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On Pakistan’s National Minorities Day, Islamabad’s Hindus likely to get a place to pray

Capital Development Authority records mention the centuries-old temple had a Dharamshala which was converted into a public toilet after renovation

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(Representational Image) Temple in Saidpur. Image Source: flickr.com
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  • Capital Development Authority records mention the centuries-old temple in Saidpur  had a Dharamshala, which was converted into a public toilet after the renovation
  • The Rama Mandir in Saidpur village was built by Raja Mann Singh in the 1580s
  • The Hindu residents of Islamabad have to go all the way to Rawalpindi to offer their prayers even though there is a temple turned tourist site in Saidpur village

On National Minorities Day in Pakistan, which is on August 11, Hindus in Islamabad might get a place to pray, if the campaign to revive an abandoned Hindu Temple works out well. Pakistan celebrates The National Minorities Day to highlight the contribution and services made by the minority communities towards the growth of the nation.

The Hindu residents of Islamabad have to go all the way to Rawalpindi to offer their prayers even though there is a temple turned tourist site in Saidpur village. They are now planning to revive the temple so that the 850 Hindus living in the city can have a place for religious gatherings, mentioned the indiatoday.in reports.

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The Rama Mandir in Saidpur village was built by Raja Mann Singh in the 1580s. During that time, Saidpur had a significant Hindu population and after the partition in 1947, many left the place and the temple fell into disuse. Later, they were barred from performing religious rituals in the temple.

Capital Development Authority records mention the centuries-old temple had a Dharamshala, which was converted into a public toilet after the renovation. The carvings of Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and Kali in the walls were painted over by the CDA in 2006, mentioned the indiatoday.in reports.

Image Source: indiatoday.intoday.in
Representational Pic. Image Source: indiatoday.in

According to the Express Tribune reports, “the sanctity of the holy place will be restored and Hindu families living in Islamabad will finally have a place to pray,” said PTI lawmaker Lal Chand Malhi, who is leading the campaign. He also added, “First, we will try to force the government and its departments to allow us to make the temple operational. If no response is received, community members, political parties and civil society will open it for prayers.”

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Letters requesting the revival of the temple is likely to be written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan. Apart from that, the issue will also be addressed to Islamabad Mayor Ansar Aziz, who is the custodian of the site, on August 11.

Islamabad Mayor said to the indiatoday.in, he is ready to support the request once he receives it. He also adds that he will be more than happy to help Hindus living in Islamabad to get access to the temple.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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USA, afghanistan, taliban
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)