Noting that the incident has caused "international embarrassment to Pakistan", Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed directed the EPTB to clear encroachments from temples across the country and take action against officials involved in the encroachments.
Days after a Hindu temple was vandalised and set afire by a mob in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, the country’s Supreme Court Tuesday said the incident has brought “international shame to Pakistan” and ordered the authorities for its reconstruction, Pakistan daily Dawn reported.
The over 100-year-old temple in Terri village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak district, which also had a samadhi (shrine) of a Hindu religious leader, was attacked by the mob on December 30 last year after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate its decades-old building. The mob, led by some local clerics and supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party (Fazal ur Rehman group), demolished the newly constructed work alongside the old structure.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court had ordered the local authorities to appear before the court on January 5. On Tuesday, the court ordered the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) to start the reconstruction of the temple while also directing it to submit details of all functional and non-functional temples and gurdwaras across the country.
The ETBP is a statutory board of the Government of Pakistan that administers properties left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after Partition.
Noting that the incident has caused “international embarrassment to Pakistan”, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed directed the EPTB to clear encroachments from temples across the country and take action against officials involved in the encroachments.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Chief, who was present at the hearing, told the court that 109 people involved in vandalism have been arrested while 92 police officials, including the superintendent of police (SP) and deputy superintendent of police (DSP) who were on duty at the time, have been suspended.
The chief justice also asked the ETPB to collect the reconstruction cost from Maulvi Mohammad Sharif, the suspected key conspirator behind the vandalism incident.
The Supreme Court was acting on a plea by Hindu lawmaker Ramesh Kumar, who told the court that the shrine was also damaged in 1997.
The court had also issued directions to one-man Commission on Minorities Rights, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chief secretary and inspector general of police to visit the site and submit a report on January 4. The report, prepared by Shoaib Suddle, the head of a commission on minorities’ rights, stated that the action by miscreants on December 30 in the presence of police not only hurt the sentiments of the Hindu community but also brought international shame to Pakistan.
The report highlighted that the mob had also looted valuables from the temple after setting the site on fire but the station house officer and DSP concerned apparently did not take any action.
The attack on the temple drew strong condemnation from human rights activists and the minority Hindu community leaders.
India has also lodged a protest with Pakistan over the vandalisation of the temple and sought strict action against those responsible for the incident.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has assured that his government would reconstruct the damaged temple and the samadhi at the shortest possible time.
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.
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