ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday censured Punjab police for failing to safeguard the Hindu temple that was attacked by a mob in Rahim Yar Khan two days ago, and ordered immediate arrests of the culprits as well as temple’s restoration.
According to Dawn details, on Wednesday, hundreds of people had vandalised the temple in Bhong and blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5) after a nine-year-old Hindu boy — who allegedly urinated in a local seminary — was granted bail by a local court.
On Thursday, the apex court took suo motu notice of the incident after patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council Dr Ramesh Kumar called on Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed to draw his attention to the incident.
The CJP had summoned Punjab’s chief secretary and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani to appear before the court along with a report on the incident.
“The temple was attacked. What were the administration and the police doing?” the chief justice questioned during today’s hearing.
Ghani replied that the assistant commissioner and assistant superintendent of police were present at the scene. “The administration’s priority was to protect 70 Hindu homes around the temple,” Ghani said. He also told the court that terrorism clauses had been added in the first information report.
“If the commissioner, deputy commissioner and the DPO can’t perform, then they should be removed,” the chief justice remarked. He said the incident had damaged Pakistan’s reputation at an international level.
“The police did nothing except [for] watching the spectacle,” Justice Gulzar said.
Upon being told that no arrests were made in the case so far, Justice Qazi Amin said: “The police failed in fulfilling its responsibility.”
Justice Amin added that even if arrests were made, the police would release the suspects on bail and try to make the parties reconcile.
“Three days have passed [since the incident] and not one person has been arrested,” the chief justice noted, adding that the police lacked “enthusiasm”.
“The matter would have been resolved by now if there were professionals in the police force,” he said.
“[A] Hindu temple was demolished. Think [about] what they must have felt. Imagine what would have been the reaction of Muslims, had a mosque been demolished,” the chief justice remarked.
Additional Attorney General Sohail Mahmood informed the bench that Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken notice of the incident. The CJP said the premier should continue with his work but the court would look into the legal aspects of the case.
The court noted that the culprits at large could cause problems for the Hindu community as it sought assurances that such incidents do not happen again.
The court also expressed dissatisfaction at the Rahim Yar Khan commissioner’s performance and sought a progress report from the IGP and the chief secretary within a week.
It also instructed the formation of village committees for peace and religious harmony and adjourned the hearing till August 13.
A video clip viral on social media showed charged people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights and damaging the ceiling fans.
Later, the protesters also blocked the M-5 motorway for more than three hours.
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said the rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
About the alleged late response by the police authorities, sources said senior officials were busy attending the police martyrs’ day ceremonies.
Mr Cheema confirmed the accused was a minor, and added that so far he had no information about his mental health.
There are reports of some old monetary dispute between Hindu and Muslim groups in the area which was stated to be the actual cause of the unrest.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh).
A PTI member representing minorities (who did not want to be identified) said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.
He said the boy was sent to the Rahim Yar Khan district jail for security reasons.
The district and sessions court had granted bail to the boy four days ago.
The Rais family, according to him, had settled the issue amicably, but a local from the Sumro tribe ran a campaign against the minority community on social media which ultimately caused the unrest.
He said after getting the Bhong market closed, the mob also tried to attack some houses of the people belonging to the Hindu community.
M-5 spokesman Amer Sardar said as the motorway remained closed for almost three hours, traffic was diverted to the National Highway via Iqbalabad and Guddu interchanges.