Pakistan Halts Construction of First Hindu Temple After Muslim Hardliners Threaten Violence

Video of a Muslim cleric threatening to chop off the heads of those supporting the construction goes viral on social media.

The construction of what would have been the first Hindu temple in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, was halted after Muslim clerics and political parties said the project was against the spirit of Islam. The construction of the Shri Krishna temple was stopped by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) after petitions were filed in the Islamabad high court by the Muslim clerics.

Hindu Temple Pakistan
Construction halted at Shri Krishna Temple site in Islamabad, Pakistan. White Star

The move has dashed the tall promises made by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan after he came to power in 2018. Khan had vowed to protect the religious freedom of the nearly eight million Hindus in Pakistan.

Why Is the Temple significant for Pakistan?

Despite being a symbol of religious freedom in an otherwise Muslim dominated country, it would have been the first temple for Hindus to be constructed on Pakistan soil since 1947. Even though the project of constructing a Hindu Temple was approved by the former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, it remained blocked due to a number of reasons.

The project that was to come up on an 1,860 sq metre piece of land in Islamabad included Shri Krishna temple, a Hindu crematorium and a community hall. In the absence of any proper place to perform the last rites of their dead, the Hindus, constituting the largest minority groups in Pakistan, have been forced to travel miles to undertake cremations. The Pakistani government had released $6.3 million to fund the project last week, reported The Guardian.

Soon after the controversy over the construction of the temple erupted, a video of a Muslim cleric threatening to behead those supporting the construction of Hindu Temple in Pakistan went viral. The unnamed cleric said that the chopped off heads of temple supporters would be thrown around for the dogs to eat.

The construction of the temple's boundary wall had already started when the CDA halted the project.

Muslim Hardliners Issue 'Fatwa'

Soon after the announcement of the project, the Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid, a political party in Khan's ruling coalition, urged the project to be scrapped, terming it as against the spirit of Islam, reported the outlet.

Terming the construction as a non-permissible act under Islam, the Jamia Ashrafia, a Lahore-based Islamic institution, issued a fatwa against the construction of the temple.

The issue is now pending with Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology. The Dawn quoted a spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Mohammad Imran, stating that the summary for the issuance of grant for the construction had been forwarded to the prime minister. "The prime minister will decide on the funds for the construction of a place of worship for the minority population. The prime minister will decide taking into account all social and religious aspects".

The demand to halt construction was made on July 1 by clerics belonging to the JUI-F, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith and those affiliated with Lal Masjid and other seminaries of the capital, reported the outlet.