CII says no religious, constitutional constraints against temple in capital, allows building of crematorium

28 Oct 2020

Email

The picture shows the veranda of the temple building in Saidpur village, renovated by the CDA. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad/File
The picture shows the veranda of the temple building in Saidpur village, renovated by the CDA. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad/File

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Wednesday ruled that there were no constitutional or Sharia constraints against constructing a temple in Islamabad or any other place in the country.

The ruling was issued in a council meeting held in Islamabad and chaired by chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz earlier in the day.

The CII also allowed the government to hand over the temple as well as its adjoining Dharamshala (community centre) in Saidpur village of the federal capital to the Hindu community "so it can perform religious services as per their beliefs".

“In view of the current population in Islamabad, the ancient temple and the adjoining Dharamshala at Saidpur village be opened to the Hindus and they should be facilitated to reach there to perform religious services as per their beliefs,” the CII said in a statement.

The decision signed by 14 members of the CII has also stated that the Hindus, like all other religious groups in the country, have the constitutional right to have a place to perform last rites of the deceased according to their faith.

“As per this right, it is permitted for the Hindu community in Islamabad to have a suitable place where they can perform last rites of the deceased according to religious instructions,” the CII said. The body also declared that the Hindu community was allowed to build a community centre to hold wedding ceremonies and observe religious festivals under the Constitution and that there was "nothing wrong with it according to Sharia".

Apart from Islamic considerations, the decision was made on the basis of the Constitution and the Liaquat-Nehru Pact of 1950 that led to the establishment of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in Pakistan and a similar entity in India.

The CII chairman explained that the decision had been reached after the council listened to the points of view of various applications — mostly from clerics and those of the Hindu community.

“The decision has been made in light of various provisions of Sharia,” Ayaz said.

The CII also addressed the issue of government funding in its decision. The body pointed out that in Pakistan, there was no tradition in general for the government to provide funds for places of worships owned by private parties and said that the council could not support the idea of providing government funds for this temple.

However, it suggested alternatives to resolve the funding issues for the construction of the temple.

The first possible solution suggested by the council was to make required amendments in the Act of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to meet the finances for needs to execute religious activities.

The CII noted that the ETPB was established in light of the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement in both countries. A similar board in India is responsible for the care of mosques and facilitation of pilgrims visiting various shrines of Muslim saints. Likewise, in Pakistan, the ETPB is responsible for the care of Hindu temples, Gurudwaras belonging to the Sikh community and the provision of adequate facilities to visitors to these places and the pilgrims.

The CII noted that the source of income of the ETPB in Pakistan was the rent collected from abandoned properties that belonged to the Hindu and Sikh communities prior to 1947.

The second possible solution proposed by the CII was to create a block fund for non-Muslim communities. It pointed out that it was the state's responsibility to ensure the welfare and prosperity of the country's citizens, who include Hindus as well.

The government may allocate funds separately and hand it over to the non-Muslim communities, and there is no Sharia constraint regarding the utilisation of that fund by the relevant community.

PTI MNA Lal Chand Malhi welcomed the CII decision and said that the move has proved that the state guarantees the rights to religious minorities in Pakistan.

“After the CII decision, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) should issue the no-objection certificate to the Hindu Panchayat Islamabad to erect a boundary wall at the plot in H-9 sector,” Malhi said.

Hindu Panchayat Islamabad will manage the temple. The Panchayat’s president, Mahesh Chaudhry, said a large number of people from various parts of the country, including Balochistan and Sindh, had shifted to Islamabad, mainly due to insecurity in those areas.

The temple dispute

The PML-N government had 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.

Some other clerics, mainly affiliated with Islamabad's Lal Masjid, JUI-F and Markazi Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadis, objected to the move and termed the government's grant for a temple as "unIslamic".

Opposition for the temple's construction grew after Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a Rs100m grant for its construction in June this year. Weeks later, the CDA stopped the construction of the boundary wall on the plot meant for the temple citing legal reasons.

In July, an application was referred to the CII by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, seeking opinion over allotment of a four kanal plot in H-9/2 to the Hindu community for the establishment of a crematorium, as well as a community centre and a temple. The ministry had also sought the advice of the CII over allocation of Rs100 million by the prime minister for construction of crematorium which would include a temple as well.

An application was also filed in the Islamabad High Court by an individual against the establishment of a cremation site and construction of a temple. The court had deferred the matter and linked it to the CII decision.