Islamabad court dismisses petitions against building new Hindu temple in Pakistani capital

Islamabad court dismisses petitions against building new Hindu temple in Pakistani capital
In this file photo, Pakistani paramilitary soldiers exiting the high court in Islamabad. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 July 2020
Follow

Islamabad court dismisses petitions against building new Hindu temple in Pakistani capital

Islamabad court dismisses petitions against building new Hindu temple in Pakistani capital
  • Says construction of a place of worship place requires mandatory approval of the Capital Development Authority
  • Last week, CDA halted construction of a new Hindu temple in Islamabad in a move decried as discriminatory by rights groups

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday dismissed three petitions filed against the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, local media reported, in a case that has once again put a spotlight on the rights of Pakistan’s minorities.

Last week, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) halted the ongoing construction of a new Hindu temple in Islamabad, which rights activists and members of the Hindu community say is out of pressure from rightwing politicians, media outlets and clerics. The boundary wall of the site was also subsequently torn down by a mob.

Justice Aamer Farooq dismissed objections over the allotment of the temple’s plot to the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat. A CDA representative said construction of the temple was halted because the Panchayat had not adhered to CDA rules, which required submitting a building plan and seeking the Authority’s approval before starting construction.

“Even otherwise Capital Development Authority is entitled to take appropriate action in accordance with the term of the allotment (Clauses 3 and 24 of Allotment letter dated 26.12.2017) and its laws for violation of the terms of allotment, if any,” the court order said. “The fact remains that no construction at present is taking place at the site, in question and is unlikely to commence till compliance is made with terms of allotment and Capital Development Authority laws.”

Petitioners contended that permission and funding by the federal government for the temple was a violation of the constitution; no new place of worship for non-Muslims could be established in light of Hadiths; there were already three temples in Rawalpindi and Islamabad Capital Territory; and allocation and funding by the federal government for a temple was a waste of public money amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The lawyer for the Capital Development Authority said the land allotted was for a temple community center, cremation ground and recreation center, and not just a temple alone. 

The court said there was no bar on the Panchayat constructing the temple as Article 20 of the constitution allowed minorities to profess, practice and propagate their religion with freedom, adding that the Panchayat needed to follow building codes but the construction of a temple itself did not break any laws. 

Minorities make up a small fraction of the 220 million strong Muslim-majority country.