The Lahore High Court issued notices to respondent functionaries of the federal and provincial governments to submit replies on a petition for restoration of Jain temples in Lahore and Gujranwala and issuance of postage stamps to honour Bhagat Singh.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the LHC also directed the Punjab chief secretary to hear petitioner Barrister Jawaid Iqbal Jafree’s contentions on May 26 on these issues and issue a speaking order within one month. The court adjourned the hearing until June 26. Jafree named Punjab chief secretary, federal cabinet secretary, ministry of religion affairs secretary and Pakistan Post director general respondents in his petition.
He said the Supreme Court of Pakistan had repeatedly observed that religious minorities’ rights could not be violated. He said Islam gave the world concepts of due process of law and equal protection of law for one and all without discrimination.
He said in Gujranwala butchers had opened shops in a Jain temple, which was part of the architectural and cultural heritage of Pakistan, besides being the worship place of a religious minority. He said this heritage was being dismantled, distorted and maligned . The lawyer said that he had sent thousands of complaints to various authorities in this respect since 1985 but no action had been taken.
He said that Jains were peace-loving, non-violent and hardworking people. The petitioner said the Jain temple in Old Anarkali had been grossly violated and politically sponsored land mafia had opened shops there. Jain temples in other parts of Pakistan were also being desecrated and violated, the lawyer stated. Churches, pagodas, and other places of worships for non-Muslims had been encroached upon and desecrated which was shameful and a violation of constitutional guarantees, he added.
He requested the court to direct the respondents to protect the Jain temples and other places of worship and restore the Jain Mandir in Anarkali. He also requested the court to order that encroachers are expelled from the Jain temple in Gujranwala.
He said Jains and Hindus should be allowed to visit their temples and perform their rituals. He also prayed that one Jain pandit should be allowed to reside in every province to look after the temples.
Jafree also asked the court to issue directions to the government to declare Bhagat Singh a national hero and order Pakistan Post to issue commemorative stamps to honour him.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2014.
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