At the highest level, Pakistan’s government is signaling zero tolerance for extremist attacks on religious minorities.
In early August, an eight-year old boy was arrested for blasphemy in Pakistan. Charged with urinating at a seminary, the child, who hailed from one of Pakistan’s minority Hindu communities, was released after two days.
That was when the real trouble started.
Angered by the release of the minor child, a large mob formed and marched to the Hindu temple, intent on destruction. The temple was badly damaged, but the mob was largely prevented from attacking praying Hindus by local Muslim families who intervened on their behalf.
This isn’t the first time Hindu temples have been targeted by religious extremists or mobs incited by them.
For Pakistan’s minority Hindu population, harassment and even violence from religious extremists hasn’t been unusual.
What is unusual are the great lengths the Pakistani government, and its agencies have been going to in order to rectify the situation and discourage any such future violent demonstrations directed at minority religious groups in Pakistan.
Everyone from Prime Minister Imran Khan on down- the Pakistani National Assembly, law enforcement agencies, the Supreme Court and military bodies- have all responded with perfect clarity, and compassion, for Pakistan’s religious minorities.
Prime Minister Imran Khan himself forcefully condemned the attack as soon as it occurred and promised the Pakistani government would fix the damages. As good as his word, repairs have since been completed on the Hindu temple and it has been returned to the Hindu community in good order.
Prime Minister Khan also directed Pakistan’s police force to take decisive action against the perpetrators of the violence and those who participated in the attack.
“Parliament is committed to protect the rights of minorities and provide full protection to their places of worship,” announced the Pakistani National Assembly last week, as they unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Hindu temple attack and demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice.
“The Chief Justice of Pakistan himself is looking into the matter,” said Tehreek-i-Insaf parliamentarian Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani. “In the decision taken this morning, it has been said that the culprits should be arrested at the earliest and punished according to the law. Along with this, the expenses of the damage caused in the temple should be recovered from those responsible for this incident.”
As of August 7, 150 people had been charged and 50 arrested in connection with the attack. Authorities are assuring the public that all the main culprits have now been identified and charged.
“More than 50 people involved in the embarrassing temple demolition incident in Rahim Yar Khan have been arrested so far after analyzing video footage,” tweeted Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. “The protection of places of worship of all religions is the responsibility of the state, complete elimination of such incidents will be ensured. The restoration work of the temple is also in full swing!!”
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed agreed, saying the incident had “tarnished the image of the country abroad,” and “brought shame” to the nation. He chastised local authorities for arresting a child in the first place, reminding them of the reduced mental capacity of minors.
“Think about what they felt when the Hindu temples were demolished,” the Chief Justice said. “Imagine what the Muslim reaction would be if the mosque was demolished.”
After the dust settles on the recent events in Afghanistan, the world is likely to find the plotters of terrorist attacks around the world emerge more powerful than ever.
Emboldened by a great victory, those wishing to spread their strict religious fundamentalism by force are better armed than they have been in years.
With Pakistan sharing a border with Afghanistan, the people of Pakistan, as well as Pakistan’s many allies in the international community, should feel better knowing Prime Minister Imran Khan, and his government, is guiding the nation with a steady hand.
Prime Minister Khan, the Pakistani National Assembly and the Supreme Court are sending a message loud and clear: There will be no tolerance for terrorist attacks in Pakistan, against members of its minority religious communities or Muslim co-religionists.
Extremists won’t find a receptive home in Pakistan, where a nation of peace and prosperity-loving Pakistanis are pleased with their government, and the security it strives to provide all its citizens.
Whatever their religion.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)