Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Tuesday said that criminal cases against 350 people accused of burning down a temple last year will be withdrawn, claiming that the minority Hindu community has pardoned them. According to the interior department sources of the province, members of the Hindu community decided to pardon the accused persons in a jirga constituted by the government to settle the matter. A jirga is a traditional assembly of elders to make decisions by consensus.
They said that the government had constituted the jirga which amicably resolved all the issues that created an unrest between the local Muslim and Hindu communities in the area. However, the Hindus maintained that despite assurances by the government, the construction of a resting area adjacent to the temple is being unnecessarily delayed, creating unrest among the minority community.
Haroon Sarab Diyal, a Religious Scholar Hinduism-Minority and Human Rights Activist of the province, said: We are not against peace and interfaith harmony but the way adopted for withdrawal of cases is quite against the jirga culture of the soil. He complained that the local Hindu community has not been taken into confidence except Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Member of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Pakistan Hindu Council Dr Ramesh K Vankwani.
The sources said that the interior department of the province had also written an official letter to the Anti-Terrorist Court, informing them of the decision of the jirga. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had named 350 accused in the FIR for their alleged involvement in setting on fire the Samadhi of Prem Hans and an adjacent temple in Teri Karak district last year.
As many as 109 people involved in the attack were arrested while 92 police officials, including the superintendent of police and deputy superintendent of police who were on duty at the time, were suspended. The Supreme Court had taken a suo moto notice of the case and directed the provincial government to reconstruct the Samadhi and the temple.
The local Hindu community members in Teri Karak district said that a house adjacent to the temple was purchased by the Hindus for the worshippers visiting the temple from far flung areas to take rest. The move gave a wrong message to the local community who feared that the Hindus wanted to live there. Therefore, a local mob first burnt the under-construction house and then attacked the adjacent temple and burnt the Samadhi.
The Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj is considered sacred by the Hindu community. It was built where he died in 1919 in Teri village of Karak. Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country. The majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by the extremists.