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From dream to reality

Opinion

January 17, 2020

Recently, I read an article appeared on the website of UK's most renowned journal, 'The Independent', with the tagline: "Let's hope that Hindus will return to our village".

Expressed in simple and clear style, the article by Pakistani journalist A Waseem Khattak was written in the context of the recent revival of the temple of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj, located at Terri, Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The article also succeeded to refresh my memories of a few years ago when I had to approach the Supreme Court in order to ensure respect for the said sacred place.

Shri Maharaj dedicated his entire life to serve the humanity. Due to his kind nature, his 'aasharam' was always full of people seeking eternal peace and spiritual satisfaction. However, after the partition in 1947, a large number of the local Hindu population had to migrate.

Quite a few from the patriotic Hindu community, in response to Quaid-e-Azam's appeal during his August 11 speech, had decided to not migrate and declared Pakistan their 'dharti mata' (motherland). Till today, the Pakistani Hindu community is contributing in every field of life for the betterment of society.

No doubt, the Partition era was a most unforgettable period of our history when hate policies of foreign imperialists resulted in widening gulfs between the hearts of innocent people. Even today, the 'divide and rule' policy introduced by the former colonial power is raising a sense of insecurity among minorities of both sides. However, after Partition, Liaquat Ali Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru signed a bilateral agreement known as the Liaquat-Nehru Accord. On the occasion, it was also decided by the top leadership that Indian Muslim citizens would be given charge of Muslim holy places in India. Similarly, Pakistani Hindu nationals would be given responsibility at the governmental level for ensuring the protection of non-Muslims' sacred places, mostly belonging to the Hindu community, across the country.

Since independence, India used to appoint a Muslim minister to look after Waqf properties. However, the situation in Pakistan is entirely different as the most important national institution, the Evacuee Trust Property Board, is in dire need of a well-qualified Hindu chairperson since day one. Due to this reason, the board seems to fail at protecting the religious places of non-Muslims and on various occasions, news reports about corruption are emerging on the media.

According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, as many as 1750 out of 1800 Hindu temples and gurdwaras are not functional, and either need maintenance or are illegally encroached. This is why I am leading a campaign to appoint a well-qualified Hindu chairperson of the ETPB. Whenever I raise a voice against this injustice, I am told that there is no Hindu population around the said temples. Thus, there is no need to open the temples. However, such baseless narrative is denied in the recently-published article in 'The Independent'. According to the writer, the opening of the Terri Temple is indeed a ray of hope for the local population. Locals are quite confident that the arrival of Hindu pilgrims would open many doors of development and prosperity in the area.

In my view, followers of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharj are very interested in playing a pivotal role for the betterment of society. We must not forget that every religion teaches respect for the sacred places of other faiths. The history of the Subcontinent discloses that our region was once peaceful and prosperous due to interfaith harmony and love for all. Even today, all those countries where respect for humanity prevails are considered highly peace-loving destinations to visit.

The restoration of the Terri Temple was just a dream a few years ago, but today it has become a reality. Having experienced worldwide appreciation over the bold initiative of the present government, regarding the Kartarpur Gurdwara, we now must open the Shri Param Hans Temple as well for international tourism. It would transform remarkablythe development landscape of this under-developed area and increase tourism prospects for the country as a whole.

In the next stage, the Hinglaj Mata Temple in Balochistan and the Prahladpuri Temple in Multan must be opened for pilgrims. Such steps would also play a key role in stabilizing the national economy.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani