Pakistan deploys paramilitary forces after Hindu temple attacked by mob


LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan deployed paramilitary forces in a central town on Thursday to check communal unrest after a mob ransacked and set fire to a Hindu temple.

Ahmad Nawaz, a spokesperson for the Rahimyar Khan district police, told Reuters that the mob attacked the temple in the town of Bhong after reports that a Hindu boy had urinated in the library of an Islamic seminary.

Nawaz added police were searching for the attackers, and trying to ascertain if a boy in custody suspected of desecrating the seminary was from the local Hindu community.

On July 24, a cleric at the seminary told police he found a young Hindu boy in the building urinating on the ground. Police registered a case of blasphemy, but did not name a suspect.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and although no executions have been carried out, suspects are often killed by vigilantes.

The temple was attacked after someone posted details of the incident on social media on Wednesday, Ramesh Vankwani, a parliament member and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said on Twitter.

Police had the post deleted, Vankwani said, but a crowd gathered near the temple.

"Finally seeing the mob, even the police left, and I asked for (paramilitary) Rangers or the army to deploy, but by then the temple was destroyed and set on fire."

Vankwani shared videos showing hundreds of people heading for the single-story temple building. Dozens of men can be seen using sticks and iron beams to damage idols within the temple.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

Temples belonging to the minority Hindu population in Pakistan are often the target of mob violence. In December 2020, a large mob destroyed a century old Hindu temple in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan ranked the highest globally in incidents of mob violence and criminal charges against those accused of blasphemy, according to a May report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which surveyed incidents between 2014 and 2018.

(Additional reporting by Umar Farooq in Islamabad; Writing by Umar Farooq; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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