And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty. (Al Quran 22:40/41)
By Tariq Naqash
MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan on Monday ordered repair and rehabilitation of the worship places of minorities across the liberated territory.
He gave this direction at a high level meeting after paying a visit to a Hindu temple in Madina Market in the heart of the city.
According to officials, around 13-marla land, belonging to the pre-partition era temple, was allotted to a migrant from occupied Jammu several decades ago, in what many people believed was an unethical step on the part of the authorities dealing with allotment of evacuee property.
Of all these years, hardly any step was taken by any department to ensure protection of this or any other worship place of non-Muslims.
However, the district administration and AJK’s staff-starved Tourism and Archaeology Department were alerted after the allottee started building shops on the entire land around the Madina Market temple.
During the visit, premier Haider was told that a boundary wall was being erected on all four sides of the temple to protect it from further encroachments.
The prime minister entered into the conical shape dome through a four feet high door to see for himself the condition of walls and roof from inside.
He asked Director General Tourism and Archaeology Department Pirzada Irshad Ahmed and deputy commissioner Muzaffarabad Badar Munir, who were accompanying him on the occasion, to find experts of stone masonry for perfect repair and rehabilitation of the temple.
He also asked them to contact Hindu community leaders in Pakistan to look into the possibility of giving the control of temple to them.
Later, while chairing the high level meeting on this and some other allied issues, the prime minister maintained that the governments on this side of the divide were under an obligation to preserve the worship places left abandoned by the Hindu and Sikh communities in 1947.
Immediate steps should be taken for repair and rehabilitation of all holy places of non-Muslims and other heritage sites, he directed.
In this regard, he also called for rehabilitation and renovation of Muzaffarabad’s famous Red Fort along the left bank of River Neelum. He asked the officials to bring a draft law to ensure protection of historical sites and structures across the state.
Prime Minister Haider also directed the officials to establish state of the art museums in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur.
One portion of these museums should showcase the history of Jammu and Kashmir State with particular reference to the heroic freedom struggle through rare pictures and documents and the other portion should house artefacts and antiquities, he said.
He said since different individuals and institutions had offered him donation of precious objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest, the museums should therefore be made operational in a short span of time.
The meeting was attended among others by secretary information, tourism and archaeology Midhat Shahzad and secretary physical planning and housing Sharif Dar, secretary Jammu Kashmir Liberation Cell Mansoor Qadir Dar.