Last month, Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan approved a grant of Rs100 million for the construction of Islamabad’s first Hindu temple, which Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri had requested. Plan of the Sri Krishna Mandir complex was approved under the government of PML-N but the construction was delayed due to protests by religious groups and some administrative hurdles. Once again, there has been an uproar by religious groups who petitioned the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to stop its construction. The IHC disposed of three petitions filed against the construction of the temple and observed that it required the approval of the regulator, which in this case, is the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
Religious affairs minister has said there was no need to debate on the rights of minorities as they were protected by the PTI government. “The party’s manifesto calls for removing all obstructions in the implementation of constitutional provisions regarding the rights of minorities.” Qadri insists that the construction of the Hindu temple has been stopped due to technical reasons and some issues with the CDA. Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari also asked “if we don’t protect and defend our own minorities then how will we fight the case of other Muslims across the world.”
Islamabad has about 3,000 Hindus and due to there being no temple within the capital, they face many issues on religious festivals. We have had several prominent Hindu members of parliament, a former Hindu chief justice and military officers as well. Hindus make a large number of our minority population. We must not give in to reactionary forces.
Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his August 11 speech made it clear that there will be no discrimination in Pakistan on the basis of religion. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” he said and all of us know, but still we fall short of respecting those who are equal citizens of the state.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s track record of protecting its religious minorities is not too good. Forced conversions of Hindu girls has become a norm in the country, mobs have burned down minorities’ places of worship in the past, religious minorities face discrimination quite regularly – incidents of such discrimination were recently shared by some cricketers as well.
It is unfortunate that Muslim majority countries sometimes do exactly what is happening to Muslim minorities in other countries. The recent example of changing the status of Hagia Sophia in Turkey is an example – whether it is a politically calculated move or not, the religious connotations are quite obvious. We hope that the PTI government will go ahead with the construction of the temple in Islamabad. The premier has been quite committed to protecting the rights of religious minorities. We are hopeful that he will not disappoint the minorities, who are equal citizens of Pakistan.