SC orders recovery of Rs33m from accused

Apex court says Hindu community can expand its place of worship


Hasnaat Malik October 13, 2021
Resentful local residents attacked a Hindu temple in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's Karak district on December 30, 2020. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court ordered on Wednesday for the recovery of Rs33 million from the accused involved in the burning of the Hindu temple in Karak, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, within a month, and allowed the Hindu community to rebuild their temple there on as much land as they wanted.

A two-judge bench of apex court, led by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard the suo motu case regarding destruction of the Hindu religious site by a mob in December 2020. In the case, 123 people are accused of being involved, while the K-P government has spent Rs33 million on the restoration of the temple.

The bench asked the K-P chief secretary to recover all amount spent on the restoration of the temple and submit a report within one month. However, K-P Advocate General Shumail Butt stated that trial of the accused persons was still continuing and someone might be found innocent.

He asked if someone was found innocent what would be done with the recovered amount. The chief justice said that it was a judicial order. He also said that the Hindu community could expand the place of worship, adding that if local individuals sell land, the Hindu community can build the temple.

Earlier, the K-P government said in its report that the bone of contention was the extension in the Samadhi/prayer area of the temple. It added that the Muslim population was against any extension in the Samadhi area.

Read: Karak Hindu shrine attack ‘rooted in past’

The undoing of separating wall – between Samadhi and additionally purchased land – will be taken as extension of Samadhi area, the report said. “That may result in an uproar among Muslim community, and fan tension and violence in the area,” it added.

Regarding the security measures, the K-P government stated that adequate deployment of security personnel, with a dedicated unit, had been ensured, while a peace agreement was reached between the two communities under the supervision of the K-P chief minister on March 11, 2021.

“This agreement was aimed at ensuring permanent peace through establishing cordial relation between the two communities. The parties reiterated their resolve for respecting constitutional rights of each other and resorted to practice the time-tested traditional principles of apologies and forgiveness respectively to bury the hatchet,” the K-P government said.

It said that the agreement had been helpful in orchestrating good relations between the two communities, adding that other necessary steps were also taken as the government, through a proactive approach, arrested the culprits in no time.

“The arrested persons were allowed bail from courts. However, Notices for recovery of cost were served to all the arrested persons dated 12/02/2021, through Superintendent Jail Kohat,” it added.

On the other hand, Pakistan Hindu Council Patron-in-Chief Dr Ramesh Kumar stated in his report that the Hindu community was coerced to enter into the out-of-court settlement.

“Finally, an agreement – penned down by notables, religious leaders of the Muslim community and public representatives of area [of] District Karak themselves – was signed between the very authors of agreement, duly authorised by offenders from jail and representatives of Hindu community,” he said.

Besides the K-P chief minister, he added, provincial minister Ziaullah Bangash, provincial home secretary, Kohat Commissioner and Karak Deputy Commissioner also signed the agreement as witnesses and guarantors.

“The main points of the agreement are that religious leaders and public representatives of District Karak duly authorised by offenders in Kohat jail, condemn incidents of 1997 and 2020 and apologised over,” the report said.

“No hurdle would be created in exercise of the rights guaranteed to minorities, by Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, already framed in light of Shariat-e-Muhammadi (PBUH).”

The report further said that consequently all the culprits were bailed out from the jail, without even waiting for the restoration of the Mandir and recovery of the reconstruction cost from offenders, as per orders of the Supreme Court on January 5, 2021.

It added that the Hindu community respected the agreement and raised no objection, but alarm bells were raised, when the K-P government issued a letter to the advocate general to withdraw the cases of such heinous crime altogether, without bothering to take the Hindu community into confidence.

The report said that the Hindu community had agreed to cooperate for the bail to the culprits but not for setting them free without a trial.

“Moreover, very basic point of agreement, which was an all-time guarantee to Hindu community, against future misadventure, was not only forgotten – nay backtracked from – by the offenders but the high-level guarantors too,” the report continued.

“Consequently, to complete astonishment of Hindu community, the very responsible guarantors started intimidating Hindu community to either accept unjustified demands of these miscreants or settle issues with them,” it said.

“The intent/mood of KPK government officers can well be assessed from the fact that no recovery of restoration/reconstruction cost has so far (9 months passed) been made, wilfully ignoring orders of apex court on 05.01.2021,” the report added.

“Thus, emboldening the miscreants that they came out unscathed, even after such a horrifying crime of International proportions/repercussions and Supreme Court orders of recovery too did not affect them.”

The report also said that the Punjab government restored the Bhong Mandir within a period of few weeks, probably invoking the emergency clauses of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority very rightly.

However, it added that the K-P government wasted more than two months in tendering formalities and allowed six months’ time – September 6, 2021 – to the contractor for completion of the task. Now more than nine months after the tragedy and expiry of one month more, than the contract period, several components were even not started yet.

 

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