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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
'Demolition man' to build bridges

By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Karachi

LK Advani
Mr Advani is accused of inciting mobs to tear down the mosque
Pakistan's ruling party hopes a planned temple trip by India's visiting opposition leader will help heal religious scars from more than 10 years ago.

India's Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani will tour the ancient temple ruins at Ketas, 100km (65 miles) south of the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday.

The event is part of a landmark visit to Pakistan, where some call Mr Advani "demolition man" for his alleged role in the 1992 destruction of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya.

Dozens of derelict temples in Pakistan were razed to the ground by enraged religious zealots in the immediate aftermath of the mosque's destruction.

The world has seen us tearing down temples and mosques - it must now see us in a new and tolerant spirit
Organiser Yusuf Salahuddin

Mr Advani is spending a week in Pakistan at the invitation of ruling party president, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Pakistani officials say the temple visit will be an unprecedented goodwill gesture - given Mr Advani's image in the country.

'Goodwill politics'

It is being billed as a firm reminder that the days of tearing down each other's places of worship are now history.

Hindus at Babri Mosque in 1992
The destruction of the Babri mosque sparked widespread riots

"The main objective is to ensure that goodwill prevails," Yusuf Salahuddin, a Lahore-based socialite who floated the idea, told the BBC News website.

"The world has seen us tearing down temples and mosques, it must now see us in a new and tolerant spirit."

Mr Salahuddin - who was part of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain's delegation that visited Delhi recently - says the idea first came up during that trip.

"We invited Mr Advani to visit the Luv Temple in Lahore," he says. Legend has it that the Luv Temple was built by Lord Rama's son Luv, after whom the city of Lahore is said to be named.

"We chose that temple because it has historically been protected by Muslims," says Mr Salahuddin.

Mr Hussain told India media: "This is the only solution to the Babri dispute.

Ketas ruins
Ketas is said to have been first populated in 1300 BC

"Instead of demolishing temples to avenge the destruction of the Babri Masjid, it is better to construct a temple and ask Advani to inaugurate it."

The first protective wall around Luv Temple was built by Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji, and another was later raised by Emperor Aurangzeb.

Plans were changed, however, when it turned out that the site was also reputed to house Luv's grave. "It just didn't feel right to play the politics of goodwill on a grave," says Mr Salahuddin.

Lake of tears

The Ketas ruins date back to the times when Buddhism was losing ground to Brahminism in this part of the world.

Far away from Pakistan's densely populated and polluted cities, the temple has a history that more than matches the romance of its idyllic surroundings.

Luv temple
The temple for Luv may also contain his grave

It is said that the site was first populated by the Pandavas, fleeing from the fierce Kauravas during the epic battle of Mahabharata about 1300 BC.

It subsequently passed into the hands of Buddhists and according to Chinese historian Hiuen Tsiang, the great Maurayan king Ashoka raised a stupa here in around 285 BC.

With the decline of Buddhism across much of northern India, the site came under Hindu influence.

"It is said that when Lord Shiva's wife Satti died, he was so stricken by grief that his tears formed two lakes - one in Ajmer in India and the other at Ketaksha in what is now Pakistan," says Pakistan's celebrated historian, Salman Rashid.

Ketaksha literally means "raining eyes" and is the origin of Ketas, the modern name of the site.

Pakistani archaeologists have for long lamented the sorry state of preservation of this ancient site.

They are now hoping that it may finally benefit from Mr Advani's visit - a peace dividend of sorts that few in the sub-continent could even have imagined a few years ago.

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