SC orders EPTB to begin reconstruction of Hindu shrine in Karak

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) to begin the reconstruction of the Hindu shrine which was attacked by a mob in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

A three-member bench, headed Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, further directed the EPTB to clear encroachments from temples across the country and take action against officials involved in the encroachments.

The CJP stated that the Karak incident had caused “an international embarrassment to Pakistan”.

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The KP chief secretary, KP police chief, and Dr Muhammad Shoaib Suddle were also present during today’s hearing.

A day earlier, a one-man commission on the rights of minorities at the apex court had submitted its report on the Karak temple vandalism after CJP Ahmed took suo moto notice of the incident.

The commission, headed by Dr Suddle, had recommended a comprehensive investigation into the vandalism at the temple. It had added that the statements of all witnesses should be recorded and evidence gathered against the culprits.

Maulvi Sharif, the main suspect in the case, incited people to violence, the report had said. The record of the temple land at the time of Partition should be looked into too and ensure that the record has not been tampered with.

During the hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked where the intelligence agencies were when the incident took place.

The KP IGP replied that a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) protest had been taking place near the site on the day of the incident which was sponsored by Maulana Faizullah.

“Out of the six ulema at the protest, only Maulvi Mohammad Sharif incited the crowd,” the police chief said.

“There were 92 police officials at the spot, but they showed cowardice and negligence,” KP IG Sanaullah Abbasi admitted. These 92 policemen, including the superintendent of police (SP) and deputy superintendent of police (DSP), have not been suspended, the court was told.

The chief justice remarked that “suspension was not enough”.

He also expressed dissatisfaction with the EPTB chairman during the hearing, telling the official to “not sit on the chairman’s seat with government mentality”.

“Your employees are doing business on the land meant for shrines. Arrest them and start the reconstruction of the temple,” Justice Ahmed said.

“You have to recover money from the people who did this, from this Maulvi [Sharif] and his followers,” the chief justice added.

Last week, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had announced the reconstruction of the vandalised Hindu temple in Karak.

According to a statement, the KP chief minister had directed the concerned authorities to ensure the reconstruction of Hindu temple on an early basis. He had also vowed to protect the worship places of minorities in all cases.

Mahmood had said that several people involved in the incident have been arrested. “Strict action will be taken against those involved. No one is allowed to take the law into one’s own hands,” he had said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a mob, reportedly led by clerics, vandalised and set the Hindu temple on fire. The temple, though no longer functional, is considered a revered pilgrimage site by the Hindu community.

Residents in the Terri area of Karak were not happy with the handover of the temple to the Hindu community. The ongoing renovation further fuelled their anger that set off a chain of events that led to the vandalism. The mob was too big to confront for the local administration and police.

According to the police officials, the Hindu community had bought some land to extend the temple, where they were constructing a building. However, a local cleric instigated the people to attack the structure.

“They attacked and demolished the under-construction building. We have registered an FIR against the clerics and the situation is under control,” police had said.

On Thursday, CJP Gulzar took notice of the incident and the police began rounding up dozens of suspects, including the cleric, who had instigated the attack.

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