February 13th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Most of the Hindu worship places are in a state of decay and obliteration and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (EPTB) has failed to maintain most of the ancient and holy sites of the minority community in the country, says a report by the Suddle Commission.
Dr Shoaib Suddle, head of the one-man commission set up by the Supreme Court on minorities, submitted his seventh report to the apex court on February 5. Speaking to Voicepk.net in an exclusive interview, Dr. Suddle said he visited the four most Hindu worship places-Teri Mandir in Karak, Katas Raj temples in Chakwal, Pharlad temple in Multan, and Hinglaj temple in Lasbela- on the direction of the court. He said these revered holy sites were in a state of decay and obliteration in addition to hundred of other temples in the country.
EPTB manages only 13 out of 365 Hindu temples
The report mentions that according to the ETPB letter, out of 365 Mandirs, only 13 (3.6%) are being managed by them, leaving the responsibility of 65 (17.8%) with the Hindu community, and practically abandoning the rest 287 (78.6%) to the land mafias. “It is indeed strange that even in this age of technology the ETPB has yet to get the evacuee properties Geo-tagged,” the report reads, adding that that the ETPB, with its staff, spread in all corners of Pakistan and huge paraphernalia, is managing 31 (13 Hindu temples and 18 Gurduwaras) worship places out of a total of 470 (or only 6.6% of the total). The commission has raised objections over the ETPB’s response that non-functional Mandirs/Gurdawaras existed due to a lack of population of Hindus/Sikhs. “However, there are several examples of active Mandirs, where no Hindu population resides, such as Hinglaj Mata Mandir in Balochistan and Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj Mandir/Samaadhi at Teri in Karak district of KP…,” the report said.
Working group on Hindu temples renovation
Dr Shoaib said he has recommended the establishment of a working group on the renovation of the four revered Hindu sites. The group will comprise Chairman ETPB, Federal Secretary Heritage, Provincial Secretary Archaeology, DG Walled City Lahore, architect Nayyar Ali Dada, Prof Sajjad Kausar, former principal of NCA, Prof Sajida Vandal, a representative from the Hindu community, and a representative from the Sikh community. He said the renovation of these sites will lead to the promotion of religious tourism in the country as thousands of devotees from home and abroad will annually visit them. “This will also create an atmosphere of religious harmony in society,” he said.
EPTB should be made a corporate entity
Dr. Suddle has also recommended amendments in the EPTB ACT so that the institution could be more responsive to its clients which primarily the minority communities of the country. He said the EPTB should be made a corporate entity-body that can deliver its aims and objectives efficiently, fairly, and transparently, in close cooperation with the evacuee communities.
Asked about the state of hundreds of other Hindu temples in the country, Dr. Suddle said the data provided by the EPTB has been rejected by the apex court, adding that the data was incomplete and the board has been asked to resubmit revised details in this regard. “Once the complete data is received, the commission will be in a better position to give recommendations about the state of minority worship places,” he added. In his report, Dr. Suddle stated that the ETPB was only interested in the occupation of valuable properties of migrated minorities, even after passage of more than 73 years, and charitable, worship and other joint properties of minority communities in hundreds of towns have been taken over by the ETPB.
Promotion of religious harmony
Dr. Suddle said the commission was working towards the promotion of religious harmony in the country. The commission has sought direction from the apex court for the Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training to address the concerns of minority communities vis-à-vis the National Single Curriculum. He said the commission will ensure that nothing in the Single National Curriculum undermined the minority communities, adding that the SNC will be a first step towards creating religious harmony whereby all people are treated as equal citizens in society.