Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has inaugurated the restoration of an ancient Hindu temple complex in Punjab, a symbolic gesture that may appeal to the Muslim nation’s minority communities and soften the country’s image abroad.
However, the visit on Jan. 11 and other recent overtures to minority faiths and women, including the passing of pro-women legislation, could also alienate powerful religious hardliners opposed to social change, Reuters reported.
The government has in the past year passed a bill that removed a loophole in existing law that allowed people convicted of so-called “honor killings” to walk free if they were pardoned by family members, while a Punjab law was recently passed tp protect women from domestic violence.
Sharif’s visit to the 900-year-old Katas Raj temples, one of the holiest sites in South Asia for Hindus, comes at a time when relations with Pakistan’s Hindu-majority neighbor India are at a low ebb and show few signs of improving.
“In my personal view, we are all are equal — Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians — and people belonging to other religions; we are all one,” Sharif told Reuters after a Hindu ritual was performed at the temples, located in the village of Katas some 110 km south of the capital Islamabad.
At the ceremony, attended by senior Christian, Sikh and Hindu leaders, Sharif chastised hardline Muslim scholars who use “strange interpretations” of Islam to preach hate against other religions.
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