ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) has invited a group of 250 Hindus to visit the country in an attempt to encourage “faith tourism”.
The group will visit the shrine (Samadhi) of Paramhans Ji Maharaaj, a saint who had died at Teri village, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak district, in 1919.
“A number of Hindu pilgrims from India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States will arrive in Peshawar on Jan 1 to visit the Samadhi at Teri,” Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the PHC’s patron, told Dawn.
The Hindu Council has arranged the programme in collaboration with Pakistan International Airlines.
“This is the second time that the council has invited Hindu pilgrims from other countries so that they can see for themselves the existence of a tolerant and pluralistic society in Pakistan,” said Dr Vankwani.
Fifty-four Hindus from India, Canada, Singapore, Australia and Spain had visited the country last month.
The group was led by Shri Satguru Ji Maharaaj Ji, the fifth successor of Paramhans Ji Maharaaj.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmad had celebrated the Diwali festival at Teri temple last month to express solidarity with local members of the Hindu community and to welcome pilgrims from other parts of the country.
According to Mr Vankwani, the PHC invited the CJP only to give a message to “hate-mongers that the state is determined to foil their nefarious designs”.
In his speech at Teri temple, the CJP had assured the Hindu community that they enjoyed the same rights as other Pakistanis. Justice Gulzar Ahmed recalled the Quaid-i-Azam’s Aug 11, 1947, speech in which he had outlined his vision of a Pakistan which would be a model of tolerance and enlightenment.
The shrine at Teri was built in 1920 to honour the memory of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaaj. A mob led by a local leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i- Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) had vandalised it on Dec 30 last year. The temple had come under attack way back in 1997 as well.
The provincial government carried out extensive repairs on the orders of Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed to restore it to its old glory. The apex court told the provincial government in October to recover Rs33 million from the culprits guilty of damaging the monument.
Dr Vankwani had sought the Supreme Court’s help in 2015 to restart the annual pilgrimage to the place.
Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2021