Islamabad to get first Hindu temple after public outcry

·2-min read
File: Hindu devotees light candles at a temple in India on Diwali  (EPA)
File: Hindu devotees light candles at a temple in India on Diwali (EPA)

Authorities in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad restored a portion of land allotted to the country’s minority Hindu community for the construction of a temple after facing backlash from citizens.

Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) was severely criticised after it said it had cancelled the allocation of a plot where the construction of the capital’s first temple was to take place.

The CDA said this during a hearing of a case in Islamabad High Court on Monday, after which it faced a public outcry.

The notification under which the plot had been cancelled, however, was withdrawn soon after the outcry.

“We hope this clarifies the confusion the land alloted (sic) to the temple stands valid,” the CDA said in a tweet, along with a notice that showed the notification was withdrawn by the agency.

Half an acre of land was allotted to the Hindu community for the construction of a temple, community centre and cremation ground in 2016.

Javed Iqbal, the CDA’s counsel, had told the high court during the hearing that the civic agency had cancelled the allotted plot in February this year because of a delay in the commencement of construction.

Syed Asif Raza, a spokesperson for the CDA, said allotments of all land allotted to various offices, universities and other institutions on which no construction work had started were cancelled due to a government decision.

But the civic officials misinterpreted the cabinet decision and cancelled the plot allotted to the Hindu community.

Mr Raza said the approval had already been given for the construction of a boundary wall on the allotted land and the government’s decision did not apply there.

“Actually, there was no bad intention involved in this case. There was some sort of confusion and misinterpretation of the cabinet decision and when the matter was brought into the notice of high-ups, the allotment was restored immediately,” Mr Raza told the Dawn newspaper.

For a population of about 3,000 Hindus in Islamabad, there is no temple and cremation centre in the national capital. After facing pushback from the minority community, and after a direction from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the CDA demarcated a piece of land in 2016.

In July last year, when the country’s right-wing groups criticised the government for building a Hindu temple with government funding, the CDA had stopped the community from constructing the boundary wall.

However, later in December, the community was allowed to construct the boundary after receiving approval from its state-run council of Muslim clerics.

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