The Amnesty International has urged Pakistan to take back decision stopping the construction of a temple in Islamabad.
Pakistan’s authorities must protect the right to freedom of religion and belief for the country’s beleaguered Hindu community, including the construction of temples to exercise that right, Amnesty International said today.
“Everyone has a right to freedom of religion or belief, a right that is guaranteed in Pakistan’s constitution and its international obligations. Halting the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad is an unconscionable act of bigotry that must be reversed immediately,” said the organization.
The human rights organization’s call came as authorities in Islamabad capitulated to pressure from a discriminatory campaign mounted by politicians, media outlets and clerics to halt the construction of a rare temple in the Pakistani capital. The boundary wall of the site where the temple is supposed to be constructed has also been torn down by a mob.
“The respect for the right to freedom of religion was promised to Pakistan’s Hindus by the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Those who deny a long-marginalized community the right to practise 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,” said Omar Waraich, Head of South Asia at Amnesty International.
“Pakistan claimed positive global attention last year when it opened the Sikh temple at Kartarpur to pilgrims from India. By caving into hateful pressure, it now threatens to reverse that achievement and deepen the discrimination that Pakistan’s Hindu community faces,” said the statement released by the Amnesty International.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has made repeated commitments to protect Pakistan’s religious minorities. In February 2020, he said: “I want to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship will be dealt with strictly. Our minorities are equal citizens of the country.”
“Prime Minister Imran Khan must lend his commitments to religious freedom for all some weight and ensure that Pakistan’s Hindus and other religious minorities are able to practise their faith freely and without fear,” said Omar Waraich.
According to the media reports, the government last week decided to consult the Council of the Islamic Ideology (CII) on the sensitive issue as the construction work at the site of Hindu temple in Sector H-9/2 has also been stopped for want of a building plan.
The government will seek guidance and consultation from the CII and also respect the opinion of religious circles and leaders in this connection, the spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony had earlier said.
The plot measuring 3.89 kanals was allotted by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on December 21, 2017, following the CDA board’s decision taken at its meeting on December 9, 2016.
Hindus constitute Pakistan’s largest non-Muslim minority, estimated at between two and four per cent of the population. They include members of parliament, a former chief justice, military officers, and prominent names in the arts.
In a landmark speech on religious freedom, Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah said in August 1947:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”