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Pakistan: Historic Hindu temple demolished near Pakistan-Afghanistan border for commercial complex

The demolition of the Khyber Temple raises questions about the protection of religious and cultural heritage in Pakistan and highlights the need for comprehensive record-keeping and preservation efforts to safeguard such historical sites for future generations

Written by  Jasleen Kaur -- April 13th 2024 10:00 AM
Pakistan: Historic Hindu temple demolished near Pakistan-Afghanistan border for commercial complex

Pakistan: Historic Hindu temple demolished near Pakistan-Afghanistan border for commercial complex

PTC Web Desk: A historical Hindu temple near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, known as the 'Khyber Temple', has been demolished in the Khyber district's Landi Kotal Bazaar, raising concerns among Hindu groups and cultural preservation advocates. The site, which had been closed since 1947 when the original Hindu occupants migrated to India, is now being used for constructing a commercial complex.

The temple had slowly deteriorated over the years and was being dismantled brick by brick. The construction work at the site began around 10 to 15 days ago. Officials from various administrative departments have either denied knowledge of the temple's existence or stated that the construction is being conducted according to established rules.


Ibrahim Shinwari, a leading tribal journalist from Landi Kotal, confirmed the historical presence of the temple. He recalled hearing stories about the temple from his forefathers as a child. The temple, located in the heart of Landi Kotal Bazaar, was closed in 1947 following the departure of local Hindu families. Shinwari mentioned that the temple had been partially damaged by clerics and seminarians in 1992 as a reaction to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India.

Haroon Sarabdiyal, a representative from the Pakistan Hindu Mandir Management Committee, stressed the importance of the district administration and relevant government departments in ensuring the protection and rehabilitation of historical religious buildings. He noted that the 2016 antiquity law obligates the archaeology and museums department, police, culture department, and local government to protect sites of historical and religious importance to non-Muslims.

Assistant Commissioner of Landi Kotal, Muhammad Irshad, expressed ignorance about the temple's demolition and claimed there was no record of the temple in the official land registry of the Khyber tribal district. He added that the entire land in Landi Kotal Bazaar was owned by the state. The official stated that a 'no objection certificate' had been issued to the builder for the renovation and repair of old shops in Landi Kotal Bazaar.

The tehsil municipal authorities have permitted the construction of commercial buildings and shops in all trade and commercial centres in tribal districts. Tehsil Municipal Officer (TMO) Shahbaz Khan explained that the local government is authorised to approve commercial construction projects only after the submission of plans and requisite fees.

However, municipal authorities admit to lacking authentic and organised revenue records in Khyber district. Abdus Samad, the former TMO during whose tenure the deal for the commercial building's construction was struck, claimed ignorance about any such orders issued by his office. Landi Kotal patwari Jamal Afridi also claimed to be unaware of construction activity at the temple's site, emphasising that revenue records contained no mention of a temple at that location.

Shinwari expressed doubts about the district administration and municipal authorities' claims of not having official land records of the temple. He pointed out that the auqaf department is responsible for maintaining and preserving historical non-Muslim places of worship but lacks a presence or employees in the Khyber tribal district.

Sarabdiyal suggested that places not actively used by minorities or in a dilapidated state could be repurposed for social welfare activities benefiting local communities rather than being demolished and redeveloped. This perspective offers a potential compromise that could respect the cultural heritage of the region while also accommodating development.

- With inputs from agencies

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