ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered the Punjab government and Bestway Cement Factory to fill up the pond of the Katas Raj temples in Chakwal within a week.
A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, is conducting a suo motu hearing based on media reports that the Katas Raj pond is drying out due to water consumption by nearby cement factories that are sucking water through a number of drill bores which have reduced the subsoil water level and the use of subsoil water by domestic users.
The bench expressed anger over the continued absence of Bestway Cement’s lawyer, Babar Sattar. Bestway is one of the four major cement factories located in the area.
The bench also directed the Punjab government to provide details of conditions under which authorities allowed the construction of cement factories in the area.
The prosecution claimed that the cement factories in the Katas Raj temple area posed risks of breast cancer and respiratory diseases among people living nearby.
“We will not allow the cement factories to operate at the cost of people’s health,” the chief justice declared.
On Tuesday, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had told the SC that idols of Hindu deities had been removed from the temples of Shiri Ram and Hanuman, along with other Hindu temples, after the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992. The SC expressed dismay over the absence of idols in the Sri Ram and Hanuman temples in the temple complex and had sought an explanation from the ETPB in this regard. The court was perturbed to learn that Hindu pilgrims who visited the holy site had to bring their own idols to perform their rituals.
In a written response submitted by ETPB Chairman Siddiqul Farooq, the department said that the temples had been shut down for fear of a backlash in the wake of Babri Mosque’s destruction.
Later the authorities had requested some Indian political leader to donate some idols but it was not granted, he added. He said the temples were then locked up to prevent desecration that might be caused by jackals and bats in the area.
The chairman also claimed that no religious services are held in Shri Ram and Hanuman temples since they are archaeological sites. The Shiv Ling (an idol of Hindu deity Shiva) was present in all temples where people come to worship, he said.
Farooq told the court that in 2006, the Punjab Archaeology Department had taken “complete control” of the temples.