Sometimes minority rights are compromised
Construction of new temple a positive gesture despite criticism from certain quarters
By Aiza Ijaz
Freedom of religion is promised by the Pakistan government for minorities and different sects living in the country but they are sometimes subjected to violence despite of freedom and equal rights mentioned in the constitution. Freedom to practice one’s religion and belief is the basic human right of an individual along with life and liberty.
Among 220 million population of Pakistan, 8 million people belong to Hinduism constituting the largest minority here. Three thousand reside in country’s capital where they do not even have one religious place or temple to worship and practice their culture as their minority right. Minorities are always at risk to unfair treatment because of their different religious ideas and beliefs.
For the first time in Pakistan history, Pakistani PM, Imran Khan accepted and allowed the construction of Hindu temple in Islamabad which was previously approved by former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif in 2017 with a crematorium, a community hall and some parking space, but delayed due to the administrative problems. In the meeting held on 27th June, where parliamentarians belonging to different religious minorities were also present, the Minister for Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq, presented the request for permission to PM when he accepted the grant of Rs.100 Million for the construction of Shri Krishna Mandir.
Prime Minister, Imran Khan took this decision to bring peace with minorities as he did with Kartarpur Corridor back in last year. In 2019, government also decided to restore 400 temples in Pakistan which had been converted either into madrasas or schools. All of these efforts are being made to fulfill the commitment of religious coexistence he made with his citizens when he won elections in 2018.
The permission issued for building a new temple faced a lot of criticism from Islamic scholars, clerics and general public. People strongly opposed this decision raising their voices to stop the work because Pakistan being an Islamic Republic, government cannot provide funds to minority community from the taxes given by Muslims for constructing a worship place to publicly practice their religious affairs. According to a survey conducted on a small scale, it was seen that people were actually not happy with the decision.
In July 2020, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) stopped construction at the site saying there was no properly approved building plan. Also, a small clip has been circulating on social media where a young boy is seen holding an uncontrollable rage and breaking the already constructed boundary line himself with his hands.
Due to the increasing pressure, government took back the initial word and later asked the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for advice and guidance in this matter that whether state money can be spent on the construction of a temple or not.
The writer is a student of MSc Digital Media at the Institute of Communication, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. She can be reached at: [email protected]