Secularism in Pakistan is a joke. India’s ‘Aman ki Aasha’ brigade – which releases its ‘love for Pakistan’ hormones during cricket matches between the two nations – may ignore this reality, but even the government of Pakistan shows no respect for any religion other than the official one.
This is why minorities in Pakistan have only two choices if they want to live a respectable life: 1. Convert, or 2. Leave the country. If they do not do that, they will either live their lives in their pitiable state or get killed by fundamentalists.
One classic example, among the many, of the government’s apathy towards minorities is how the government ignored the appalling state of a very famous ancient temple.
The Varun Dev temple is located in Manora in Pakistan’s Karachi district of Sindh. Compared to other parts of the country, Karachi is ‘secular’ and Hindus are more in number in Sindh than anywhere else in Pakistan.
The temple is approximately 1000 years old and is dedicated to Lord Varuna (the lord of the seas in Hinduism). It is probably the only temple and certainly the oldest and largest dedicated to the Hindu god in the entire Indian sub-continent.
Obviously, therefore, the temple should be a heritage symbol for Pakistan. The truth is shocking. It was reported by Daily Times in 2008 that a part of the temple was being used as a toilet. Yes, a toilet!
“When the temple was open for worshippers, a festival of ‘Lal Saien Varun Dev’ was celebrated by the Hindu community in the 1950s. Now the mandir’s rooms and premises are used as a toilet. This is a big insult to the Hindu community. Nobody respects the rights of the minorities,” Jivraj, the then caretaker of the temple, told the Daily Times.
The temple is located on the Manora Island, which brings it under the jurisdiction of the Pakistani Navy. So the Daily Times tried to contact the military estate officer (MEO) to inquire about the ownership of the mandir, but they got no response.
And when Jivraj wrote to the Manora Cantonment Board (MCB), he was told that there are no records.
Not one government official in Pakistan came forward to restore the temple in spite of the report. Then in 2016, the US Consulate in Karachi intervened.
Using the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, the US decided to help in saving the heritage temple from disuse and destruction. Eight years had already passed from the time the Daily Times reported about it and the US intervention.
— US Consulate Karachi (@usconsulatekhi) March 15, 2016
By now, the temple had reached an even worse state. The walls were crumbling and project director for restoration, Dr Asma Ibrahim, said that if they removed one wrong brick, the whole temple would collapse.
The news of the restoration of the temple was published and spread widely across Pakistan. To many of the ‘secularists’ in India, this was a noble gesture from Pakistan. What all of them failed to note – or did not note deliberately – is the fact that the temple’s restoration process is not because of Pakistan but because of the US.
Who funded the project? The US. Who is spearheading the efforts? The US. What did the Pakistani authorities do for the last eight years since the temple’s pathetic condition was reported? Nothing.
The last time that the temple had a proper ritual to the deity was sometime in 1950s. Ever since, illegal construction, vandalism and humidity of the region kept battering the temple. Government officials of the country did nothing.
On the contrary, Indian government preserves every monument, from the ancient to the modern, symbolizing the rich history of the country.