Lahore: Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies last week arrested over 50 people, including the main suspects, allegedly involved in an attack on a Hindu temple in a remote town of the country’s Punjab province, a day after the Supreme Court admonished the authorities for their failure to protect the shrine.
They also booked 150 people in connection with the attack earlier. A mob attacked the temple at Bhong city of Rahim Yar Khan district of the province, some 590 kms from Lahore, in protest against the release of an eight-year-old Hindu boy, who was arrested for allegedly urinating in a local seminary. “We will make sure that no such incident happens (in the future). Besides, the restoration work of the temple is underway in full speed,” Punjab CM Usman Buzdar tweeted. District police officer Asad Sarfraz said that all “main suspects” in the attack case have been arrested. An FIR has been registered under sections of terrorism against over 150 people, he said.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlie pulled up authorities for failing to stop the attack and ordered the arrest of the culprits. Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed said the attack had brought shame to the country as police acted like silent spectators. He wondered at the arrest of the eight-year-old boy and asked whether police were incapable of understanding the mental capacity of minors. The hearing in the case has been adjourned till August 13.
India on Thursday summoned the Pakistani charge d’affaires in New Delhi and lodged a protest, expressing concerns at the incident and the attacks on freedom of religion of minority communities and their places of worship in the country.
Hundreds of people, carrying sticks, stones and bricks attacked the temple, burning parts of it and damaging the idols. The social media reaction prompted the Pakistan government to take immediate remedial measures to ensure that the incident does not lead to communal violence. The swift government action may have been prompted due to the fact that Rahimyar Khan borders Sindh province, which has the largest concentration of the Hindu population in Pakistan.
The prime minister, Imran Khan, condemned the attack on Twitter, saying he has ordered the provincial police chief to take action against any officers whose negligence may have contributed to it. Khan promised the government would restore the temple. A Punjab police official, Asif Raza, said troops were now guarding the temple and that security had been provided to members of the Hindu community.
In Delhi, India’s foreign ministry summoned a Pakistani diplomat to protest against the attack and demand protection for Hindus living in the predominantly Muslim Pakistan. The marauding mob damaged statues, burned down the temple’s main door and briefly blocked a nearby road. India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, said such “incidents are occurring at an alarming rate while the state and security institutions in Pakistan have stood by idly and completely failed in preventing these attacks”.
Muslims and Hindus have mostly lived peacefully in Pakistan, but there have been attacks on Hindu temples in recent years. Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain.