On June 24, Lal Chand Malhi, Pakistan's parliamentary secretary for human rights, held a ceremony for the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad. However, as soon as construction began, the dividing walls were smashed by Islamist groups. In addition, a group of clergymen filed petitions against the temple.
Condemnation of religious groups
Of an estimated 221 million people living in Pakistan, more than 96% are Muslims and about 1.85% are Hindus, although the Hindu Council of Pakistan maintains that this percentage is much higher.
According to the Pakistani Government Evacuee Assets Trust Board, there are approximately 1,300 temples in the country, of which only 30 are currently considered functional. The construction of this new temple should provide the nearly 3,000 members of the Hindu community in Islamabad with a place for their religious ceremonies, weddings, funeral rites and cremation.
In late June, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a grant of one hundred million rupees (US $ 598,000) for the construction of the Shri Krishna Mandir temple. The decision to build the temple in Islamabad faced severe adverse reactions. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, president of the Punjab assembly, opposed the decision despite being part of the ruling coalition. Jamia Ashrafia, a major religious educational institution in Lahore, released a statement calling the construction non-Islamic and issued a fatua (religious decree) against it. Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, added that the problem was not construction but who was paying for the construction.
The Islamabad Capital Development Authority (CDA) halted construction on June 4, 2020, arguing that the design should be approved according to the construction plan. For their part, a group of Islamic fundamentalists tore apart the dividing walls of the temple, chanted religious slogans, and recited adhan (called to prayer) on the temple grounds.
The boundary wall of the Temple was destroyed and now a man is saying the Azan on the site.
This has nothing to do with the excuses of taxes, etc. This is bigotry towards Hindus.
Give others what you ask for yourself!
– Shamila Ghyas (@ShamilaGhyas) July 7, 2020
The dividing wall of the temple is destroyed and now a man recites adhan on the spot. This has nothing to do with tax excuses, etc. This is intolerance towards Hindus.
Give others what you ask for!
Islam preaches tolerance.
The Islamabad Supreme Court dismissed requests made by a group of Muslim clerics and referred the matter to the Islamic Ideology Council (IIC), a constitutional body formed in 1962 to guide how to run the country in accordance with the requirements of the Holy Quran and the sharia. When the state needs legal advice on Islamic matters, they turn to the council.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs also sought advice from the council on the allocation of funds from Muslim taxpayers for the construction of the temple. The chairman of the Islamic Ideology Council, Qibla Ayaz, has acknowledged receiving the letter from the ministry and sent it to the council's Research Department for an opinion. The construction of the temple can only begin once the Council of Islamic Ideology grants a favorable decision.
Support for the construction of the temple
Noor ul Haq Qadri from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-Religion Harmony tweeted his support for the construction of the temple:
اسلامی تاریخ, تعلیمات اور پاکستان کا آئین تمام اقلیتوں کی مذھیبی آزادی اور عبادت گا ھوں کی حفاظت کےضامن ھیں! عمران خان کی حکومت اپنی اقلیتوں کے ساتھ ھر گز ھندوستاں جیسا سلوک نہیں کرے گا! پاکستان بین المذاھب ھم اھنگی کیلۓ اقدامات جاری رکھے گا! 50 لاکھ ھندوآبادی بھی پاکستانی ھیں
– pir noorulhaq qadri (@NoorulhaqPir) June 28, 2020
According to Islamic history, education and the Constitution of Pakistan, all minorities are free to pray and the State must protect them. Prime Minister Imran Khan will not treat them as India has been doing with minorities.
In a telephone interview with Lal Chand Malhi, a member of the National Assembly who presided over the opening ceremony, he repeated the sentiment:
According to the constitution of Pakistan and the law of the land nothing can stop us from constructing the temple. The only issue at the moment is if it can be made from public money or not for which an application has been sent to CII. But if the response is in negative we will still construct it after collecting funds.
Under the Pakistani Constitution and land law, nothing can stop the temple from being built. The only problem at the moment is whether it can be done with public money or not, for which a request must be sent to the Council of Islamic Ideology. But if the answer is no, we will build it the same after raising the funds.
According to religious scholar Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, all Pakistanis pay taxes, and the state builds mosques with public money, so that the government can use public funds to build places of worship for other religions as well.
Javed Ahmed Ghamdi on the construction of Hindu Temple in Islamabad. Here, he recognizes the secular principle of secular nation-states, instead of advocating for an Islamic Republic. https://t.co/QayA20Evou
– Haroon Riaz (@HaroonRiaz) July 2, 2020
Hindu Mandir construction in Islamabad – Javed Ahmed Ghamidi.
Javed Ahmed Ghamdi on the construction of the Hindu temple in Islamabad. It recognizes the lay principle of secular nation-states, rather than defending an Islamic republic.
Khawaja Asif, a member of Pakistan's opposition Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), addressed the National Assembly and reiterated that the Constitution of Pakistan, equal rights applies to “all citizens regardless of caste, creed and religion ”.
The Ulema Council of Pakistan criticized those who complicated the issue and expressed their support for the construction of the temple because the Constitution of Pakistan is clear on the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims living in the country.
Social media reaction
Social media has been hectic since the day the prime minister gave his approval for the temple's construction. The decision was praised by some as religious groups spoke out against it, and some even threatened to kill people from the Hindu community. #MandirTauBanega (the temple is going to be built) has been a trend.
The construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad is a welcome and laudable step by our Government. Pakistan belongs in equal measure to each and every citizen irrespective of his / her caste, creed, ethnicity or faith. #islamabadtemple
– Umar Khayyam (@utggondal) June 24, 2020
The construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad is a welcome and commendable step by our Government. Pakistan belongs equally to each and every citizen, regardless of caste, creed, ethnicity, or faith.
A private news channel launched a campaign against the construction of the temple, and when the works stopped, they published an article in which they claimed to be proud of their victory.
This is disgusting and shameful that @ 92newschannel is terming it their victory as CDA has stopped construction of a #Hindu #temper in #Islamabad. Simply, # ShameOn92News for siding with and promoting bigotry. This is Jinnah's Pakistan, not mullah's Pakistan. #MandirTauBanega pic.twitter.com/uvkPHwUcis
– Kapil Dev (@KDSindhi) July 3, 2020
92 News initiative pays off, Capital Development Authority halts construction of temple in Islamabad.
This is disgusting and embarrassing, that 92 News is saying it is their victory as the Capital Development Authority halted construction of the Hindu temple. Quite a shame, 92 News for siding with and promoting bigotry. This is Jinnah Pakistan (N of T: considered the founder of Pakistan), not the Pakistan of the mullahs.