The Military Estate Office, which assisted a private builder in the demolition of a century-old Hindu temple and adjoining houses in Karachi's Soldier Bazaar on Saturday, has denied that the temple was razed in the operation.
Despite debris lying all over the compound, President Asif Ali Zardari's notice and the Hindu community's protests, Director of Military Lands and Cantonment, Zeenat Ahmed insisted that the Shri Rama Pir Mandir has not been damaged.
"Of what I have been told by my people, the temple is still standing and is untouched. The people who had deities in their homes had deliberately put them in front of the debris of the damaged houses. This was done to present a wrong picture that the temple was destroyed," The Express Tribune quoted Ahmed, as saying.
Ahmed said the houses were encroachments and they were removed when a builder approached them to assist him in removing illegal occupants from his land.
"The temple was already in a bad condition. The encroachers were asked to vacate the land but when they did not, action was taken against them. But the temple, which was already in bad shape, was not touched," she said.
Meanwhile, enraged members of the Hindu community said such statements only went further in hurting the sentiments of the minority.
A resident of the area, Ashok Kumar, said that it was a joke that the police and some people were denying the demolition of the temple.
Sindh Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amarnath Motumal, said that it was condemnable that instead of reaching out to the affected people, the officials were refusing to admit what they had done.
"I have attended several events in the temple. Whether a temple is 30 years old or 100 years old, no one has the right to desecrate it. We will not tolerate this," he said.
Meanwhile, Ahmed retracted from her statement on Saturday regarding the temple being old grant property, and said that she has no knowledge about the ownership of the temple.