BY ZEESHAN JAVAID - July 8, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Construction of first Hindu temple in the federal capital got a visible support from lawmakers from different political parties in the National Assembly and a section of students and social activists on Wednesday who called for ensuring equal rights of all the communities living in the country.
On first day of new session of National Assembly, members from different parties said constitution guarantees equal rights to all the citizens that includes right to worship.
Hindu community thanked the political parties for this support from mainstream political parties of the country.
“Thank you Pakistan. All main stream political parties PTI, PML-N, PPP and others rallied behind minorities and expressed solidarity with them in the national assembly today. They demanded, assured and exherted equal rights according to the constitution of Pakistan and Quaid’s vision” Lalchand Malhi a PTI member and parliamentary secretary on human rights wrote on his Tweet.
Students from different institutions and social activists also held a demonstration in front of National Press Club in support of construction of first Kirishna temple in Islamabad. Holding placards inscribed with slogans in support of construction of temple they demanded the government to allocate funds for its construction.
The students from different universities demanded construction of temple and ensure equal rights of every citizen especially Hindu community which is being targeted for their demand on construction of a place of worship for them in the federal capital. They said we need a society based on tolerance and interfaith harmony.
The Islamabad High Court turned down the petitions on Tuesday against the funding and construction of a temple in the federal capital. The court was informed that the government has referred the matter of temple funding to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
The case was heard before Justice Amir Farooq. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) maintained before the court that the construction was stopped due to the lack of a building plan.
The court inquired of the CDA the location of the plot and its allotted purpose. According to the CDA urban planning director, the process of plot allotment in H9/2 began in 2016. The site was allotted to the Hindu community for the construction of a temple, community centre or a cremation ground (Shamshan Ghat), he said.
The plot was allotted after consultation with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, special branch and the Islamabad administration, said the CDA official. Area for a graveyard for Christian, Baha’i, Qadiani and Buddhist communities has also been allotted near the plot in question, he added. Land area of 3.89 Kanal was allotted in 2017 and handed over to the Hindu Panchayat in 2018, he told the court.
Justice Farooq asked whether the construction plan for the temple had been submitted for approval, to which the CDA replied in the negative.
Deputy Attorney-General Raja Khalid Mehmood stated before the court that the petitioners are claiming Rs100 million but the government has not provided any funds as yet for the construction of the temple. He informed that the government has sought recommendations from the CII on the matter.
Mehmood argued that the Constitution of Pakistan allows for non-Muslims to build their places of worship. This case is sending a negative message to the world, he added.
The petitioners’ counsel argued that the approval for the temple and its funding are two separate issues. He claimed that the government can provide neither.
Justice Farooq observed that the government has referred the matter to the CII. Islamabad High Court in its verdict termed the petition as ‘ineffective’ and turn down the applications of temple funding and halting construction for time being till completion of due process..
On the other hand, Amnesty International has urged Pakistan to allow the construction of a Hindu temple in the capital, Islamabad, which was halted amid opposition to the project from religious and political circles.
“Everyone has a right to freedom of religion or belief, a right that is guaranteed in Pakistan’s constitution and its international obligations,” the London-based human rights watchdog tweeted on July 7.
Halting the construction of the Hindu temple “is an unconscionable act of bigotry that must be reversed immediately,” it added.
The government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved plans in 2017 to build Islamabad’s first Hindu temple, with a crematorium, a community hall, and parking spaces.
The government of the current prime minister, Imran Khan, earlier this year approved a grant of Rs100 million for the construction of the Krishna temple in Islamabad, but Muslim clerics and some politicians, including the chief of the PML-Q party, which is part of PTI led coalition government in center and Punjab has been strongly opposing the move.