ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, July 8, 2020 : A Hindu temple planned for Islamabad, the city’s first, was supposed to be a symbol of tolerance. Instead, violence and controversy have turned it into an emblem of Pakistan’s troubled relationship with its religious minorities. When Pakistan’s former government allotted land for the Shri Krishna Mandir, or Krishna temple, in 2018, Muslim demonstrators quickly camped out on the plot, refusing to allow a Hindu structure to be built in their nation’s capital. But the temple’s Hindu advocates seemed to prevail, and when the temple’s first foundation stones were laid last month, government officials proclaimed it marked the start of a new, tolerant chapter for Pakistan. Days later, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the government to provide about $1.3 million for the temple’s construction, roughly a fifth of what is needed.
Then Muslim clerics stepped in again, and things started changing. Several clerics ruled that no Hindu temple should be built, because Pakistan is a Muslim country. Citizens denounced the government for using their taxes to provide funding for the temple. And media outlets openly campaigned to shut the project down. Under mounting pressure, the government on Friday backtracked from its initial pledge to donate money to the temple’s construction, instead asking for guidance from the Council of Islamic Ideology on whether to give the grant. In a matter of two weeks, the hope surrounding Islamabad’s first Hindu temple was derailed, as were any aspirations that the government of Mr. Khan would deliver on the religious coexistence he had promised when he won elections in 2018.
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