- Why drag in the CII?
By turning over the question of the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad to the Council of Islamic Ideology, the government is not only abdicating an important responsibility, but is also providing a reminder of the Zia era, which seems responsible for the perversion of religious sentiment which made it inevitable that there should be such an ignoring of the Quaid-e-Azam’s injunction, made right at the inception of Pakistan, to allow religious freedom for minorities.
It does not seem very sensible for the government to fail to take a decision according to the law and the Constitution, but instead to refer the matter to the CII for a decision according to Shariah. It should not be forgotten that perhaps the most important religious question so far, that of what to do about Qadianis, was not referred to the CII for decision, but was tackled by Parliament itself. It should be remembered that whatever the merits of the final decision, it did require a constitutional amendment, something which the CII could not have undertaken, its jurisdiction being at best recommendatory. While the Islamic provisions might be a relevant guide to the direction that public sentiment might take, it is for the government to take a decision based on the law of the land as based on the Constitution, not the recommendations of a body which is itself a creation of that Constitution. The government must not cave in to the kind of obscurantist and formalistic religiosity represented by the Zia era. It is perhaps a coincidence that the reference was made on the 43rd anniversary of Zia’s coup, but it is symbolic of how much the PTI represents that regime.
The controversy over the temple seems problematic, especially since the government did not see any need to refer the question of what to do about the Kartarpur Corridor to the CII. The government is laying itself open to charges of discriminating between religions, of being sure enough about a Sikh Gurdwara to take decisions itself, but uncertain enough about a Hindu Mandir to require CII intervention. At a time when Muslims are facing unprecedented and systemic persecution in India, Pakistan should refrain from the kind of anti-Hindu action that might appear an attempt at a tit-for-tat response either.