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Pakistan’s Peshawar High Court on Thursday ordered the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to allow Hindus to worship in a temple closed after Pakistan’s independence 64 years ago.

A two-member judicial panel comprised of Chief Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth approved the petition of a Hindu woman, Phool Vati, and directed the provincial government to allow the Hindu community to organize religious rites in the facility.

The bench also instructed the provincial government to provide security to the Hindus and the temple.

A representative of the province, Advocate General Lal Jan Khattak, told the panel that the local government had no objection to Hindus worshiping in the temple.

However, a spokesman for Pakistan’s federal government, Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Khurshid Khan, told judges that the temple’s proximity to a mosque poses a great security risk. He stated that the claim of ownership of the temple by the applicant was disputed as they were only caretakers and had no legal status to claim its ownership. He noted there is history of the temple being used for Buddhist and Sikh worship as well.

On behalf of the Hindus, attorney Muhammad Asif contended that the objections are a denial of minorities’ rights — that in fact the government wanted to use the whole area, including the temple, for commercial purposes.

The judges ruled that the Hindu woman had failed to produce any proof of ownership and had lost previous claims in lower courts. The bench ruled further that the temple is a trust property in the control of the government’s Archaeology Department — but approved use of the property for Hindu worship.

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