By Our Staff Reporter
Pakistan’s state-run council of clerics, which advises the government on religious matters, gave its approval Wednesday to the building of a new temple for the Hindu minority, and the ruling Islamic law gives them a place of worship.
Lal Malhi, a prominent Hindu leader who is also a member of Parliament, applauded the ruling but noted that the Council also recommended that the government not spend public money directly on the construction of private places of worship.
The decision of the Council of Islamic Philosophy comes after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan unexpectedly halted the building of the temple in the capital of Islamabad in June. Khan’s decision came in the midst of threats from radical Muslims who considered the building of the temple a blasphemous act.
Some radicals had threatened to try to put an end to the building of the temple by intimidation, raising tensions. Khan turned to the council to determine if public funds could be used for building purposes. He had pledged $600,000 for the building of the temple.
It was not immediately clear on Wednesday that Khan would follow through with the provision of funds in the light of the decision of the Council. However, the ruling of the Council left open the possibility that money could be distributed to the Hindu community to be used as it sees fit. Khan, who has pledged equal rights for minorities, is expected to issue a formal order to allow the construction of the temple.
At present, there is no functioning temple for the Hindus in Islamabad. An ancient temple exists in the capital, but it is not used by Hindus for fear of attack. Approximately 3,000 Hindus live in Islamabad with a population of more than 1 million, mainly Muslims.
Muslims and Hindus usually live peacefully together in Pakistan, but there have been instances in which Hindu girls have been forcefully converted to Islam. Most of the country’s Hindus migrated to India from Pakistan today in 1947, when India was split by the British government.
Pakistan and India have a tradition of bitter ties with nuclear-armed rivals. They fought three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them but claimed by both in its entirety.