Police have arrested 31 people, including district leaders of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) here for vandalising and demolishing the shrine of a Hindu saint in Teri area of the district.
Police officials said that JUI-F senior leader Rehmat Salam Khattak was also among the arrested persons on Thursday. He was arrested from his residence in Chokara area of Takht-i-Nusrati tehsil. He served as provincial general secretary of PML-N before joining JUI-F, the Dawn reported.
Officials said that they raided the houses of people, who were involved in the attack on the shrine. However, several of them, who took part in damaging the shrine, went underground to avoid arrest, they added.
Teri police registered an FIR against the people involved in the attack for defiling place of worship, hurting religious sentiments, robbery, hurt, arson, mischief and assault. The FIR also included Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act.
The FIR stated that Maulana Mohammad Sharif during a protest informed the gathering about the shrine and said that they would neither allow a Hindu shrine on the soil of Teri nor the visits by Hindus.
It said that during his speech, he asked the participants numbering 1,000 to 1,500 to destroy the shrine.
“Whoever dies while demolishing the shrine would be a martyr,” the FIR quoted the cleric telling the crowd.
It said that about 400 people led by Maulana Sharif attacked the shrine and set it on fire.
It said that the attackers also opened fire on police. It added that the mob also took away artefacts from the shrine.
Provincial police chief Dr Sanaullah Abbasi also visited the Hindu shrine. He said that investigations were underway and FIR was lodged in the case. He said that 31 accused were arrested for attacking the shrine while 350 persons were nominated in the FIR and raids were being conducted for their arrest.
Ishaq Khattak, a local elder, told Dawn that situation remained calm in Teri and mostly locals stayed away from the site of occurrence. He said that Teri Bazaar also remained closed.
Meanwhile, the district chapter of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf condemned the incident and said that chief minister and IGP should take practical steps for the arrest of the people involved in the attack on Hindu shrine.
Addressing a press conference, PTI district general secretary Kamran and senior vice president Ashiq Muneer said that it was an act of few individuals and should not be attributed to the entire Khattak tribe.
They said that stringent action should be taken against the people involved in the attack.
They said that police committed criminal negligence during the attack and district administration failed to take timely steps to prevent the incident.
They demanded of the chief minister to suspend deputy commissioner, district police officer and DSP of tehsil Banda Daud Shah and other responsible administrative officers for their failure to preempt the attack.
In Peshawar, Awami National Party provincial president Aimal Wali Khan condemned the incident and described it as an attempt to pave way for resurgence of violence in Pakhtun region.
In a statement, he said that provincial government should bring to justice those people, who led the mob to attack the shrine. He said that it was prime duty of the government to provide security to all citizens including non-Muslims and their places of worship.
The ANP leader also condemned setting on fire houses in Waziristan and said that such incidents would increase violence in the Pakhtun belt. He said that Pakhtuns were peace-loving people, who always played role for promoting interfaith harmony.
In Kohat, minority leaders condemned vandalising of Hindu shrine in Karak and said that India would use the incident against Pakistan. Former district councillor Mubashir Naz in a statement said that the stigma attached to such a big incident could not be removed.
Advocate Rohit Kumar said that the incident hurt the feelings of the Hindus living in Sindh.