BY MALOY KRISHNA DHAR

I was inspired to write this essay by a Pakistani journalist friend. Later, during a lecture tour in South East Asian countries, where Indian and Chinese origin minorities are also discriminated, I noticed that the minorities are palpably anguished. The latest incidents of organized attacks by Bengali Muslims on hill dwelling Chakma tribals in Khagrachari areas firmed up my decision to chronicle a preliminary account of the conditions of the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. I had earlier written a piece on the plight of the Pakistani Christians. I have not touched upon the plight of the Shia and Ahmadiya (non-Muslim) communities in Pakistan, which require international attention. Not a single Indian Muslim religious seminary has so far condemned Pakistan for inhuman treatment of the Shia and Ahmadiya communities.

I am indebted to a member of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and several young Pakistani writers who have boldly portrayed the pitiable condition of the minorities in Pakistan. Their voices are drowned in wilderness. The normal civil society members are also ashamed of these developments. However, I do not want to name them fearing visitations by the ISI goons.

Jinnah had said in his speech to the new nation created, called Pakistan, on August 17, 1947 to assure that his fiefdom, for which he fought relentlessly and even organized the Great Direct Action Pogrom of Calcutta in August 1946, to assure the national minorities, after 3 millions were killed in communal riots and several million escaped to the safety of Hindustan: “You are free; free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State…We are starting with this fundamental principles that we are all citizens and equal citizens of our State.”

People conversant with Jinnah’s rise as a rabid communal Muslim leader (Jaswant Singh’s white washing aside) know that Jinnah Kathiawadi lived by deceit and died in neglect (recall his Quetta visit, breakdown of his car on way to Karachi and apathetic attitude of the people in power). He was not even a practicing Muslim (a Shia), but pleaded fanatic Muslim causes. He never tried to rescue Muslim politics from the clutches of the maulanas. He was the person who boycotted the 1937 interim governments in the Central Legislative Assembly and Congress led provinces. He fabricated or organized the fabrication of charges against Congress’ ruthless suppression of the Muslims. One after another memorandum was submitted to the Governor General; all bundles of lies. The grand finale of Jinnah’s bunches of lies and prevarication included Calcutta pogrom in collaboration with Suhrawardy government, deceitful refusal to sign the Mountbatten Plan for partition, backing out from original agreement that Mountbatten would be the common Governor General for India and Pakistan and finally throwing a grand inaugural lunch on 16th August, a day of Ramadan (later shifted to dinner).

With such track record of prevarication, fabrication and falsehood, Jinnah’s 17th August 1947 speech, assuring the minority was then and even now treated as crocodile’s tears. If he were a democrat he would have not chosen the machetes to kill. He could not stop killing of the Hindu and other minorities in Pakistan even after he assumed the gaddi of the Governor General in true Hollywood style. Since Jinnah, the Hindu minorities have continued to suffer in Pakistan and now they have become an endangered community. Those interested may read Jinnah of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert and Mountbatten’s Report on the Last Vice-royalty, edited by Lionel Carter.

For which Pakistan Jinnah had struggled? His idea of Pakistan was limited to the vision of Dr. Iqbal-whole of Punjab, Sind, Balochistan, NWFP, FATA areas and Kashmir. He had no plan for Bengal and Assam and other Muslim majority areas in India. Later the Bangistan theory of Chaudhry Rahmat Ali propelled the Pakistan protagonists to amalgamate Bengal and Assam and create the eastern wing of Pakistan.

However, it must be said to the credit of Jinnah that in the absence of Dr. Iqbal and any other Muslim poet he could trust, he had commissioned a Hindu to write the original national anthem of Pakistan. India and Pakistan have another anomalous situation in common. Iqbal, the progenitor of Pakistan, had composed the national song Sare Jahan se Accha. It is still used as one of the national songs. Jinnah, on the other hand had summoned Jagannath Azad, son of Lahore-based poet Tilok Chand Mahroom, just three days before the creation of Pakistan, to write the country’s first national anthem. It had stirred up a debate in that country. It is claimed that Jinnah sowed the seed of secularism by inviting Jagannath Azad to write the national anthem. However, Pakistan’s first national anthem composed by a Hindu was discarded by Pakistan in 1950. What a great disrespect to the father of the nation! Some leading Pakistani thinkers correctly said that Pakistan exists on the venom of anti-Hindu elixir.

Demographic distribution of Hindus in Pakistan (Source: Wikipedia)

Demographic distribution of Hindus in Pakistan (Source: Wikipedia)

At the time of Partition in 1947, the Hindu population of Pakistan was estimated at approximately a quarter of the total population. For example, the population of Karachi, Pakistan in 1947 was 450,000, of which 51% was Hindu, and 42% was Muslim. By 1951, Karachi’s population had increased to 1.137 million because of the influx of 600,000 Muslim refugees from India. In 1951, the Muslim population of Karachi was 96% and the Hindu population was 2%. In 1998, the Hindu population in all of Pakistan was 1.6%, and the most recent census would certainly be expected to demonstrate consistent dwindling demographic trends and further diminution of Hindu population.

