Hindus urge authorities to save Karachi temple

March 24, 2014

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Pakistani local municipal workers stand in front of a Hindu temple near the construction site of an underpass in Karachi on March 24, 2014. – AFP Photo
Pakistani local municipal workers stand in front of a Hindu temple near the construction site of an underpass in Karachi on March 24, 2014. – AFP Photo
Pakistani labourers work at a construction site of an underpass near a Hindu temple in Karachi on March 24, 2014. – AFP Photo
Pakistani labourers work at a construction site of an underpass near a Hindu temple in Karachi on March 24, 2014. – AFP Photo

KARACHI: Hindus in Pakistan's commercial hub Karachi on Monday urged authorities to halt construction work on an underpass, which they say endangers a 150-year-old temple.

The minority community said vibrations from excavation work on a road being built just metres away from the Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple could cause irreparable damage to the building's structure.

Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on Monday ordered local authorities to provide an impact report within two weeks, but a Hindu community leader said that may be too late to save the temple.

“Heavy machinery is at work right now and it is our request that the court issue a stay order,” Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council told AFP.

The temple has long been a fixture on the city's Clifton Beach, a popular recreation spot adjacent to Karachi's most upmarket neighbourhood.

According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, the temple holds a Grand Mela every year, attracting some 25,000 pilgrims.

Construction of the underpass is being financed by developer Bahria Town, which wants a road to link up to a skyscraper it is building some hundreds of metres away from the temple.

But Vankwani said even the skyscraper was built on “evacuee property” – land abandoned by Hindus at the time of India's partition.

Under the law, such property is meant to be protected by the government.

Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said construction work “would vandalise the very face of a historical part of the city.”

Officials at Bahria Town could not be reached for comment immediately.

Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan, where Muslims make up 97 per cent of the population.