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Pakistan religious freedoms under the scanner in Europe after destruction of Hindu temple

The destruction of a Hindu temple earlier this week in north-western Pakistan by religious fanatics has triggered anxiety across Europe and condemnation among international human rights group.

"The destruction of the Hindu temple in Karak is yet another example of persistent discrimination faced by the beleaguered Hindu community in Pakistan", said Rimmel Mohydin, Pakistan campaigner at Amnesty International, France 24 reported quoting an AFP report.

Around 1,500 Muslims descended on the temple – which was destroyed in similar circumstances in 1997 – after staging a protest against renovations at an adjoining building owned by Hindus. The temple is located in a remote village in Karak district, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) southeast of Peshawar, the report said.

The incident tagged with growing opposition to religious extremism, as well as terrorism in France, which has faced a string of violent hate crimes in recent years. CBC News reported in December 2018 that the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in France since 2015 was 249, with the number of wounded at 928.

The German broadcaster DW also highlighted the desecration of the temple in Karak. Citing the news agency Reuters, it reported on its website that local Muslim clerics from the town of Karak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had told authorities that they would be organising a peaceful protest against the alleged expansion of the century old temple. It quoted Rahmatullah Wazir, a police officer, that during the
protest, the clerics started giving "provocative speeches," after which the mob set the temple ablaze.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BREAKING?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BREAKING</a>…A mob led by local clerics destroyed Hindu temple in Karak district of KP. Hindus obtained permission from the administration to extend the temple but local clerics arranged a mob to destroy the temple. Police &amp; administration remained silent spectators <a href="https://twitter.com/ImranKhanPTI?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ImranKhanPTI</a> <a href="https://t.co/fL6J13YSGN">pic.twitter.com/fL6J13YSGN</a></p>
— Mubashir Zaidi (@Xadeejournalist) <a href="https://twitter.com/Xadeejournalist/status/1344234275579822080?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 30, 2020</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Footage posted to social media showed thick smoke billowing from the site as men used hammers to damage the structure's walls. The incident has triggered protests inside Pakistan, including among the minority Hindu community.

"We will stage a protest in front of the Supreme Court against the attack on our temple which is one of the four largest holy sites of the Hindu community in Pakistan," Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, head of the Pakistan Hindu Council and a ruling party lawmaker, told Germany's DPA news agency.

"This is not the first incident of its kind, unfortunately, intolerance towards religious minorities has been growing in Pakistan for the last five years, with more frequent attacks on places of worship," said Hindu rights activist Kapil Dev. Muslim-majority Pakistan has around 8 million Hindus, most of whom live near the Indian border in the southern province of Sindh.

In July, a mob attacked the construction site of the first Hindu temple in the capital, Islamabad.That prompted calls from human rights body Amnesty International for Pakistan to "protect the right to freedom of religion and belief for the country’s beleaguered Hindu community, including the construction of temples to exercise that right."

As the incident got rapidly internationalised, the website of the <em>Guardian</em> newspaper from the UK also pointed to religious intolerance in Pakistan. “As an Islamic state, Pakistan has often proved hostile to its Hindu minority and Hindu places of worship have increasingly been vandalised or been targets of violence. Earlier this year a Hindu temple in Karachi was vandalised after blasphemy allegations were levelled at a local Hindu boy,” the daily observed.

Earlier this month, the United States placed Pakistan on a list of "countries of particular concern" for religious freedom violations.