Pak court summons top official in case related to Hindu religious site

Pak court summons top official in case related to Hindu religious site

A Pakistani court on Friday summoned a top government official after hearing arguments in a land demarcation case involving a family park and the historical Hindu religious site of Panj Tirath here.

Panj Tirath, which got its name from five water pools present there, was declared a national heritage by the provincial Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in northwest Pakistan in 2019. The heritage site, with two temples and a gateway, is in a dilapidated condition and in need of archaeological conservation. Most of its land is owned by the Chacha Younas Family Park, while the buildings are being used as godowns by the park owner.

A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court heard the arguments in the case on Thursday and summoned the Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar city. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa`s Director of Archaeology Abdus Samad Khan, Additional Advocate General Sikandar Hayat Shah and officials of the Auqaf department appeared in the court.

Samad told the court that his department has held several meetings with the department of Auqaf and the administration of the park. He said while a few problems relating to the case have been resolved, the land demarcation issue remains unresolved.

According to the government`s record, the total area covered by the Panj Tirath is about 14 kanals (1.75 acres) and seven marlas (0.04 acre). However, a major portion is now part of the Chacha Younas Family Park, given on lease by the district government. Here, once upon a time, the five pools of the religious site used to exist.

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“The park administration wanted to give only one kanal (0.125 acre) and 11 marlas to the archaeology department whereas our archaeology site consists of 5 kanals (0.625 acre) and 11 marlas (0.06 acre),” Samad told the court. The park administration did not allow officials to enter the temple through the park, the official said.

“We need more time to address other problems relating to the land demarcation between the park and archaeological site which also housed Panj Teerath mandir,” said the official of the Auqaf department.

Panj Tirath was an important Hindu pilgrimage site in Peshawar before 1947. Archaeologist SM Jaffar in his book `An Introduction to Peshawar`, published in 1952, wrote that, “The Panj-Tirath (five tanks) is among the places of interest and antiquity in or around Peshawar, dating back to the Buddhist times. Archaeologists believe Panj Tirath holds marks of the Buddha`s Begging Bowl,” according to a 2019 report in the Friday Times newspaper.

It is believed that Pandu, a mythical king in the Mahabharata, belonged to this area and Hindus used to come to these pools for bathing during the month of Karteek (between October 23 and November 21) and worship for two days under the trees. The site was damaged during the reign of the Afghan Durrani dynasty in 1747 and was restored by local Hindus during the period of Sikh rule in 1834 and worship started again.

The archaeology directorate has asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to clear the site of encroachment and allow archaeologists to carry out much-needed preservation work. It has also asked for the construction of a boundary wall around the site.

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