In the “secular” Pakistan of Jinnah’s dreams, stories of temple destruction cry out

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah saw the dream of making Pakistan a secular country that will give equal rights to all religions. His first presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 assured him: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You can belong to any religion, caste or creed – it has nothing to do with the business of state. “

According to Jinnah, the Pakistan of the future would follow the fundamental principles according to which “all the citizens of the country are equal, that there will be no discrimination, that there will be no distinction between one community and another and no discrimination. between a caste or a creed. and another’.

In this land of Jinnah’s dreams, very few Hindu temples remain and these temples also face frequent attack, desecration and destruction as no action is taken against those involved.

Lahore had around 40% Hindus and Sikhs according to the 1941 census. This means that the city had many temples and gurdwaras. The situation was similar throughout Pakistan, including the part that became Bangladesh in 1971. Today, the country has only 13 operational Hindu temples managed by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) of Pakistan, l Pakistani government institution that manages religious institutions and festivals of the country’s minority community.

Oddly enough, the ETPB ignores Pakistan’s minorities to appoint official board members, although in theory it works for their religious institutions.

Pakistan has never cared about minorities and that is a well known truth. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “the government of Pakistan has consistently enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuse by non-state actors.” There has been a sharp increase in targeted killings, blasphemy cases, forced conversions and hate speech targeting religious minorities, including Ahmadis, Shia Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, USCIRF adds .

On August 4, another Hindu temple was desecrated in this country. The temple in Bhong city, in the Rahim Yar Khan district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, saw a radicalized crowd brandishing religious slogans that damaged idols and destroyed temple property.

But what is more ridiculous this time is the fact that Pakistan has decided to blame India and not its Pakistani citizens, even for desecrating a Hindu temple, as it does after never committing of attacks there. And as always, no action will be taken against these radicals.

Although the Supreme Court of Pakistan has heard the case and ordered the restoration of the temple, nothing significant is expected to happen. Pakistan’s Minorities Commission submitted a report in April to Pakistan’s Supreme Court on the poor situation of minority religious institutions in the country.

According to the report it submitted, the ETPB only manages 13 of the 365 temples in the country. Sixty-five temples are left to the management of the Hindu community which regularly sees attacks from the mobs while the rest of the temples have simply been abandoned, to be exploited by the earthly mafia. According to reports, even ancient sacred temples that are centuries old are in poor condition. The ETPB has totally failed, the report adds.

Under international pressure for a hostile attitude towards minorities, in an attempt to convey a positive message, Pakistan decided a few years ago to build a Hindu temple for Lord Krishna in its capital Islamabad and took responsibility for ‘develop the land and donate funds for construction.

By the way, according to Pakistani media, there are around 3,000 Hindus in Islamabad, but they don’t have any Hindu temple to pray for. True, Islamabad has a Ram temple built in the 16th century, but the temple is only used as a tourist spot now. Hindus are not allowed to pray there and all idols have been removed.

So, besides promoting religious harmony, it was a welcome decision also as a new Hindu temple or fourth new Hindu temple in Pakistan since its independence could have become the first temples for Hindus in the Pakistani capital.

But it couldn’t be. Under the influence of radicals who led violent protests against it and destroyed its partially constructed wall, the government eventually had to stop construction of the temple. Construction of the temple was only allowed in December 2020 after the Pakistani government decided not to fund it. Now it is built only by Hindus from Islamabad.

Three other Hindu temples in Pakistan are being built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). These are the temples of Lord Krishna, located in Karachi, Larkana in Sindh and Hyderabad in Sindh. But the construction of these temples also sparked protests.

Although Pakistani propaganda says it will restore 400 Hindu temples, more and more Hindu temples are frequently desecrated or destroyed. In August 2020, an ancient Hanuman temple and the homes of 20 Hindu families associated with it in Karachi were demolished. In October 2020, a Ram temple in Sindh was vandalized. In December 2020, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a century-old Hindu temple was once again destroyed by the radicalized mob. This year in March, a century-old temple in Rawalpindi, which was undergoing renovation, was attacked by a mob vandalizing temple property. The list goes on with zero punishment for those involved.

In 2014, an organization, the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM), released an investigative report. The investigation report found that 95% of the temples in Pakistan since 1990 have been destroyed or damaged. Of the 428 places of worship, only 20 remained operational while 408 temples were converted either into commercial properties or residential establishments. Of the 20 temples, 11 were in Sindh, 4 in Punjab, 3 in Balochistan and 2 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The demolition of Babri Masjid in India has only accelerated the pace of temple demolition in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Around 1,000 temples have been targeted or destroyed on their own in Pakistan and the 2014 PHRM survey results continue to be reflected in 2021 as well. Of 20 temples operational in 2014, Pakistan has only 13 temples managed by the ETPB.

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