Geopolitics

Pakistan's New Tallest Building Threatens Hindu Temple

The construction of Pakistan's next tallest building in Karachi is seen by the country's Hindu minority yet another attack in this Muslim-majority country of 180 million.

Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple, a 150-year-old Hindu temple under threat in Karachi
Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple, a 150-year-old Hindu temple under threat in Karachi
Shadi Khan Saif

KARACHI — For 150 years now, the Shri Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple has been the center of spirituality and festivity for the Hindu worshipers living in this southern Pakistani city. More than 25,000 pilgrims, coming from all parts of the country, gather here every year for a grand, spiritual festival.

Yet this Hindu temple is now under threat. Just a stone's throw away, property tycoon Malik Riaz is constructing the country's future tallest building — a large commercial plaza. To ease the flow of traffic near the project, a flyover and an underpass are also being built.

While Riaz and builders say this project will be beneficial to all Karachi citizens, Hindus depict it as yet another assault on their faith — a minority religion, in a Muslim-majority country. The community fears their sacred underground temple is too fragile to survive the surrounding heavy drilling.

“Our places of worship have regularly been targeted," said Hemat Kumar, a Hindu. "But we have remained peaceful so far, hoping that some sense would prevail.’’ According to him, this project is clearly an attack on their faith.

The Hindu Council, along with human rights activists, have organized several protests to denounce the building of the skyscraper in Karachi. "You don't see new temples and churches coming up in this country, only mosques," said Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

"There is a greater responsibility for the majority, Muslims, to protect such places of worship." Hindus make up less than 3% of Pakistan"s nearly 180 million population.

Tensions between Muslims and Hindus

The community took the matter to the court, which had already ordered builders to halt the construction, at least temporarily. Yet after an appeal, the court allowed the project to resume.

The building developer, Bahria Foundation, is convinced that the construction of this commercial plaza is crucial to Karachi's "prosperity". It promises the temple won't be harmed. "We are trying to change the construction design so that the temple won't be damaged," said Muhammad Irshad, one of the engineers working on the project.

Yet besides construction matters, several Hindu temples have been under attack in recent months in Pakistan. The community's places of worship in the cities of Larkana, Hyderabad and Mithi were recently attacked by Muslim groups. They were "taking revenge" for the alleged insult to Islam during the Hindu Holi festival.

Worshipers at the Shri Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple have no confidence whatsoever in the state. One of them, Shakeel, says all they can do is pray for God's help.

Hemat Kumar is also convinced that, even if the temple survives all the drilling and digging, the opening of a huge commercial complex will make it difficult for people to access the temple. "It's happened before with another temple," Kumar said. "We kept shouting but nothing happened, and now one can easily access that temple anymore. The same thing is going to happen here."

Outside the temple, construction work is now in full swing. The developer wants to build Pakistan's next tallest building within a few months.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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