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Inter-faith harmony: Pakistan Islamic body allows Hindu temple construction

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) - a constitutional body to advise the parliament on religious issues - however sustained a key objection on the use of public funds for the construction.

Pakistan’s top Islamic body on Wednesday allowed the construction of a Hindu temple in the capital Islamabad, ending months-long controversy.

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) — a constitutional body to advise the parliament on religious issues — however sustained a key objection on the use of public funds for the construction.

In a statement, it said there is no tradition of using public funds for construction of non-government worship places in Pakistan. Therefore, the provision of public money for the temple in question cannot be recommended.

Read more: Why State-funding for Minorities is Important

The controversy erupted earlier this year when the government allotted land, and promised funding to build a maiden Hindu temple in the capital.

Opposition from several right-wing parties, which objected to the use of public money to build the place of worship, forced the government to refer the matter to the CII.

The council has now suggested two “possible solutions” to the funds dispute: either the relevant laws (Act of the Evacuee Trust Property Board) be amended to meet the finances for needs to execute religious activities, or the government could create a block fund and hand the amount to the minority community.

Disbursement of those funds would be the discretion of the community, and there is no objection to that in accordance with Islamic law, it said. The council also directed the government to hand over an ancient temple and a community center in the capital to the Hindus.

It allowed the community to set up a cremation ground in Islamabad to carry out the last rites of their dead in accordance with their faith. Welcoming the development, Lal Malhi, a Hindu lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said the decision is in accordance with the Constitution.

Read more: Politics on Islamabad’s Hindu temple is regrettable

In a video message, he supported the council’s opposition to the use of public funds for the construction of private places of worship. Hindus, the largest minority in Pakistan, make up about 4% of the country’s population.

200-year-old temple returned to Hindus

Pakistan’s government has handed over a 200-year old temple to the country’s Hindu minority, local media reported earlier this year. The move was part of the government campaign to restore and hand over 400 temples to the country’s Hindu minority.

Located in the remote Zhob district of the southwestern Balochistan province, the temple had been illegally occupied in 1947 following the partition of United India, which prompted a mass-scale migration to and from Pakistan and India.

For the past 30 years the four-room temple was also used as a government school, but it was vacated last year, and the school was relocated, English daily Dawn reported.

The keys to the temple were handed over to Hindu community leaders by Maulana Allah Dad Kakar, a local religious scholar, and leader of Jamiat Ulema Islam – a mainstream religious party ­– at a ceremony held outside the building.

Saleem Taha, Zhob’s deputy commissioner, apologized for the 72-year delay in handing over the temple to the Hindu community but made assurances the building would be restored to its original condition, Dawn reported.

The move – hailed by the Hindu community ­– comes on the heels of an Indian Supreme Court ruling last November handing over the site of the historic Babri Mosque to Hindus for the construction of a temple following a prolonged legal battle.

Read more: Babri Mosque Case: Indian Supreme Court Rules in Favour of Hindus

The Indian government under PM Modi has announced recently that a grand temple would be built in place of the Babri Mosque.

The two different stories of these states depict the true face of both these states. BJP-led government is busy in making India a Hindu majoritarian state where people belonging to other religions, especially the Muslims would be treated as a second class citizens-deprived of many basic rights.

While Pakistan, on the other hand, is facilitating religious minorities by providing easy access and services to them so that they may freely enjoy their freedom of religion. opening up the Kartharpur corridor and handing over of this 200-year old temple are some of the many events that show how tolerant and peace-loving this country is.

Pakistan’s move is part of government plans to reclaim and restore 400 temples across the country illegally occupied by land grabbers and return them to Hindus.

Hindus, the largest minority in Pakistan, make up 4% of the country’s more than 200 million population.

Read more: “No Mosque is safe in India”

Pakistan is home to several sites revered by Hindus. The Katas Raj temple in the northeastern Chakwal district and Sadhu Bela temple in southern Sukkur district are the two most-visited rites by Hindus across the world.

Last November, Pakistan also opened a key border crossing for Indian Sikhs to visit the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of their religion.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk