All religious minroties in Pakistan are the subject of discrimination on a daily basis. Some minorities suffer more than others at various times as issues surface that affect their daily lives, and one such is the reconstruction of a Hindu temple in Karak, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The Hindu community has filed a petition in the Supreme Court saying that the K-P government has flouted the orders of the apex Court by failing to reconstruct the shrine as was directed. The shrine is of particular importance to Hindus as it stands on the burial site of one of their saints who died in Karak in 1919. It was a place of pilgrimage until it was badly damaged by extremists in 1997 and then occupied by a mufti. The dispute has dragged on ever since.
A ruling by the apex Court earlier this year resolved the matter legally in favour of the Hindu community, and there was quiet celebration at the time that the ruling was symbolic of religious harmony in the province. The K-P government laid down five conditions under which it would reconstruct the shrine, and has now pleaded to the Court that it is in compliance with its order and that work is underway. The Hindu community begs to differ.
If — as seems possible — the K-P administration is dragging its feet over getting the work done, we are not in the least surprised. There is a long and shameful history in Pakistan of the worship places of a range of faiths and minority groups being defaced and abused, occasionally destroyed, and an obvious reluctance on the part of the authorities to redress the grievances of minority groups that protest as a result. There is a steady leakage outwards of Pakistani people who belong to a religious minority and there is nothing to indicate that the government, provincial or federal, has any desire to curb the trend. The dispute is emblematic of the extremist narrative that has come to dominate public discourse and we expect no early positive resolution.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015.
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