After his victory in the general election and assuming as the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan had in 2018 assured religious freedom to the minority in the country. Hindus are the biggest minority in Pakistan. A year before Imran Khan won the parliamentary polls, construction of a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna had been approved with the transfer of land to a local Hindu committee in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Now, an influential religious academic institution has issued a fatwa (religious decree) against it.
1. To be called Shri Krishna Mandir got the nod for construction from the Islamabad Capital Development Authority, which approved the transfer of land to the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad recently. Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a grant of Rs 10 crore for the first phase of construction.
2. The temple is to come up on a plot of 20,000 sq ft in the H-9 area of Islamabad. On June 23, Parliamentary Secretary on Human Rights Lal Chand Malhi performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the temple. Malhi has been appointed to oversee the construction work of the temple.
3. Malhi said the Krishna Mandir would be the first temple to be constructed in Islamabad in a long time. Construction of the temple began with the money donated by devotees as the fund promised by the government is yet to be received.
4. Malhi said there were several pre-1947 era temple structures in Islamabad and its adjoining areas, including one at Saidpur village and at the hill point overlooking the Korang river near Rawal lake. But most of these temples are not in use or have been abandoned.
5. Now, temple construction is facing another roadblock. Lahore-based Islamic institution, the Jamia Asharfia has issued a fatwa against the construction of Krishna temple in Islamabad. The fatwa has declared construction of a new Hindu temple as a “non-permissible” act under Islam.
6. The fatwa has received support from some muftis and other clerics, who support the argument that Islam allows protection and management of religious places belonging to other faiths but prohibits construction of a new place of worship for the followers of other religion than Islam.
7. The Jamia Asharfia is an influential academic institution in Pakistan where people come to study Islam from many countries. It came into being the same year as Partition of India and creation of Pakistan – 1947. Pakistan declared itself an Islamic nation.
8. Reports from Pakistan have quoted Jamia Asharfia leaders as saying that the fatwa is not aimed at opposition to any religious group rather an attempt to clear doubts raised by some beliefs of Islam.
9. At least one person has moved the Islamabad High Court seeking revocation of permission for construction of the Krishna temple in Pakistan. The argument is the same as detailed in the fatwa. Additionally, the petitioner has sought to know whether the government had clearly stated that the concerned land in H-9 area was reserved for a Hindu temple at the time of its acquisition.
10. The high court refused to issue a stay order citing laws that guarantee religious freedom to the minority. But sent notices to the government and other authorities asking them to clarify whether all rules and regulations have been followed in allotting the land for Hindu temple construction and grant of fund for the same.
Construction of a temple in Islamabad has been a long-standing demand of the resident Hindu population, who came to the new capital after its creation in the 1970s. In local reports, Hindu leaders are quoted as saying that the temple at Saidpur (referred to by Malhi) is nothing but a small idol and space is inadequate for a few thousand Hindu devotees in the city.
The Krishna temple complex, according to the proposed plan, will have a cremation site, separate structures for other religious rites and activities. Hindu residents of Islamabad have for long complained about the non-availability of cremation site in the city forcing them to take the bodies to other places for performing the last rites.