Islamabad: The Pakistani capital’s non-Muslim residents, particularly Hindus, are resenting what they see as the government’s total surrender before a handful of religious leaders and politicians opposing the construction of the first Hindu temple, ‘Krishna Mandir’, in Islamabad.
A director of the Building Control Department, Capital Development Authority (CDA), along with staff from his department, visited the site in Sector H-9/2, Islamabad, on Friday and stopped construction of the boundary wall there.
“The construction work can be undertaken in Islamabad only after approval of the building plan,” a member of the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad, Pritam Das Rathi, quoted the CDA official as saying.
PTI non-Muslim MNA terms action illegal
However, according to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) member of the National Assembly, Lal Malhi, CDA neither served any notice nor show any order for stopping the work on the land that was allotted and handed over to the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad by none other than the CDA itself in February 2018. Besides, we don’t need building plan for construction of a boundary wall, he claimed.
Malhi said the CDA authorities told him that work on the boundary wall of the Krishna Mandir might be restored after Monday once there is a formal approval. The Islamabad Hindu Panchayat will now contact CDA on Monday, he added. (https://twitter.com/LALMALHI/status/1279078321259765767).
Hindu Panchayat legal owner of plot
Malhi dismissed media reports quoting the CDA that it had not handed over the land to the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad. He showed documents according to which, the authority had handed over the letter of possession of the plot to the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad in 2018.
“We have submitted the map, design, the site plan etc to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s House for formal approval and release of grant.”
He said the Hindu Panchayat fully respected the religious sentiments of all segments of society and assured no such steps were being taken that could be considered in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Our Prime Minister Imran Khan has always upheld religious harmony and protection of the rights of minorities and I am confident he will take a decision, keeping in mind that the Hindus of Islamabad didn’t have a temple, a cremation ground or a community centre of their own.
Blow to inter-faith harmony
Rathi, however, didn’t sound as optimistic as Malhi and termed the CDA’s action a total surrender on the part of the government before the religious bigots.
“It is now being released to the media that Imran will first seek guidance from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and I don’t think CII will advise him in favour of the Hindus,” said Rathi.
He, however, demanded that the government should at least approve and release grants for a community centre and a cremation ground. “As for the temple, we shall construct it out of our own pockets,” he said.
A CDA spokesperson said in a statement that though the land had been allocated in sector H-9/2 of Islamabad for a community centre, a cremation place and site for a temple had been earmarked on the 2,354sq yards of land adjacent to the cremation site for All Pakistan Buddhist Society. However, the building plan has not been approved yet.
No Hindu temple in Islamabad
On June 22, members of the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad and non-Muslim parliamentarians performed the groundbreaking ceremony of the first Hindu temple in Sector H-9/2 of Islamabad on the land reserved for a temple.
For the 3,000 Hindus living in Islamabad, there is no temple and they have to visit Rawalpindi’s temples for performance of religious rites.
In Saidpur village of Islamabad, a popular tourist point, there is a temple, but it is not functional and is part of a heritage site.
Imran, as a gesture of goodwill towards minorities, announced a generous grant of Rs100 million (Dh2.18 million) for the construction of the temple.
Extremists up against temple
The news of the first-ever Hindu temple in Islamabad gave Pakistan’s image a boost internationally and the step was widely hailed.
However, the government’s move to promote interfaith harmony didn’t go well with forces of hatred and the divisive elements in Pakistani society. Surprisingly, some politicians also opposed the idea of construction of the temple, forcing the government to reconsider its decision.