Monday October 18, 2021

Decision on temple controversy should be based on ground realities

Islamabad : Sensitive matters like building a Hindu temple in Islamabad should be dealt with very diligently on the back of careful need assessment, proper planning and adequate homework.

The judgement now is in the hands of the Council of Islamic Ideology, whose verdict not only should be based on facts, figures and ground realities, but also needs to be articulated enough to be used to educate the people.

The thoughts were shared during a session held by the Institute of Policy Studies here on 'Minority Rights in Pakistan in the Specific Context of Hindu Temple Controversy'. Institute’s Executive President Khalid Rahman, who was in the chair, said the temple issue would have attracted much less criticism if it was backed by proper homework.

He said there was no denying the fact that the constitutional rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan should be protected. Rehman, however, said even in Western democracies there are criteria and procedures for religious communities to construct new places of worship.

The panelists raised questions if the population of Hindus in Islamabad qualifies to have a temple built in its prime location. They also looked at the matter from economic, constitutional, humanitarian and international contexts, maintaining that while the development can also be seen as a step towards promoting a soft image of Pakistan, it also remains a fact that there was an adequate space for the less than 3000 Hindu population in Islamabad and Rawalpindi combined to perform their religious rituals and festivals.

The session was also told that there were 428 temples across Pakistan - including 11 in Sindh, four in Punjab, three in Balochistan and two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - out of which only 20 are in actual use and others are dysfunctional because of the absence of Hindu population after the Partition in their vicinity.

The panelists suggested the studying of the articles 20, 36 and 37 of the Constitution of Pakistan to know about the provisions of minority rights in the country's constitution. They called for the examination of the legal obligations of the international law before deciding about the temple matter.

They also highlighted that the Dalit organizations and their leaders – whose population accounts for more than 90 per cent of the four million Hindus in Pakistan and is not even allowed in temples run by upper castes – had also distanced themselves from the Islamabad mandir controversy and had instead demanded the government establish a university in Nagarparkar, Sindh.

Concluding the session, Rahman said that since the matter had been forwarded to the Council of Islamic Ideology for ruling, it should base its judgement on facts, figures and ground realities.

"The CII should take all the concerned stakeholders on board to know about their viewpoint, collect the data about the population of the Hindu communities in twin cities, ascertain how many of them are actually concerned about building the temple in the capital especially when there already exist a few in Rawalpindi, and then if the genuine need is established as a result of all this exercise, all these cogent arguments should not only be used to form the verdict, but also to educate the nation over such issues," he said.