SIALKOT, Pakistan: In April this year, Pakistani Hindu community leader Surinder Kumar got the phone call he had been waiting almost two decades to receive.
On the line, an official from the state-run Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) offered good news: the government had decided that a 1,000-year-old temple in Kumar’s hometown of Sialkot, sealed for 72 years, would be reopened.


The ancient Shawala Teja Singh temple was closed to worshippers after thousands of Hindus fled to India when Britain divided its Indian empire into Muslim Pakistan and mainly Hindu India in 1947. The structure has since been governed by the ETPB in Pakistan, a body responsible for the maintenance of properties abandoned by people who left the newly created Pakistan at Partition.

Officials said complete restoration would take up to five years, for which UNESCO and the Karachi-based Aga Khan Foundation had been taken on board.

On Saturday, the…

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