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Provincial government to pay for Pakistani Hindu temple destroyed by mafia

Provincial government to pay for Pakistani Hindu temple destroyed by mafia

A Hindu temple in Pakistan destroyed by a Muslim mob last week will be rebuilt with funds from the provincial government, its information minister said on Friday.

About 1,500 people descended on the temple, in a remote village in the northeastern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, after protesting against renovations being carried out on an adjoining building owned by a Hindu group.

They used mallets to knock down walls before setting the building on fire.

"We regret the damage caused by the attack," said Kamran Bangash, provincial information minister.

"The prime minister ordered the rebuilding of the temple and the adjoining house," he told AFP.

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

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

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

The temple, which was destroyed in similar circumstances in 1997 and later rebuilt, is located about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Peshawar, the provincial capital.

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

District police chief Irfanullah Khan told AFP that some 45 people were arrested in connection with the incident, including a local cleric, Maulana Sharif, accused of inciting the mafia.

Khan added that the police are also looking for Maulana Mirza Aqeem, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) district, one of Pakistan's largest Islamist parties.

Last year, the United States included Pakistan in a list of "countries of special concern" for violations of religious freedom.

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