ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has restored the centuries-old iconic Jain Temple situated in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan’s ancient city and the provincial capital of its Punjab province, officials told NewsDrum.
"Reconstruction of the Jain Temple has been done while decoration is underway. The temple will be opened to the public in two weeks," Sarfraz Abbas, the deputy secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board told NewsDrum over the telephone from Lahore.
Situated in the center of Anarkali Bazar, Lahore’s iconic Bazar which used to be the center of art and culture during the Mughal era, the Jain temple had to face the Muslim’s wrath in the wake of the attack on India’s famous Babri mosque in 1991. Unfortunately, Jain Temple was one of the dozen temples in Pakistan which came under attack by a Muslim mob in 1992. As much as 90 percent of the Jain temple was demolished following the attack while its main canopy was the structure that escaped the horror and wrath of Pakistani Muslims who had demolished a number of temples just to take revenge on the Babri mosque.
As a matter of fact, no Jains live in Pakistan today as the majority of the ancient Jain community had left Pakistan soon after the partition except for a few families who had stayed in Pakistan. However, remaining had been living under constant threat of growing radicalisation in Pakistan. Soon after Muslim’s attacks on various temples across Pakistan in 1992, the remaining families of Jains immediately left Pakistan and settled in the Europe and USA, officials said.
For decades, the majority of the temples which had been demolished in 1991, were never restored. Despite repeated calls made by the human rights activists and concerned communities, governments in Pakistan didn’t pay attention to the demolished temples until the Chief Justice of Pakistan issued directives to the government in December 2021 to restore the temples including the Jain temple according to the original design.
Following the directives from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had immediately released funding for the reconstruction of the temple paving the way for reconstruction work to begin in January 2022. Authorities took almost five months to restore Lahore’s ancient Jain temple in its original shape. However, minor work including decoration is still underway which may take a few weeks to complete reconstruction and decoration.
“Authorities had taken elaborative measures to restore the temple in its original shape. It was a daunting task which has been accomplished almost,” a senior official from ETPB told the ‘News Drum’ on the telephone from Lahore.
A spokesperson of the Evacuee Trust Property Board confirmed to this correspondent that authorities are planning to open the temple to the community within a few weeks.
“Reconstruction has been done according to the genuine design of the temple. Reconstruction had begun earlier this year following the original design. It is ready to be opened for the public within a few weeks,” a spokesperson of the ETPB told NewsDrum.
It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan's federal government has recently issued directives for the restoration of hundreds of temples situated across the country. Officials said the Imran-Khan-led regime had decided in 2019 to restore all the temples. The incumbent government has vowed to go ahead with the plan
Official records of the Evacuee Trust Property Board have shown that majority of Hindus left Pakistan during Partition, many temples were lost to encroachment; even in places where some Hindu families stayed back.
“Sadly the influential people of the area muscled in and occupied temple land. Several temple complexes ended up being used as a common facility and some even became seminary madrassas and schools. It is still a challenge for the government and concerned institutions in Pakistan to recover their lands and restore them,” Mirza Haider Ali, a Lahore-based historian, and social worker told NewsDrum.
Last year in November, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed inaugurated the reconstructed Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj temple in Karak, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province, on the occasion of Diwali. Part of the Temple was demolished in December 2020 after a mob led by a local cleric and others had attacked the temple.
Currently, as many as 20 temples across Pakistan are being reconstructed according to the original design which has sent pleasant waves across Pakistan’s Hindu community.
“While Jain temple in Lahore will be reopened to the public in a few weeks, work is under progress to restore various temples across Pakistan,” the spokesperson of Evacuee Trust Property Board said.