The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed has said the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) has been directed time and again to return the land of Hindu temples to the community. "We will put more efforts to ensure that all such [pieces of] land of the temples [in the country] are returned to Hindu community as per the law," the Supreme Court of Pakistan chief justice said while speaking as a chief guest at the community's Navratri festival at Durga Shiv Mandir inside the Circuit House Hyderabad past Saturday midnight.
Responding to the complaint of chairman Pakistan Hindu Council Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also MNA of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, about Shiv temple's land the CJP said he would review the issue. "The EPTB should have record of land [of this temple]. We will ask them to bring all the record to restore whatever land which belongs to the temple." According to officials, the temple is located in the premises of the district administration. The local authorities claim that it was illegally built on the land of the circuit house and a sanitary worker belonging to the minority community took the initiative of its construction. "... checked official record of the subject matter and found that it has been constructed in the premises of the circuit house Hyderabad which is [an] illegal construction," reads an August 29, 2017, letter written by an executive engineer Provincial Buildings Division to the deputy commissioner. Some years ago as many as 21 staff of the circuit house wrote a letter to the local authorities and named four sanitary workers who work with them for being involved in the allegedly illegal construction.
Meanwhile, the community claims that temple is centuries old and that the land legally belonged to them. The chief justice of Pakistan said the apex court often received the petitions concerning the disputes over lands of the temples and churches. He assured that the court would protect the land of those temples and churches from any illegal occupation. "The minorities have the constitutional right and freedom to practice and proselytize their religions and no one can deny their rights," he said, adding that the minorities should be given all their constitutional rights and the supreme court will ensure the same. "Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had declared even before the independence that all citizens [of Pakistan] will be free to practice their religions and attend their places of worship." The CJP said although he has been invited to attend the inauguration of Teri temple in K-P but his schedule may not allow him to commit a visit.
However, he added, he will sometime later visit that temple as well as Bhoong Sharif temple. Speaking earlier, Vankwani expressed gratitude to the CJP for honouring them by visiting their temple and attending their festival along with his family. He thanked chief justice for taking action on the issue of Teri temple which allowed the community to reconstruct the place. "The CJP has taken important initiatives for restoration of the temples but in Sindh the lands of temples are still being occupied." He claimed that illegal occupation on around 50% of land of the temples could not be removed so far because of lethargic response of the Sindh government. The CJP stayed at the judges rest house in Hyderabad on Saturday night and after visiting the residence of his sister in Latifabad returned to Karachi on Sunday
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