By Zahid Hussain Khan
Prominent Islamist clerics have disassociated themselves from a violent religious mob that razed a century-old Hindu temple in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Hundreds of villagers led by local clerics stormed the temple in Karak district on Dec. 30 and set it on fire.
Videos of the mob attack went viral on social media, drawing condemnation from minorities and government officials.
The mob also attacked an under-construction house allegedly occupied by a Hindu man.
According to reports, clerics made provocative speeches against the alleged expansion of the temple, leading to the attack.
Maulvi Mohammed Sharif, a cleric, and more than two dozen people have been arrested for the attack, according to police.
In a press statement on Jan. 3, a leading Pakistani ulema condemned the attack and pledged complete cooperation and support for the Hindu community.
This statement came after a group of noted Islamist clerics and religious scholars met with Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, special representative to the prime minister on religious harmony and the Middle East.
“It is the responsibility of the state and majority Muslim population to take care of the rights of minorities in the country,” it said.
The joint communique stated that seminaries could not be employed for political interests, while elements that aim to use mosques and seminaries for political objectives will be foiled.
“No individual, group or organization will be allowed to take the law into own hands. The elements that have been involved in the attack on the Hindu temple in Karak have violated Islamic norms and laws of the country and helped elements making criticism of Pakistan on religious grounds,” said Ashrafi, who is also the head of Pakistan Ulema Council.
“Clerics have already declared that the Karak temple is the property of Hindus. Nobody will be allowed to violate the country’s constitution and laws.”
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had already directed the provincial government to take all necessary measures for the protection of the temple and to ensure the security of the Hindu community.
In a statement on Jan. 3, Pakistan categorically rejected “completely unwarranted assertions” by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in connection with the temple attack in Karak.
“This is not the first time the Indian government has tried to feign concern for minority rights elsewhere while being the most egregious and persistent violator of minority rights itself,” it said.
“From the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to the National Register of Citizens (NRC); from the Gujarat massacre of 2002 to the Delhi pogrom of 2020; from the reprehensible demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992 to the despicable acquittal of all the accused by an Indian court in 2020; from blaming Muslims for spreading coronavirus to banning of interfaith marriages; from cow vigilantism and mob lynchings to terming the Muslims of West Bengal ‘termites’ and threatening to ‘throw them into the Bay of Bengal’; from extrajudicial killings of innocent Kashmiris to blatant attempts to turn Muslims into a minority in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) through the distribution of ‘fake domicile certificates’, the RSS-BJP regime’s record is replete with instances of gross and systemic violations of the rights of minorities, in particular Muslims.”
As a perennial purveyor of state-sponsored discrimination against its minorities, India is in no position to pontificate on the issue of minority rights elsewhere, the statement added.
“The clear difference between India and Pakistan in respect of minority rights can be gauged from the fact that the accused in the Karak incident were immediately arrested, orders were issued for repair of the temple, the highest level of judiciary took immediate notice, and senior political leadership condemned the incident,” it added.
“Whereas, in India, the blatant acts of discrimination against Muslims and other minorities take place with state complicity. The Indian leadership has yet to condemn the perpetrators of the Delhi massacre in February 2020, let alone bring those criminals to justice.”