Religious affairs ministry forwards temple construction case to CII

Updated 09 Jul 2020

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Civil society activists protest outside the National Press Club on Wednesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Civil society activists protest outside the National Press Club on Wednesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs has forwarded a case regarding the provision of official grants for the construction of a temple to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), while the first public protest in support of the temple’s construction was held in the capital.

In a letter, Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri sought the council’s opinion on whether the government was allowed to fund the construction of a temple in the city.

The letter asked whether the government can build a non-Muslim place of worship using government funds.

It said that a delegation from the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat and some non-Muslim parliamentarians had met with Mr Qadri and asked for government funding to be allocated for the temple’s construction.

The letter said that the ministry also deals with the Minorities Welfare Fund, which is used for the repair and maintenance of religious sites of minority communities on the basis of recommendations from non-Muslim parliamentarians.

Capital sees first public protest in support of construction of temple

“However, construction of a new place of worship for the religious minorities was not permissible under the rules,” the letter said, adding that in view of the situation, the application was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office for consideration.

The minister’s letter pointed out that parliamentarians and Mr Qadri met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on this matter, which was made controversial by clerics who opposed it on social media and approached the religious affairs ministry to object to the construction of a temple using public money.

In response, Mr Khan told the ministry to seek advice from the CII.

CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz acknowledged that he had received the ministry’s letter and said it has been forwarded to the council’s research department to formulate an opinion on this question.

Dr Ayaz said clerics should not protest the matter, but should guide the CII on it instead. He said it will be taken up during the CII’s meeting scheduled for September, as it takes two to three weeks for the research department to finalise an opinion after holding consultations and seeking public comments if needed.

PTI MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told Dawn that the argument regarding the funding for the temple was incorrect.

“Some people say that a Hindu temple cannot be built with taxes collected from Muslims. That is correct and we agree with it, but has any money been spent on the construction of any temple in the country with taxes paid by the Hindu community in 70 years,” he asked, adding: “Therefore, the government’s grant of Rs100 million is valid, as it was actually our money.”

A protest was also held in support of the temple’s construction at the National Press Club, led by Ammar Rashid from the Awami Workers Party.

The protesters said the temple should have been built for the city’s Hindu population decades ago, and demanded that the government not bow down to pressure from extremists who have been harassing citizens of the country constantly on various pretexts.

The protesters carried posters that read ‘Quaid’s Pakistan is everyone’s Pakistan’, ‘We do not follow the rules of oppression’ and ‘Build temple in Islamabad’.

Tehreek-i-Nifaz Fiqh Jaffaria leader Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosvi has also supported the temple’s construction, saying that it should not be made controversial as non-Muslims have the right to have their own places of worship.

The last PML-N government allotted 2,400 square yards for the construction of a Hindu temple in H-9/2 in 2017. Among those who oppose its construction today were in the government’s coalition at that time, while another opponent, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, chaired the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2020