Regional authorities in northwestern Pakistan say they have sacked or suspended dozens of police officials for failing to protect a century-old Hindu shrine from a mob attack last month.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province officials said in a statement on January 14 that a total of 18 police officials were sacked, while another 54 were suspended for one year and won’t receive their salaries or any other benefits during that time.
On December 30, hundreds of supporters led by a local Muslim cleric swarmed and then set fire to the Hindu shrine in the province’s Karak district, prompting condemnation from the Muslim-majority country's Hindu community, human rights activists, as well as provincial and federal government ministers.
Police have said more than 30 people have been arrested over their alleged involvement in the attack, including the cleric accused of inciting the mob. The authorities say they will reconstruct the shrine.
The attack occurred after the Hindu community was granted official permission to renovate the shrine.
Numbering an estimated 8 million, Pakistan’s Hindu community has become the target of rising religious violence in recent years. The majority of the country’s Hindus are based in the southern province of Sindh, near the border with India.
The U.S. State Department has placed Pakistan on a list of "countries of particular concern" for religious freedom violations -- a designation Islamabad has rejected.