In search of a temple

22 Sep 2020

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MEMBERS of the Pakistan Hindu Council have emphasised that having a mandir and a crematorium site in Islamabad was an ‘essential’ requirement which ought not to be politicised. The appeal is the latest attempt at a solution following a controversy over the construction of a temple in the capital. Lal Chand Malhi, a PTI lawmaker, is among those trying to bring out the apolitical nature of the move in an apparent effort to build consensus on the mandir by answering the questions being raised regarding its construction. In a press talk, he recalled that the land for the temple and crematorium was allotted in 2018, when a PML-N government was in power in the country. Around 3,000 Hindus are said to be living in Islamabad. Many of them, activists say, were forced to shift here from parts of KP, Sindh and Balochistan to escape a deteriorating law-and-order situation. This means that they have been through a lot and could do with some looking after by the state as they are citizens of this country.

Objections were raised after the prime minister approved an amount of Rs100m to build the temple. Soon after, as some political parties such as the PML-Q and JUI-F joined religious groups in passionately opposing the temple, construction was stopped. Among the points raised, the opponents said that the tax paid by Muslims could not be spent on a mandir and also that an Islamic country could not allow the building of a new temple on its territory. Mr Malhi has tried to address both questions, saying that money from the taxes paid by Pakistani Hindus could be spent on building the mandir and that there are Muslim countries such as the UAE which have allowed new temples to be constructed. A solution has to be found. The Hindu community is not just looking for a place to pray but also to hold ceremonies. Let’s see how the government responds to the ideas put forward by the council’s members.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020