India seeks action for attack on Hindu temple in Pakistan

India seeks action for attack on Hindu temple in Pakistan

MEA said it expects details of probe into incident to be shared with New Delhi; over 30 held for demolition

India has expressed “serious concerns” over the demolition of the Karak Hindu Temple by a mob in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and called on the Imran Khan government to take “strict action” against those responsible, sources here said.

In a written demarche sent to the Pakistan High Commission on Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it expects their government to shared details of its investigation into the attack on the temple that was set on fire and demolished by a mob, allegedly instigated by a local cleric and activists of the Jamaat ulema e Islam (JuI-F), a radical party.

“Our message reiterated that the Government of Pakistan, in discharge of its responsibilities, is expected to look after the safety, security and well-being of its minority communities including protection of their religious rights and cultural heritage,” the sources said, pointing to the fact that this is the second time since 1997 that the Karak temple had been demolished.

In 2014 the Pakistan Supreme Court had ordered the restoration of the temple, and be restored by a qualified conservation architect. While the temple, that houses a shrine to Hindu saint Swami Paramhans Maharaj, who died in 1919, was reconstructed subsequently, caretakers and pilgrims continued to receive threats from local villagers and radical groups.

Since the demolition of the temple on Wednesday, which was filmed, Pakistan’s federal and provincial government, both led by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party (PTI) have ordered the arrests of more than 30 people, alleged to be part of the mob of about 1,500 responsible for the attack.

According to Pakistan’s Dawn News, those arrested including the cleric and a JUI-F leader, have been booked under charges of “defiling a place of worship, hurting religious sentiments, robbery, hurt, arson, mischief and assault” as well as Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

The provincial Chief Minister said at a public event that he has issued orders for the reconstruction of the temple, news agency PTI reported.

Meanwhile, after an appeal by a Pakistani lawmaker and chief of Pakistan’s Hindu Council Ramesh Vankwani, Pakistan’s Supreme Court said it was a matter of “grave concern”, and ordered authorities to submit a report by January 4 and for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa officials to appear before the court the next day.

When asked about India’s demarche, Mr. Vankwani said that while expressing concerns about human rights issues and minority rights in Pakistan, India too should be open to similar concerns from Pakistan, specifically mentioning an attack on a mosque in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday.

“If India raises such issues (as the Karak temple demolition) with Pakistan, there must be some reciprocity, given that both countries have close religious and cultural ties. When Pakistan raises concerns about issues with minorities in India, however, the government (in New Delhi) should not then say it is an internal matter,” Mr. Vankwani told The Hindu, urging both governments to promote more religious and cultural exchanges.

Despite ongoing tensions over the temple attack, and increasing ceasefire violations at the Line of Control, India and Pakistan continued traditional exchanges of information on New Year’s day according to previously signed agreements.

Both countries exchanges lists of nuclear installation and facilities according to the 1988 Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between India and Pakistan that went into force in 1991. They also exchanged, through diplomatic channels, lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen in each other’s custody, as mandated by an agreement in 2008.

“India handed over lists of 263 Pakistan civilian prisoners and 77 fishermen in India’s custody to Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has shared lists of 49 civilian prisoners and 270 fishermen in its custody, who are Indians or believed-to-be Indians,” a statement from the MEA said.

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