ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Friday said authorities were trying to trace and arrest suspects who this week desecrated a Hindu temple located at a home in the country’s port city of Karachi, drawing condemnation from India.
In a statement, the ministry said that an investigation was still underway, and that those who attacked the temple on Wednesday before fleeing the scene “will not escape justice and the government will deal with them with the full force of law.”
The statement came a day after New Delhi condemned the incident. Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson at India’s External Affairs Ministry, expressed concern on Thursday over the vandalization of the temple, saying it was “another act in the systematic persecution of religious minorities” in Pakistan.
However, Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected Bagchi’s allegation of systematic persecution, instead saying such violence was taking place against minority Muslims in India.
Sanjiv Kumar, an administrator at the temple, told The Associated Press on Friday that he was at his home nearby when five or six armed men entered the temple Wednesday, asked two boys who were inside painting the walls to leave, and proceeded to desecrate it. They fled the scene before he and other residents rushed to the temple.
Anger has been growing in Pakistan against India since last week when two spokespeople for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made comments seen as insulting to Islam’s prophet and his wife Aisha. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party suspended one official and expelled the other, saying it rejects the insulting of religious figures.
On Friday, more than 10,000 supporters of the Islamic radical Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party rallied in the eastern city of Lahore, condemning New Delhi for what the protesters said was its failure to take action against the two politicians who used blasphemous remarks against Islam’s prophet.
The party’s young leader, Saad Rizvi, addressed the crowd in Lahore. The party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on the single issue of defending the country’s controversial blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.
A similar rally, attended by more than 2,000 Islamists, was also held in Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province.
Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations. Since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, the nuclear-armed nations have fought two of their three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.
Associated Press writer Muhammad Farooq in Karachi, Pakistan, contributed to this report.