July 2, 2020

By Ayesha Mir


Just a few days after the groundbreaking ceremony of the capital’s first Hindu temple being constructed, a fatwa was issued by Jamia Ashrafia declaring the act ‘un-Islamic and illegal’.

The fatwa came from Mufti Ziauddin of Jamia Ashrafia in Lahore, who said that while it is permissible to maintain and restore existing places of worship for non-Muslims in an Islamic State, it is sinful to construct a new one. The fatwa also demanded the withdrawal of Rs100 million fund that had been approved by the PM and the Federal Minister of Religious Affairs, Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri on June 27, to begin construction of the temple. The premise of this claim was that government funds could not be used to build any places of worship for anyone other than Muslims.

In addition, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued a notice to the CDA on the basis of a petition submitted against the construction. Justice Amir Farooq heard a petition filed by Chaudhry Tanveer Akhtar, who claims that the land allotted for the construction of the temple in H-9, along with the funds allocated for it should be withdrawn as it is a violation of Islamabad’s ‘master plan’.

The petitioner protested that while the government has not released any funds for the construction of a mosque, it has however decided to build a temple. But according to reports, the judge noted that minority rights must be protected, and demanded the CDA to investigate whether or not the new temple would truly disrupt the master plan of the city.

While speaking to Voicepk.net, the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights, Mr. Lal Chandh Malhi – who is also a PTI representative from Umerkot, Sindh – expressed that there was a small number of extremists in Pakistan who want to create animosity between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“While everyone has a right to go to court with their concerns, the grounds on which the petition was made is entirely condemnable and unsubstantiated,” he said. “When Pakistan was made, Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself declared freedom of worship for all religious communities, and it is Imran Khan’s vision to bring Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan to reality.”

He added, “Pakistan’s constitution grants its religious minorities the liberty to worship freely, so the fatwa will not have any legal impact on the construction of the temple. We have not occupied the plot illegally, so no one has the authority to ask us to stop the construction except if it is the court or the government. But the current arguments against the temple are baseless”.

Mr. Lal Chandh also informed that it took years of struggle for the Hindu community to obtain land for their temple, and they would not give up this easily. In fact, construction had already begun where a boundary wall was being built around the plot. He said that along with Hindus, the Christians and Buddhists of Pakistan have also been given land to build places of worship as this will help promote religious tourism and build a peaceful image of Pakistan internationally.

Earlier in a tweet, the Minister of Religious Affairs, Pir Qadri stated, “Islamic history and teachings and the Pakistani constitution grants freedom to all minorities and their places of worship. Imran Khan’s government will not treat its minorities the same way as Hindustan. Pakistan is making tremendous efforts to maintain interfaith harmony. The 50 lakh Hindus here are also Pakistani.”

In a video statement, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi also strongly opposed the erection of a new temple; he said that the action was against the ‘spirit of Islam’ and an offense to the ‘state of Madina’. He said, “We are not against the rights of minorities, we support the refurbishment of pre-existing temples. The Katas Raj Temple was repaired during our tenure and we also allocated plenty of funds to restore others, but we cannot support the construction of new temples.”

Some analysts are of the view that it is unlike the Chaudhry’s to adopt such a radical stance, and it is likely that the issue of the Hindu temples is being politicized only to oppose the government.