207 million population, as per government figures.
Violence against the community often centres around the country’s strict, and heavily emotive, blasphemy laws, and attacks on temples while not common, have been increasing in frequency in recent years.
Last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) renewed its designation of Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern, citing, among other reasons, “severely restricted freedom of religion or belief”.
Following the attack in Karak district, police arrested more than 100 suspects believed to have been part of the mob that attacked the temple and suspended many police personnel for alleged dereliction of duty for not stopping the attack.
Hearings in the case at the Supreme Court continue, with the next date of proceedings set for January 19.
Earlier, before the Supreme Court orders, the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the temple is located, had announced that it would use provincial funds to rebuild the temple, according to the provincial information minister.