KARACHI, Pakistan, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- An ancient Hindu temple in Karachi was demolished by a builder, raising concerns among the Pakistani port city's minority Hindu community, members said.
Ramesh Vankwani, head of the Hindu Council in Pakistan, condemned the demolition of the century-old Sri Ram Pir Mandir in the city's military cantonment area during the weekend, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported. He also said the temple's religious objects were desecrated.
However, Dawn quoted the director of military lands in the area as saying no religious place was damaged during an anti-encroachment operation.
Pakistan's Express Tribune reported the high court in Karachi had temporarily restrained the local administration and a private builder from demolishing the temple until later this week. The court acted in response to a petition by temple-area residents over notices from a private builder asking them to vacate the premises after accusing them of encroachment.
Pakistan's News International newspaper said hundreds of Hindus staged a peaceful rally from their neighborhood to the Karachi Press Club to protest the demolition of their temple.
"Every time a temple is threatened, we have to run to the courts. It is the third time it has happened this year," the Hindu council head was quoted as saying.
Other reports said the temple idols were kept aside prior to the demolition, but local Hindus said the idols' jewelry and other items were taken away.
Dawn quoted Vankwani as saying that even though the issue was in dispute in court, a demolition team, accompanied by police and paramilitary members, showed up and immediately razed the temple and destroyed nearby homes.
The military lands director, however, told Dawn an officer had conducted the anti-encroachment operation and that action was taken following the court orders.
The Times of India reported former Pakistani Human Rights Minister Ansar Burney during a telephone talk condemned the temple demolition, called for action against the builder and safety for the minority Hindu community. He was quoted as saying many people had been made homeless by the builder's action.
The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had taken note of the reported temple demolition and sought a report from authorities. Zardari's spokesman said the president expressed concern over the reported incident and stressed the government's commitment to safeguarding the constitutional rights of the country's minorities.
Hindus have complained about insecurity and discrimination they face in Pakistan and about forcible conversions of Hindu girls to Islam.