The Islamabad High Court has dismissed petitions seeking a stop to the construction of the first Hindu temple in the Pakistani capital. The construction, however, is on hold while waiting for recommendations from Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology who advise government policy.
The court ruled that the legal objections to the allotment of the 1,860 square meters of land for the Shri Krishna temple and a cremation site “were invalid.”
The construction of the temple met opposition from different Islamic groups and institutions.
Last week, Lahore-based Islamic institution Jamia Ashrafia issued a fatwa against the construction of the temple, declaring it a “non-permissible” act under Islam, reported The Guardian.
A group of influential Islamic clerics also warned against “severe reaction” if the construction of the temple is permitted.
The ruling political party Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid claimed that the project is “against the spirit of Islam” urging authorities to scrap the plan.
Rights group Amnesty International said a boundary wall of the site where the temple is supposed to be constructed was also torn down by a mob.
Despite the court ruling the building of the temple is not assured due to the government seeking advice from the Council of Islamic Ideology.
“The government has asked for consultation on the issue of whether it can be constructed or not, and whether public funds can be used to do so,” said Imran Bashir of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
There have been no Hindu temples built in Islamabad since Pakistan’s creation in 1947. The construction plan was approved by the central government in 2017. It will be erected with a Hindu crematorium and a community hall for members and visitors of the religious minority.
Hindus in Islamabad have been appealing to the government for a proper place to worship and to cremate their dead. For years, Hindus in the city had to travel outside to perform religious rituals for the dead.
Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the release of US$630,000 to help fund the building project. Khan’s move was part of his promise to protect the religious freedom of eight million Hindus, the largest religious minority in Pakistan.
Omar Waraich, head Amnesty International in South Asia, urged the Pakistani government to “protect the right to freedom of religion and belief for the country’s beleaguered Hindu community.”
“Those who deny a long-marginalized community the right to practice their faith freely not only betray his legacy but also violate the human rights of religious minorities protected under Pakistan’s constitution and its international human rights obligations,” Waraich said in a statement.
Amnesty said that in 2019, in two separate incidents, mobs attacked Hindu properties and places of worship in the southern Sindh province after allegations of “blasphemy” were made against a Hindu school principal and a Hindu veterinarian.
Hindus constitute 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s total population of 212 million.