Pak religious affairs ministry seeks Islamic body's advice on construction of temple in Islamabad

    Islamabad, Jul 9 (PTI) Pakistan's religious affairs ministry has written to an Islamic body to seek its opinion on the government's funding for the construction of the first Hindu temple in the capital city amid opposition from some Muslim groups, a media report said on Thursday.
    The Krishna temple will come up in a 20,000 sq ft plot in the capital's H-9 administrative division.
    Pakistan's Minister of Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri on Wednesday said there was no problem related to the construction of the temple, but the real issue was whether it could be built with the public money.
    Pakistan government has approved Rs 100 million (Rs 10 crore) for the temple.
    Qadri has now forwarded the case to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Dawn newspaper reported.
    The CII is a constitutional body responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to the Pakistan government.
    In the letter, Qadri sought the council’s opinion on whether the government was allowed to fund the construction of a temple in the city, the report said.
    The letter asked whether the government can build a non-Muslim place of worship using government funds, it said.
    It said that a delegation from the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat and some non-Muslim parliamentarians met with Qadri and sought government funding for the temple’s construction.
    In the letter, the Qadri said his ministry also deals with the Minorities Welfare Fund, which is used for the repair and maintenance of religious sites of minority communities on the basis of recommendations from non-Muslim parliamentarians.
    “However, construction of a new place of worship for the religious minorities was not permissible under the rules,” the letter said, adding that in view of the situation, the application was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office for consideration.
    Parliamentarians and Qadri met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on this matter. The visit was used by some clerics, who opposed the construction of the temple, to create a controversy, according to the letter.
    CII Chairman Qibla Ayaz acknowledged that he had received the ministry’s letter and said it has been forwarded to the council’s research department to formulate an opinion on this question.
    Ayaz said clerics should not protest the matter but should guide the CII on it instead.
    He said it will be taken up during the CII’s meeting scheduled for September, as it takes two to three weeks for the research department to finalise an opinion after holding consultations and seeking public comments if needed.
    Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, told Dawn that the argument regarding the funding for the temple was incorrect.
    “Some people say that a Hindu temple cannot be built with taxes collected from Muslims. That is correct and we agree with it but has any money been spent on the construction of any temple in the country with taxes paid by the Hindu community in 70 years,” he asked.
    “Therefore, the government’s grant of Rs100 million is valid, as it was actually our money,” he said.
    Meanwhile, a protest was also held in support of the temple’s construction at the National Press Club.
    The protesters said the temple should have been built for the city’s Hindu population decades ago and demanded that the government not bow down to pressure from extremists who have been harassing citizens of the country constantly on various pretexts.
    A Pakistani court on Tuesday dismissed three identical petitions challenging the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad.
    A single bench of the Islamabad High Court delivered the judgement, making it clear that there was no bar on the Institute of Hindu Panchayat from building the temple on the land allotted to it, using its own funds. PTI NSA AKJ

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)