Catholic groups have joined activists in condemning authorities for stopping the construction of a Hindu temple in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) last week stopped construction of the boundary wall on the plot meant for the first Hindu temple in the federal capital. Prime Minister Imran Khan has referred the matter to the Council for Islamic Ideology for its advice. The land for the temple had been allotted by the previous government. The move came nearly a week after PM Khan approved a financial grant of 100 million rupees (US$597,000) to build Shri Krishna temple. The government’s move was met with angry social media reactions, legal challenges and a fatwa from Jamia Ashrafia, a leading Islamic religious school, which ruled that Sharia law doesn’t permit the construction of a new temple in an Islamic state. Despite the allotment letter from the CDA, the site has been attacked and vandalized four times since the news of its construction was made public.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the Catholic Church's human rights body in Pakistan, expressed concern over rising incidents of violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan. “It is unfortunate that despite the current Covid-19 pandemic, which is posing its share of challenges in Pakistan, religious intolerance and discrimination sadly in the past few months are on the rise,” stated the commission in its July 7 statement. Referring to the recent halting of construction of the temple, Father Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani), national director of the NCJP, said that “this move surely reflects the lack of acceptance for religious minorities that have been part of this country and region for centuries.” He added: “It undermines the guarantees under Article 20 of the constitution that allow religious minorities the freedom to profess religion and manage religious institutions. The government must work to safeguard the rights of religious minorities as enshrined in our constitution.” Several Pakistani artists have also voiced their concern against discrimination on social media. Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association (PMTA) condemned the government inaction. “If you were powerless, you shouldn’t have started the construction of the temple. Your decision has exposed the issue of respect for religions and defamed the country. God forbid if the same theory promotes in India,” said Catholic professor Anjum James Paul, PMTA chairman, in a Facebook post. “The National Minorities Commission, an ugly stain on Pakistan’s government, cannot speak against injustice in the country.” Meawnhile, Jamaat-e-Islami Youth held a protest opposing the Hindu temple outside Rawalpindi Press Club on July 7. “Islam is the only religion in which minorities have full rights but it is not acceptable to build a temple with the tax money of the people in the capital city, which has a small number of Hindus, as there is already a temple in Saidpur [a village in Margalla Hills near Islamabad] and there are many temples in Rawalpindi,” they stated in a press release. “The claimants should come to their senses because the Prophet had never built a temple or an idol in his life, nor did his companions. Recently, a 23-year-old mosque was martyred in Model Town Humak [in Islamabad] and notices have been issued to seven more mosques.”
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