Pakistan was formed as an Islamic ideology state but minorities living in the country have been guaranteed all fundamental rights under the constitution.
Despite instances of religious discrimination, hatred and intolerance they have given permission to practice their faith and visit their places of worship. The government has made efforts such as renovating over 400 temples and opening the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikhs.
The government announced that construction has commenced on the first Hindu temple in Islamabad to be built since independence. This should be a welcome move but has invited controversy on the use of public funds and building a temple in the federal capital.
Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a grant of Rs100 million for the construction of the first Hindu temple in the federal capital. The Hindu Panchayat Islamabad will manage the Shri Krishna Mandir.
The Hindu population in Islamabad had reportedly reached around 3,000 as a large number of people have move from Sindh and Balochistan mainly due to security concerns.
This includes public and private sector employees, business community members and a large number of doctors. As the population increased, there was need for a crematorium, a place for collective prayers and marriage ceremonies and the government
The temple will be built a 20,000 sq ft plot in the H-9 area of Islamabad. On June 23, Parliamentary Secretary on Human Rights Lal Chand Malhi performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the temple.
Malhi has been appointed to oversee the construction work of the temple which has started with money donated by devotees as the funds promised by the government have not been received yet.
Opposition to temple
The temple has attracted criticism and even the courts have been approached to stop the construction. The court has refused to grant a stay order but the construction has hit a roadblock.
A local lawyer from Islamabad has challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) the government’s decision to construct a temple. He claimed that a temple for Hindus already existed in Saidpur and the government should renovate it instead of constructing a new one.
The petitioner argued there was no provision for a temple on the site in the masterplan for Islamabad, and called for land and funds allotted to be withdrawn.
Shocking even political parties such the PML-Q has opposed the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, arguing that it is not only “against the spirit of Islam”.
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was seen opposing the construction during an interview. “Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. Construction of a new temple in its capital is not only against the spirit of Islam, but also an insult to Riayasat-e-Madina,” said.
Majority welcomes the move
While there has been some opposition and criticism, the news about the construction of a new Hindu temple was generally welcomed in Pakistan.
The Hindu community saw it as a fulfillment of their long-standing demand, while a handful of right-work fundamentalists spoke out against the new initiative and vowed to resist the move.
Pakistan has been vocal critics of the treatment of minorities in India who are been oppressed by the fascist Hindutva policies of the Modi government. The treatment of Indian Muslims is clear as they have faced numerous atrocities, systematic discrimination and oppression.
On the other hand, Pakistan has made huge strides for the rights of minorities. There has been an increased representation in parliament, and hundreds of temples have been reopened and renovated.
Pakistan also reopened the Kartarpur Corridor, which has huge significance for the Sikh community around the world. They welcomed the move and visited the holy site when it reopened.
The criticism of the government for construction of a temple is unwarranted. We need to get the opinion of the religious scholars before formulating opinions. We should also be careful to not impede the rights and liberties of minorities.