Out of 428 minorities’ places of worship in the country, 408 have been converted into toy stores, restaurants, government offices and schools after 1990, a survey has found.
Another shocking figure disclosed in the survey conducted by the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM) was that only 20 Hindu temples out of the 428 places of worship are operational.
“The remaining places of worship have been leased for commercial and residential purposes by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), said PHRM Chairman Haroon Sarab Diyal. The 135,000 acres of land owned by around four million Hindus is now under ETPB’s control.
Representatives of the Hindu community also wrote to all the chief ministers of the four provinces but have not received a response yet, Diyal added. He urged the government to hand over these religious places to the Hindu community to mitigate their resentment and fear of being forced to leave their homeland.
The documents also allege that Frontier Constabulary officials, with the help of the ETPB, occupied the Shamshan Ghaat, also in Dera Ismail Khan. The Hindu community is unable to cremate their dead because of the unavailability of Shamshan Ghaat and is forced to bury them in a graveyard shared my members of other faiths.
A Hindu temple in district Bannu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, is now a well-known sweets shop. Meanwhile, the Holy Shiv Temple in Kohat has been converted into a government primary school.
Government Girls High School, Peshawar Cantt, now stands where a historical Hindu temple used to be; other historic temples such as the Asamai temple has been closed down in the K-P capital.
Meanwhile, Guru Duwara Gali, a Sikh religious place, has been converted into a garments shop in Abbottabad.
In the federal capital, Islamabad, the Raam Kunde Complex of Temples at SaidPur Model village is now a ‘picnic site’. A second temple at Rawal Dam, Islamabad, has been shut down and the Hindu community believes that it is going to dilapidate day by day without being handed over to them.
In Punjab, a Hindu temple was demolished and reconstructed as a community centre in Rawalpindi, while in Chakwal, ten famous temples collectively known as Bhuwan are being used by the local Muslim community for commercial purposes, despite being handed over to the Hindus.
“Even if we have control of the temples, local residents dump oil drums, utensils and animals around them,” complained Diyal.
However, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousaf assured that the Evacuee Trust has already been directed to gather the data pertaining to all religious places owned by minority communities. “At least, [all this] did not happen during our government’s tenure,” he said when he was informed of the survey’s findings. “I’ll take up this matter with minorities’ leaders. It’s a serious matter.”
A committee will be constituted to address these concerns, he routinely added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2014.