On 24th July, an incident occurred when an 8-year-old kid from the Hindu Meghwar community, entered the library of a madrassa in Bhong Sharif, Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab. The deputy imam of the mosque, Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim, found out that the eight-year-old kid was a Hindu and, subsequently, became furious over the child’s presence. As a result of his aggressive behaviour, the child urinated (out of fear) in the mosque and managed to escape when Hafiz Ibrahim tried to capture him.
It should be noted that there seems to be no restriction on individuals’ entry, and people from different faiths, including Hindus, are allowed to enter the mosque. Hindus often visit Bhong Sharif Mosque on Holi and Diwali; even when the Lord Ganesh festival is held in Bhong, many (Hindu) people do visit the mosque. On the other hand, many Muslim friends of the Hindu community also attend the festival of Lord Ganesh.
On 25th July, Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim lodged an FIR against the child at Bhong Sharif police station. The FIR was registered against an unknown person as the age of the child was inapplicable for a case to be registered. Despite the fact of his age, the police arrested the eight-year-old on the 4th of August. The child was later granted bail, but the residents of the area did not accept the court’s decision and blocked the motorway (CPEC M-5) next to Bhong in protest. More than 200 people carrying sticks and other items entered the temple grounds. They broke the idols of Lord Ganesh, Shiva, Radha Krishna, and Sheeranwali Mata and all the decorative items inside the temple. Even though the local police station is only a kilometre away from the temple, the police arrived at the scene after an hour.
As the videos of the attack went viral on social media, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar all noticed the incident. On 6th August, the Supreme Court received a report from Punjab Police which the court found ‘unsatisfactory.’ In its statement, the court ordered the arrest of those involved, suspension of local station house officer (SHO), renovation of the temple, and all expenses be recovered from those who were involved in the attack.
Hindu families in Bhong Sharif are in a state of panic. Some have already left the town and are settling in different parts of the country. Despite the perpetrators’ visible faces, which can be seen in the video, no arrests were made. This impunity enjoyed by perpetrators is a mockery of Pakistan’s constitution which guarantees the protection of minorities. Although the temple is being renovated, the critical question is; can the government ensure that minorities and their worship places will be protected in the future?