Pakistan often remains in the negative limelight over the treatment of its minorities and human rights records. The forced conversion of religious minorities and the inherent discrimination in our society has been a cause for concern for long.
There are seldom incidents of inter-faith harmony which restore our faith in humanity. In one such incident, a 200-year-old temple located in Zhob, Balochistan has been returned to the Hindu community for the first time in over seven decades.
It is welcoming that a cleric affiliated with a religious party handed over the keys of the four-room temple to the Hindu community. Maulana Allahdad Kakar was himself in favour of returning the temple to the Hindus. This is a great example of religious tolerance and local authorities should restore the temple to its original condition. The temple was in use, since the last thirty years, as a government school while the Hindus were praying in a dilapidated mud structure.
The PTI government has used the gesture to show how religious harmony and tolerance is a practice in Pakistan. This is in sharp contrast to India where discriminatory policies against Muslims are being formed as a result of the Hindutva wave sweeping across the nation. The four-century-old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by Hindu fanatics thirty years ago but the top court there ruled in Hindutva’s favour and handed over the disputed land to the Hindus.
The PTI government has been recognized as a key promoter of inter-faith harmony in the global south with the recent success of the Katarpur Corridor inaugurated last year. The project allowed Sikh pilgrims to visit their revered site in Pakistan while scores of others arrived to celebrate their festive occasions. On the other hand, India has refused to allow Pakistani pilgrims to visit religious shrines in their country.
The PTI government aims to renovate, restore, and reopen over 400 temples in Pakistan in different phases. The Hindu community has long demanded that their places of worship should be handed over to them. When the Hindus migrated to India, many temples were forcibly occupied or fell into neglect while some were converted into schools, seminaries or other common facilities. Now the government wants to reclaim and hand these sites to the Hindu community.
The restoration of Hindu temples will send a positive message to the world that the government is taking a firm stance against the discrimination of religious minorities in Pakistan. It is reassuring that the rights of minorities are being safeguarded in the country. This sends a message to those who encourage acts of intolerance and violence: Pakistan is for every Pakistani irrespective of race and religion.