Police officers shot acts of “cowardice, irresponsibility and neglect” for failing to try to stop the crowd as they attacked the temple in Karak district.
Pakistani authorities have sacked a local police chief and 11 other officers for failing to protect a Hindu temple that was burnt and demolished last month by a mob led by hundreds of supporters of a religious party, police said.
The 12 police officers were fired Thursday for acts of “cowardice, irresponsibility and negligence” for failing to attempt to stop the crowd when they attacked the temple, some having fled the scene.
The northwestern regional government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also suspended 33 other police officers for a year as punishment, provincial police chief Sanaullah Abbasi said.
Punishments come in the middle government assurances that the Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi temple – located in the remote village of Teri in the Karak district, some 85 km (53 miles) south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – would be rebuilt.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan also last week ordered reconstruction of the temple, with the next hearing in the case scheduled for Jan. 19.
On December 30, around 2,000 men sacked the historic temple built in 1920 and an adjacent Hindu shrine, destroying the compound and setting it on fire.
The crowd led by a local Muslim leader was enraged by the renovation of a building adjacent to the temple which was recently purchased by the Hindu community to facilitate visitation by worshipers.
The attack took place after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate the temple.
Pakistan is home to around 3.5 million Hindus, who form a minority of 1.6 percent of the country’s 207 million people, according to government figures.
More than 30 rioters, including the Muslim leader who allegedly incited the crowd, have already been arrested after being identified in videos of the attack posted online.
Among those arrested were supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, who are currently on trial on various charges.
Although Muslims and Hindus generally live in peace in Pakistan, violence against the minority community is often centered on the country’s strict and highly emotional blasphemy laws.
Attacks on Hindu temples, although rare, have increased in frequency in recent years.
Most Hindus in the Pakistani minority emigrated to India in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent gained independence from British rule, resulting in the formation of a Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) renewed its designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” citing, among other reasons, “severe restrictions on the freedom of religion or conviction”.