Minority Hindus in Pakistan have demanded that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government hand over their places of worship to them following allegations of land grab and illegal occupation of the community’s sacred sites.
The All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (APHRM) yesterday staged a protest in Peshawar, demanding an immediate end of the illegal occupation and the alleged selling and leasing out of the religious places by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).
Speaking at the protest, APHRM chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal said that the board had unjustly sold or rented out religious places of the minority community to businessmen.
He said the provincial government should cancel the leases and take their possession and hand them over to the minorities.
“We are opposed to the sale of the attached properties because the worship places are extremely vulnerable and it is duty of Auqaf and archaeology departments to share details of properties and worship places with Hindus and Sikhs and hand over the properties to the minority groups,” he said.
Sarbdiyal said the federal government had formed a 22-member committee to protect the rights of minorities but ironically, minorities had no representation in it.
He warned the sale of attached properties was not acceptable to Hindus. “Hindus have no objection to the shifting of Kashmiri families anywhere or giving them any lucrative place but the sale of entire attached properties should be stopped immediately,” Sarbdiyal said.
Following yesterday’s protest, the KP government in a statement today said that it had made special allocations and takes measures to protect the rights of the minorities.
It said 90 million rupees has been allocated in the provincial Budget this year for the renovation of temples, churches and gurdwaras.
Meanwhile, a government official claimed that the sealing of a Hindu temple and a Sikh gurdwara in the city were aimed at ensuring protection of the places of worship.
ETPB Assistant Administrator Asif Khan told reporters that the government had no intention to bar minorities from performing their religious obligations.
He refuted reports that land grabbers were trying to illegally occupy the properties belonging to Kashmiris and Hindus and Sikhs in Peshawar.
Asif Khan said the property included five places of worship of Hindus and Sikhs and several residential quarters. He said reports about forcing people out of their residences without prior notice were wrong.