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Police find body of kidnapped health worker Pakistani Hindus urge authorities to save temple

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, March 24, (AFP): Police Monday found the bullet-riddled body of a kidnapped female health worker dumped in a field in northwest Pakistan on Monday, an official said. Salma Ghani, about 32 years old, was taken by five unidentified men from outside her house in Peshawar, the main city in northwest Pakistan, on Sunday. Senior police official Rahim Shah told AFP Ghani’s body had been recovered from a wheat field on the edge of the city. She had been shot several times, he said. “It is not yet clear whether she was killed for taking part in polio vaccination drives,” Shah said. Some 56 people have been killed in militant attacks on anti-polio teams in Paskistan since December 2012. Militant groups such as the Pakistan Taleban oppose immunisation, saying it is a cover for US spying. Violence, and the threat of it, have badly hampered a campaign to stamp out polio in Pakistan, which along with Nigeria and Afghanistan are the only countries where the disease remains endemic.

Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Victims are left dead, paralysed or with withered limbs. Pakistan’s failure to defeat polio stands in stark contrast to its neighbour and great rival India, which recently celebrated the eradication of polio three years after its last case. The WHO has warned that Peshawar is the world’s “largest reservoir” of the wild polio virus.

Meanwhile, Hindus in Pakistan’s commercial hub Karachi on Monday urged authorities to halt construction work on an underpass, which they say endangers a 150-year-old temple. The minority community said vibrations from excavation work on a road being built just metres away from the Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple could cause irreparable damage to the building’s structure. Pakistan’s Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on Monday ordered local authorities to provide an impact report within two weeks, but a Hindu community leader said that may be too late to save the temple. “Heavy machinery is at work right now and it is our request that the court issue a stay order,” Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council told AFP. The temple has long been a fixture on the city’s Clifton Beach, a popular recreation spot adjacent to Karachi’s most upmarket neighbourhood. According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, the temple holds a Grand Mela every year, attracting some 25,000 pilgrims.

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