ABBOTABAD: The temple of Sheranwali Mata in Havelian, dating back to the 18th century, has been protected from being demolished after the Peshawar High Court Abbottabad bench granted a stay order against changes in its structure on Thursday.
“There are some Hindu families in the district who do not have a place of worship,” Sham Lal, the petitioner who is a retired Pakistan Army employee, told The Express Tribune. Sham’s family has been living in the area since before 1947. He added that the temple should be handed over to the Hindus of the area so that they can repair and renovate it.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board, with the consent of the district administration, had rented the temple out to a retired employee of the revenue department who reportedly wanted to demolish the structure and construct a commercial plaza in its place.
Therefore, the petition was filed under Article 22 and Article 36 of the Constitution that say that every citizen shall have the freedom to practice their religion and that the state will protect the legal rights of minorities. This was said by Zafar Iqbal Advocate, who is the counsel for the petitioner.
The Sheranwali temple stands in a residential area and consists of 18 rooms. It has a market value of Rs22 million. There are over five temples in Haripur and several in Abbottabad and Mansehra. However, some of them are in dire straits while others have been turned into business centres and government offices.
The bench comprising Justice Qalandar Ali Khan and Justice Lal Jan Khattak issued the stay order against the demolition or changes in the present structure of the temple.
Iqbal told The Express Tribune Sham and his family are citizens of the country and that they should be allowed the freedom to practise their religion as per the Constitution. “Sham has two sons, Roghan Lal and Ravi Lal, both of whom are Pakistan Army accountants.”
Not only does Sham have a decades-old relation with the area, he is also a priest at Shiva temple in Mansehra and participates with fervour in Hindu religious festivities every year.
However, since the custody of the Sheranwali Mata temple has to be negotiated, yet another court session regarding the matter has to be held; the date of which has not been fixed as yet.