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Pakistanis are saying ‘mandir nahi banaenge’. Fatwas follow Hindu temple construction

File image of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Photo: ANI

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With ‘mandir to banega’, Pakistan is having its own ‘mandir wahi banayenge’ moment.

Authorities halting the construction of a Shri Krishna Mandir in Islamabad’s H-9 sector last week is yet another reminder of how the space for religious freedoms is shrinking in Pakistan. The temple would have been the first new place of worship for the 3,000 Hindus residing in the capital. But not anymore.

Marred with fatwas, religious bigotry, threats and political point scoring, the construction of the temple has now run into disputes. The other 16th century Ram Mandir in Islamabad’s Saidpur Village is just a tourist spot and Hindus are not allowed to pray in the temple.

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Reconstructing temple against Islam’s spirit

What began as a goodwill gesture from the Prime Minister’s Office with a grant of Rs100 million for the temple construction, soon saw the religious and political groups go up in opposition. In one such decree, the Jamia Ashrafia madrassa ascertained that according to Sharia laws, it is not permitted for non-Muslims to build their new worship places or rebuild those which were in ruins. “This is a sin in an Islamic state.” The same was echoed by federal government’s ally and speaker of the Punjab Assembly, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi who said that only the repair of the existing places of worship of the Hindus, Sikhs and Christians was allowed, and that building a new structure was against the spirit of Islam.

Many had a problem with the temple being built on taxpayers’ money but it didn’t occur to anyone that Hindus as Pakistani citizens, too, pay their taxes. So why can’t the government spare money on their place of worship? The Kartarpur Gurdawara’s renovation, with much-hype and glitz, was made possible with the government money. Since that was in ‘national interest’, none of these religious and political charlatans dared squeak on it.

Unsurprisingly, succumbing before many religious pressure groups, City District Administration stopped work. When the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat halted the construction of the temple’s boundary wall, citing security reasons, a television channel proudly took credit for the same in ‘leading the anti-temple discourse’.

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