Minority Watch Desk: In yet another incident of religious intolerance in Pakistan, a mob ransacked a Hindu temple in Rawalpindi city of Pakistan’s Punjab province. The over 100-year-old temple in the country’s garrison city of Rawalpindi was undergoing renovation, according to a complaint registered by the police.
The incident occurred at Purana Qila area of the city on Saturday when 10 to 15 people stormed the temple at about 7.30 pm and damaged the main door and another door at the upper storey as well as the staircase, the First Information Report (FIR) says.
Dawn newspaper reported that the security officer of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), Northern Zone, Syed Raza Abbas Zaidi, lodged the FIR at Banni police station of Rawalpindi, saying that the construction and renovation work on the temple had been going on for the last one month.
He said there were some encroachments in front of the temple which were removed on March 24. However, religious rites have not been started in the temple nor were there any idol or any other worship item.
He sought legal action against the people who had caused damage to the temple and its sanctity. Earlier, the encroachment mafia had occupied the surroundings of the temple over a long time by making shops and kiosks.
The district administration assisted by the police recently removed all encroachments. After the temple was cleared of encroachments, renovation work was started.
The vandals damaged the door and the stairs of the temple in the attack, which took place on Saturday night. The temple was not yet reopened for the Hindu community for worship and was still undergoing renovation, Associated Press rep0rts quoting from a local police official Mohammad Toseef Sajjad.
Meanwhile, the administrator of the temple, Om Prakash, said that as soon as the information was received, Rawalpindi police personnel reached the spot and brought the situation under control.
Prakash said police had been deployed at his house as well as at the temple for security. He, however, said Holi celebrations would not be held at the temple, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan.
Attacks on minorities are common in Pakistan. Last year in December, a Hindu shrine was attacked by a mob in Karak district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and damaged.
An ANI report published in the Business Standard of India adds: The incident took place ahead of the Holi festival on Saturday night. A case has been registered against unidentified persons, according to Pakistani journalist Mubashir Zaidi. Rawalpindi’s Hindu population is around 1,800.
“A mob ransacked a Hindu Temple in Rawalpindi last night hours before #Holi celebrations began. 74 years old temple was renovated in the Purana Qila area. Police registered a case against 10-15 unknown people. Hindus Council condemned the incident and demanded the arrest of culprits,” he tweeted.
The case has been registered in Bani police station on the complaint of Syed Raza Abbas Zaidi, Assistant Security Officer, Abandoned Waqf Property Board, Rawalpindi, Pakistan Urdu News reported.
The Rawalpindi district administration had announced to renovate the Hindu places of worship located around one kilometre of Haveli Sajan Singh. In this regard, the renovation work of the temples around the mansion is underway.
Pakistan has been repeatedly slammed by the international community for not taking stringent measures to protect its minority communities, despite the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan vowing to protect them on numerous occasions.
Last year in December, a mob of over a hundred people led by local Muslim clerics had destroyed and set on fire the temple in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A video clip that went viral on social media showed a violent mob destroying the walls and roof of the temple.
Pakistan is a well-known perpetrator of human rights violations of minorities in the country. On several occasions, it has promised to safeguard the interest of minority communities in the nation. However, continuing attacks on minorities narrate a different story.
Islamabad has been discriminating against its religious minorities. This is manifested in various forms of targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, forced conversion to Islam, etc., making Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadiyyas, and Shias the most persecuted minorities in the region.
A recent report by a minorities’ rights commission in Pakistan has revealed a “dismal” picture of the most revered Hindu sites in the country and slammed the statutory board responsible to maintain the ancient sites of the minority community.
The report submitted to the country’s Supreme Court last month presents a “general picture of decay and obliteration” of two of the four most revered evacuee sites in Pakistan, Dawn reported.
The report states that the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a statutory board of the Pakistan government, has failed to maintain ancient and holy sites of the minority community.
Out of 365 temples, only 13 were being managed by them, leaving 65 with the Hindu community, and “abandoning the rest of temples,” Dawn reported, citing the statutory board ETPB.