KARAK: The police on Thursday arrested 31 people, including a local leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), for attacking and burning the shrine of a Hindu saint in Teri area of Karak district the previous day.
Enraged protesters had attacked and set on fire the Samadhi (shrine) of Shri Paramhans Jee Maharaj on Wednesday as they objected to its expansion.
The police sources said Rehmat Salam Khattak, a leader of Maulana Fazlur Rehman-headed JUI-F, was arrested by the police from his house in Chokara area of Takht-i-Nusrati Tehsil as he had allegedly participated in a meeting before the attack on the shrine. Khattak had joined the JUI-F after quitting the PML-N and unsuccessfully contesting election on its ticket.
The police carried out raids on the houses of persons involved in the incident. Several important people allegedly involved in the attack on the shrine had gone underground to evade arrest. The plan to storm the shrine was made at a meeting dominated by local clerics led by Maulana Mohammad Sharif and Maulana Faizullah. “The situation remained calm in Teri area near the Hindu shrine as local people stayed away from the spot.” said a local journalist Ishaq Khattak. He added that the Teri bazaar wore a deserted look as only a few shops remained open from where the people bought essential items.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan had in 2015 ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to restore and rebuild the shrine on a petition filed by an MNA from Sindh, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is patron of Pakistan Hindu Council and a columnist. He had quit the PML-N and joined the PTI.
The shrine had generated controversy in the past and become a bone of contention between members of the Muslim and Hindu communities. There were reports that Hindus staged protests in Islamabad and elsewhere to condemn the attack. Most Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh.
Meanwhile, KP Inspector General of Police Sanaullah Abbasi visited Teri to inspect the destroyed shrine along with DIG Kohat Region Tayyab Hafeez Cheema and Kohat Division Commissioner Syed Jabbar Shah.
They received a briefing on the incident from local officials. The police chief issued necessary directives to his subordinate present there. Talking to the media persons, Sanaullah Abbasi said the police would ensure security to the places of worship of the minorities and protect their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
He said the first information report (FIR) had been lodged in the case and a probe was underway. He pointed out that different sections of the law, including those related to terrorism, had been included in the FIR.
The police chief said those involved in the attack and found guilty would not be spared. He confirmed that 31 people had been arrested so far for their alleged involvement in the attack, adding, a total of 350 persons had been nominated in the FIR.
Sanaullah Abbasi said that more arrests would be made after identifying the accused in the video clips and still images of the incident. He said a negative propaganda had been launched against Pakistan owing to such acts and, therefore, stern action would be taken against those behind the attack.
Meanwhile, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Karak chapter office-bearers condemned the incident and demanded the arrest of the accused and strict action against them. The district chapter General Secretary of the PTI, Kamran Khan and senior Vice-President Ashiq Munir Khattak made the demand at a press conference at the Karak Press Club.
They said that it was the act of a few individuals and should not be attributed to the entire Khattak tribe that inhabits Karak. The PTI office-bearers alleged that the police had shown criminal negligence during the incident. They argued that the district administration could have stopped it by taking timely action.
They asked Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to suspend Karak deputy commissioner, district police officer and DSP of Tehsil Banda Daud Shah and all the relevant administrative officials over their alleged failure to stop the attack on Hindu shrine.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed Thursday took suo motu notice of desecration/burning of a shrine of Hindu saint Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj by mob in Karak and fixed the matter for hearing on Jan 5, 2021.He expressed grave concern over the tragic incident and directed the one-man commission on minorities’ rights, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief secretary and inspector general of police (IGP) to visit the site and submit a report on Jan 4, 2021.
The CJ issued directions after Dr Ramesh Kumar, MNA, and patron-in-chief Pakistan Hindu Council, called on him at the Supreme Court Branch Registry Karachi on Thursday and discussed the issue.
The CJ told the visiting MNA he had already taken cognizance of the issue and fixed the matter for 5-1-2021 (Tuesday). The KP police, as per Geo News, arrested more than 31 suspects and registered a case against 350 people for their alleged involvement in the criminal act.
Karak DPO Irfanullah said Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) district leader Maulana Mirza Aqeem was also nominated in the case. He said the security officials were conducting raids to arrest the suspects.
Special Assistant to KP CM Mahmood Khan on Information Kamran Bangash said PM Imran Khan and provincial chief executive had condemned the incident. He said the Karak DPO and deputy commissioner have been directed to investigate the matter and submit a report.
Bangash said the provincial government would rebuild the temple, stressing that the culprits will be punished and rights of minorities protected. PM’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said the elements involved in attacks on worship places of minorities and threatening minorities will not be spared.
“Attack on Hindu temple in Karak is very sorrowful and regrettable,” he said in a statement Thursday. Hafiz Ashrafi said 31 culprits including the mastermind involved in attack on the temple have been arrested. He said the Constitution assures complete protection to the minorities and the elements involved in attack on the temple have damaged the image of Islam and Pakistan.
Ashrafi said on instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he is in coordination with the Hindu community in Karak and local Muslim leadership and administration of district Karak. He announced that he will soon visit Karak along with the leadership of different schools of thought.
Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri called the attack on the temple “a conspiracy against sectarian harmony.” He took to Twitter Thursday, saying attacks on places of worship of minority religious groups are not allowed in Islam and “protection of religious freedom of minorities is our religious, constitutional, moral and national responsibility.”
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