Omer Farooq Khan | TNN
Islamabad: The Islamabad Hindu Panchayat announced on Saturday that it would discontinue the construction of a boundary wall of Shri Krishna Mandir (temple) in the capital city after part of the wall was demolished by a mob of extremist and fundamentalist forces.
Earlier, Pakistan’s government had given in to pressure from religious circles and stopped construction work on the temple in Islamabad. The temple had been a long-standing demand of the minority Hindu community.
“Islamabad Hindu Panchayat, in an emergency meeting held today (Saturday), has announced to discontinue #Krishhna #Temple construction work for a time being following some unpleasant incidents at the site (sic),” Lal Chand Malhi, a PTI National Assembly member, posted on Twitter. “So far the boundary wall was being erected with panchayat resources,” he added. Speaking to DLP, the Hindu lawmaker said community members avoided visiting the place given the tense situation.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA), a body responsible for providing municipal services in Islamabad, had stopped work on Friday on the boundary wall of the Shri Krishna Mandir complex citing legal reasons. According to Hindu Panchayat Islamabad, a joint team of the CDA’s enforcement and building control departments reached the site in H-9/2 sector and halted construction of the temple’s boundary wall.
The plan was originally approved by former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2017. PM Imran Khan had last month sanctioned $1.32 million for the construction of the temple and had directed federal minister for religious affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri to release the funds.
The plan, however, was not welcomed by the country’s extremists and fundamentalist forces. Even the government’s coalition partner, Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), had opposed the construction of a Hindu temple, saying it was against the spirit of Islam. “Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. Construction of a new temple in its capital is not only against the spirit of Islam but also an insult to Riayasat-e-Medina (state of Medina),” said Chaudhary Pervez Ilahi, Speaker of the Punjab Assembly and senior PML-Q leader.
Amid growing pressure, PM Khan’s government stopped construction work, saying it would seek advice from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body mandated to give advice to the government and parliament on religious matters.
Meanwhile, the religious affairs ministry said it does not release funds for construction of minority places of worship but only repairs and renovates existing ones.
The Hindu Panchayat Islamabad told TOI it would approach the CDA on Monday to seek permission to restart construction. “The land was allotted to us by CDA, the government has sanctioned the grant but the money has yet to be released. Work on the boundary wall was started by the panchayat itself,” said Lal Chand Malhi, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
“The boundary wall was necessary as some people, with the support of seminary students, had set up tents on the plot in 2018. It took months for us to get the place cleared,” Malhi said.
The temple complex, according to Malhi, will include a crematorium, accommodation for visitors, a community hall and a parking area spread across four kanals of land.
Pritam Das Rathi, an Islamabad-based retired civil servant, said some 3,000 Hindus — working in government and non-government organisations — were living in the capital city and on its periphery, but there was no temple or cremation ground for them.
Omer Farooq Khan | TNN