Pakistan’s top Islamic advisory body, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), has left many questions unanswered in its recent decision regarding the construction of a temple in Islamabad. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan’s top Islamic advisory body, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), has left many questions unanswered in its recent decision regarding the construction of a temple in Islamabad.

The council has though approved the construction yet it mentioned in its decision signed by all the 14 members of the CII that it did not support provision of the government funds for the construction of the temple because “there is no such tradition in the country.”

The CII has instead suggested alternate means to resolve the funding issue, including amendment of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Act to meet the financial needs for the execution of religious activities or creating a fund for non-Muslim communities.

No legal restriction on temple construction

CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz after the meeting said there was no constitutional or Sharia constraints on the construction of a temple in Islamabad or any other part of the country.

We have reached a unanimous decision on the basis of the Constitution of Pakistan and the Liaquat-Nehru Agreement of 1950, which led to the establishment of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in Pakistan and a similar entity in India, said Dr Qibla.

The CII has also allowed the government to hand over an ancient Hindu temple and adjoining Dharamshala (community centre) in Saidpur village to Islamabad’s Hindu community.

Keeping in view the current population in Islamabad the ancient temple and the adjoining Dharamshala at Saidpur village could be opened to the Hindus and they should be facilitated to reach there to perform religious services as per their beliefs, said the CII decision.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs on July 6 in an application had sought the CII opinion on the allotment of a plot in Sector H-9/2 of Islamabad to the Hindu community for a crematorium, community centre and temple.

The ministry had also sought the CII’s advice on the allocation of Rs100 million by the prime minister for the construction of the crematorium and temple.

Ambiguous decision

Pakistan’s Hindu community though welcomed the CII decision yet at the same time it urged the council to withdraw the condition of amendment in ETPB Act as it was nothing but a waste of time.

Kapil Dev, Human Rights activist and a vocal advocate for the rights of the non-Muslims in Pakistan expressed his surprise why the CII imposed restriction on provision of the government funds for the temple. “We were expecting more from Dr Qibla Ayaz,” said Kapil adding the CII’s recommendation to hand over the ancient temple to the Hindus of Islamabad was pointless as the place had turned into a tourist point many hotels at the premises of the Saidpur temple were serving meat and beef to the customers.

Besides the large number of tourists visiting the site would also create security problems. Kapil said in the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Master Plan for Islamabad, there is a site allocated for the Hindu temple in Sector H-9. If there was no such place the CDA would never have approved it, he said.

3-in-1 complex

Kapil said it was not going to be a temple alone, but a complex with a temple, a cremation ground and a community centre where the Hindus could hold conferences, celebrate festivals such as Holi and Diwali.

When his attention was drawn to the opposition from certain sections, even a lawyer had challenged it in the Islamabad High Court after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced construction of the temple in Islamabad back in June and approved funds for this purpose, he regretted that in all the four provinces and even in the former tribal areas, Hindu temples existed and members of the local Hindu community went there to offer prayers. It is only Islamabad that didn’t have such a facility. He also expressed disappointment at the CII’s opposition to provision of government funds for the construction of temples saying if there is no such precedence, then CII should let a precedence be set by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and send a good message to the world.