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Muslim clerics among 26 arrested after Hindu temple destroyed in Pakistan

Muslim clerics among 26 arrested after Hindu temple destroyed in Pakistan

At least two dozen people, including several Muslim clerics, were detained on Thursday after a mob attacked and burned a Hindu temple in northwestern Pakistan, police said.

About 1,500 Muslims descended on the temple on Wednesday, which was destroyed in similar circumstances in 1997 after protesting against renovations to an adjoining Hindu-owned building.

The temple is located in a remote village in the Karak district, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Peshawar.

"We have arrested 26 people, including local clerics, for destroying a place of worship and inciting people to riot," local police officer Fazal Sher told AFP.

He added that the police were looking for 50 other people identified in the videos of the attack.

Discrimination and violence against religious minorities are common in Pakistan, where Muslims make up 97 percent of the population and Hindus around two percent.

Irfanullah Khan, the district police chief, also confirmed the arrests.

He told AFP that the Hindu community recently bought a house adjacent to the temple and was renovating it, which offended the locals.

Hindus have not lived in the area since the British-ruled partition of India in 1947 when Pakistan was created, but Hindu devotees occasionally visit the temple and tomb of the Hindu saint Shri Paramhans, who according to the Hindu faith died in the village in 1919..

"These people have brought a bad name to our area and have tarnished the image of the state," a local resident, Ameen Pashteen, told AFP.

In Karachi, the capital of the province of Sindh and where most of the country's Hindus live, more than 200 people protested in front of the Supreme Court demanding justice.

"You must respect other people's religion. We are Pakistanis and for the love of God, no one needs to give us a certificate of loyalty," said Mangla Sharma, a Hindu member of the Sindh provincial assembly.

Gopal Kamuany, president of the Hindu Council of Pakistan, accused local authorities of staying on the sidelines when the attack occurred.

"In the video of the attack, the administration is watching silently as the mob dismantles the temple. What kind of justice is that?" Kamuany said.

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

"The destruction of the Hindu temple in Karak is another example of the persistent discrimination faced by the troubled Hindu community in Pakistan," said Rimmel Mohydin, an Amnesty International activist in Pakistan.

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