Pakistan’s state-run council of clerics, which advises the government on religious issues, has given its approval for the construction of a new temple for minority Hindus, ruling that Islamic law allows minorities a place of worship.
Lal Malhi, a prominent Hindu leader who is also a member of parliament, applauded Wednesday’s ruling but noted the council also recommended the government not spend public funds directly on the construction of private places of worship.
In a statement, it said there is no tradition of using public funds for construction of non-government worship places in Pakistan. Therefore, the provision of public money for the temple in question cannot be recommended.
The controversy erupted earlier this year when the government allotted land, and promised funding to build a maiden Hindu temple in the capital.
Opposition from several right-wing parties, which objected to the use of public money to build the place of worship, forced the government to refer the matter to the CII.
The council has now suggested two “possible solutions” to the funds dispute: either the relevant laws (Act of the Evacuee Trust Property Board) be amended to meet the finances for needs to execute religious activities, or the government could create a block fund and hand the amount to the minority community.
Disbursement of those funds would be the discretion of the community, and there is no objection to that in accordance with Islamic law, it said.
The council also directed the government to hand over an ancient temple and a community center in the capital to the Hindus.
Currently, there is no functioning temple for Hindus in Islamabad. An ancient temple exists in the capital, but Hindus don’t use it for fear of attacks.
About 3,000 Hindus live in Islamabad with its population of more than 1 million, mostly Muslims.
Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan. Most of the country’s Hindus migrated to India from present day Pakistan in 1947 when India was divided by Britain’s government.
Nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations. They have fought three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.