A one-man commission constituted by the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2019 to oversee implementation of its judgement on minority rights has in its report submitted last week revealed a shocking state of some of the most revered Hindu sites in the country.
The Shoaib Suddle Commission told the highest appellate court of the country that the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has “failed” to maintain most of the ancient and holy sites of the minority community. Headquartered in Lahore, ETPB was established in 1960 to look after the evacuee trust properties/land left over by the Sikh/Hindus who migrated to India during partition in 1947-48.
Pakistan continues to remain one of the hardest places to live for minorities, especially the Hindus who are facing extreme persecution at the hand of state authorities and have almost no places of worship – and to carry out the last rites of their dead – left now.
“The commission visited Katas Raj Mandir in Chakwal on January 6 and Prahlad Mandir in Multan on January 7. The report presents a general picture of decay and obliteration of two of the four most revered evacuee sites in Pakistan and their photographs have been attached to the report,” reported leading Pakistani daily Dawn.
After a Hindu temple was vandalised and set ablaze by a mob in a village named Teri of Karak district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on December 30 last year, Gulzar Ahmed, the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s SC, had admitted that the incident had caused ‘international embarrassment to Pakistan’.
He had directed the EPTB to submit details of all functional and non-functional temples and gurdwaras across Pakistan which come under its purview. Initially ignoring the court diktat, local media reported that EPTB finally responded on January 25 but evaded many details.
It was reported that ETPB in its letter stated that out of 365 mandirs only 13 were being managed by them, leaving responsibility of 65 with the Hindu community, and practically abandoning the rest of 287 to the land mafias.
“It is indeed strange that even in this age of technology, the ETPB has yet to get the evacuee properties geo-tagged,” the report highlighted, according to Dawn.
IndiaNarrative.com has reported extensively on how the minorities of Pakistan – including the Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Shias, Ahmadis – are struggling for survival while tackling mass conversions, rapes, forced marriages, extra-judicial killings and much more which have made the country one of the worst violators of human rights in the world.
The region once had a sizable population of Hindus the 1998 census reported approximately 6.5 per cent of Sindhi population to be Hindu but with the government failing to protect the rights of the minorities, often acting hand in glove with the attackers, the numbers have fallen to unimaginable levels.
Based on the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which had accused Pakistan of engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act, the US government had redesignated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, in December.
Much before the shameful act of Karak, 2020 had witnessed a series of attacks on Hindus and a handful of temples now left in Imran Khan’s ‘naya’ (new) Pakistan.
In June, a Hindu temple was converted into a mosque in Golarchi, Sindh. Along with it happened the conversion of over a 100 Hindus to Islam. The month before, similar scenes were witnessed at Bahawalpur when an entire colony of minority Hindu community was razed to the ground.
July saw demolition of under-construction Shri Krishna Mandir in Islamabad, just a few days after its ground-breaking ceremony. It was supposed to be the first temple for Hindus in the Pakistani capital.
In August, a pre-partition Hanuman temple in Lyari, Karachi, was turned into rubble by the bigots and so were over two dozen homes of Hindus in the area. Desecration of another Hindu temple in Sindh’s Tando Allahyar and the worshippers mercilessly beaten by fundamentalists happened in September.
It was followed by the vandalization of Ram Peer Mandir at Badin in Sindh.
“Out of 428, only 20 mandirs are left in Sindh now,” Pakistan’s human rights activist Anila Gulzar had mentioned last year. After demolition, the Islamists turn ancient temples into mosques or even vehicle parking lots.
Pakistani agencies, if under severe pressure, arrest the ‘culprits’ to fool international human rights organisations and release them after a few days labeling them as ‘mentally sick’ who had no idea about what they were doing.
While reports, like the one submitted by Dr. Shoaib Suddle Commission, suggest “collaborative efforts” in renovation of damaged holy sites, perhaps everyone knows that things have gone past the point of no return.
So much so that the small Hindu community is demanding an extensive security cover on March 28 to celebrate the festival of Holi at the ancient Prahlad Temple in Multan which has been left in a state of apathy and ruins.
After the Multan commissioner refused to make elaborate arrangements saying that “celebrating Holi will create a security situation in the city”, the top judges of Pakistan had to step in once again, ordering that the Punjab Chief Secretary and IG should oversee security bandobast themselves.
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