Pakistani provincial government will pay to rebuild Hindu temple

Structure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was damaged by a mob on December 30

Police officer stand guar in a Hindu temple which was set on fire and demolished by a mob led by Islamists, in Karak, Pakistan, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. Pakistani police arrested 24 people in overnight raids after a Hindu temple was set on fire and demolished by a mob led by supporters of a radical Islamist party, officials said. The temple's destruction Wednesday in the northwestern town of Karak also drew condemnation from human rights activists and leaders of Pakistan's minority Hindu community. (AP Photo/Zubair Khan)
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A provincial government in Muslim-majority Pakistan said it would pay to rebuild a Hindu temple destroyed by a mob this week.

About 1,500 people attacked the temple in a remote village of north-eastern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in protest against renovations being made to an adjoining building owned by a Hindu group.

The mob used sledgehammers to knock down walls before setting the building ablaze.

"We regret the damage caused by the attack," said Kamran Bangash, the information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"The chief minister has ordered the reconstruction of the temple and adjoining house," he said.

Construction will start as soon as possible with the support of the Hindu community, and security would be provided at the site, he said.

Pakistan's top court ordered authorities to submit a report on the temple's destruction.

Discrimination and violence against religious minorities are common in Pakistan, where Muslims make up 97 per cent of the population and Hindus about 2 per cent.

The temple, which was destroyed in similar circumstances in 1997 and then rebuilt, is about 160 kilometres south-east of Peshawar, the provincial capital.

While no Hindus live in the area, devotees often visit the temple and its shrine to pay homage to the Hindu saint Shri Paramhans, who died there before the 1947 partition of India that gave birth to Pakistan.

District police chief Irfanullah Khan said about 45 people had been detained in connection with the incident including a local cleric, Maulana Sharif, who is accused of inciting the mob.

Mr Khan said police were also looking for Maulana Mirza Aqeem, the district leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, one of Pakistan's largest Islamist parties.

Last year, the United States placed Pakistan on a list of "countries of particular concern" for offences against religious freedoms.

Pakistani officials condemned the attack on the temple, which came just weeks after the government allowed Hindu residents to build a new temple in Islamabad, on the recommendation of a council of clerics.