PPP asks govt to start Islamabad temple construction

Updated 05 Aug 2020

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Says move will be a response to Modi’s act of opening Mandir at Babri mosque’s site. — Muhammad Bin Naveed/File
Says move will be a response to Modi’s act of opening Mandir at Babri mosque’s site. — Muhammad Bin Naveed/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has urged the government to immediately start construction of a temple in Islamabad “to give a befitting reply” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to lay the foundation of a Hindu temple at the site of historic Babri mosque in Ayodhya on Wednesday (today).

The demand was made by PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar as official spokesman for party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement issued by the party’s Media Office here on Tuesday.

“The federal government should take urgent steps to remove all hurdles in the way of the construction of the temple in Islamabad and inaugurate its work on Wednesday (today),” he said.

Mr Khokhar, who is also chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, said Pakistan should send a message to the world community that the people belonging to all religions enjoyed equal rights in the country.

Says move will be a response to Modi’s act of opening Mandir at Babri mosque’s site

“It is the demand of Jinnah’s Pakistan that the religious rights of all the minorities should be protected in the country,” he added.

Criticising the Indian prime minister’s move to build Raam Temple in Ayodhya, the PPP senator said that by doing so Narendra Modi would “blacken the face of secular India”.

The controversy over the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad’s H-9/2 Sector surfaced two months ago when some religious parties and groups objected to the project, saying that the construction of a temple with the taxpayers’ money in an Islamic state was against Islam.

Last month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had disposed of three identical petitions filed against the construction of the temple, observing that the construction of a place of worship required mandatory approval of the regulator i.e. Capital Development Authority. The IHC also dismissed objections to the allotment of the temple’s plot.

The government allotted the plot measuring 3.89 kanals for the temple in January 2017. The plot was handed over to the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat in 2018.

The issue also came under discussion in the National Assembly and the Senate. Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri told the assembly that the construction on the temple site had been stopped following objections by certain religious scholars and the matter had been referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology to seek its opinion on the matter.

The minister had stated that the issue was not on the construction of the temple, but the question had been raised whether the government could spend money from the national exchequer or not.

The statement by Mr Khokhar was issued on the day when, according to the French news agency AFP, the flashpoint Indian town of Ayodhya geared up for a ceremony to be attended by Prime Minister Modi to lay the foundation of a Hindu temple on the ruins of the mosque that had been destroyed by a mob in 1992. The building of the temple in northern India, starting on Wednesday with a colourful rite, has been a long pledge of the Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Babri Masjid stood on the site for almost 500 years until it was demolished by Hindu zealots in 1992 that sparked riots across the country in which 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, died — some of independent India’s worst sectarian violence.

In November, India’s top court after a legal battle lasting decades had awarded the site to Hindus, giving Muslims another location to build a new mosque.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2020