According to certain official estimates NWFP has slightly over 4,924 Hindus, whereas in FATA area total known Hindu population is 1,921. After the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and military operations hundreds of Hindus had escaped under dual pressure-demand of Jizya, a Sharia tax by the Taliban and army harassment.

Limits on freedom

Pakistan’s Constitution, prima facie, provides for freedom of religion. In practice, however, the government imposes limits on this freedom by using several subterfuges. Since Pakistan proclaimed itself an Islamic republic at the time of independence, Islam has become a core element of the national ideology. Since the struggle for separate homeland for the Muslims was seemingly waged against the Hindus and not the British Pakistan’s political soul is filled with hatred against the Hindus. Thus, religious freedom is subject to law, public order, and morality as decided by the reigning government. Actions or speech deemed derogatory to Islam or to its Prophet are not protected. In addition, the Constitution requires that laws must be consistent with Islam and imposes some elements of Quranic law on both Muslims and religious minorities. This observation has been supported even by the U.S. State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom report of 2004. After spate of riots against the Pakistani Christians the IRF had expressed similar views.

Government regulations and laws shaped by Islamic Sharia injunctions discriminate against the Hindu minority as well as other minorities in Pakistan. Section 295-C of the Pakistan penal code mandates the death sentence for blasphemy against the Prophet or desecration of the Koran. Dozens of blasphemy cases are pending in the courts, and the accused spend long periods in jails under brutal conditions once the accusation has been made, although most such allegations of desecration are the result of personal grudges. On March 24, 2005, Pakistan restored the discriminatory practice of mandating the mention of religious identity of individuals in all new passports. The Pakistan federal cabinet, with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in chair, had directed the Ministry of Interior to reintroduce the rule after its repeal under the Zafaraullah Khan Jamali government. The move was seen as a concession to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of hard-line religious parties that supported Pakistan’s former President General Pervez Musharraf.

The rights of minorities continue to erode at an alarming pace in Pakistan. I.A. Rehman, Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, associates this erosion with the continued Islamization of Pakistan that President General Zia-ul-Haq initiated in the 1980s. Upon Pakistan’s declaration as an Islamic republic, the rights of religious minorities, particularly Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadiyas, diminished dramatically. These minorities live under the fear of threats to their lives and property, desecration of their places of worship, and the Blasphemy Act that carries a penalty of death. Nuzzhat Shirin of the Aurat Foundation adds, “It’s Muslims winning by intimidation. It’s Muslims overcoming a culture by threatening it, by abducting young girls so that an entire community moves out or succumbs to the Muslim murderers.”

There are several instances of attacks against the Shias by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipha Sahaba, two hardcore Sunni militant outfits. “Justice M. Munir commission investigated the large-scale riots against the Ahmadiya sect in Pakistan in 1953. His report is an eye-opener. It shows that our ulema are not even able to agree on a definition of who a Muslim is. Justice Munir had called heads of all Islamic schools of thought and asked them the definition of a Muslim. No two ulema agreed. It also exposes the pusillanimity of our so-called scholars of Islam and their near-total disregard of the beauty and generosity of Islam.” Sultan Shahin, Editor, New age Islam.

Violence against women

Violence against women in general continues throughout the world, but more so in Pakistan, particularly against Hindu women. Violence against women is rampant in the forms of rape, honor killings, and domestic abuse. In Pakistan, a woman is raped every two hours on average, and at least ten women a day die in honor killings. Moreover, Pakistan’s existing Hudood Ordinance is used to imprison thousands of women who report rapes. The Hudood Ordinances are a set of laws that were introduced by Presidential decree in 1979 under the then President General Zia Ul Haq. These laws were intended “to bring in conformity with the injunctions of Islam” certain aspects of the criminal justice system and make certain offences punishable by hadd, which is defined as “punishment ordained by the Holy Quran or Sunnah.”

The quotations are from the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, Ordinance No. VII of 1979, 9 February 1979, preamble and sec. 2(b), respectively. Hereinafter: Zina Ordinance. . The laws introduced under the Hudood Ordinances cover the offences of Zina (various forms of unlawful sexual intercourse) Qazf (wrongful accusation of Zina crimes), and offences Against Property and Prohibition. An offence of Zina occurs, under the Ordinance, whenever “a man and a woman… willfully have sexual intercourse without being validly married to each other.” Section 4 of the Zina Ordinance. Offences of rape are called Zina bil Jabr (literally meaning ‘forced adultery’ in the Arabic original) as they have occurred without the consent of the victim. Significantly, however, the Zina Ordinance excludes marital rape from the definition of that offence.

According to the Ordinance, a rape victim must present four male witnesses to the crime in order to prove the rape occurred. If the victim is unable to do so, she is at risk for being whipped for adultery because she has acknowledged illicit sex, which is banned in Islam. Despite repeated calls by women’s rights and human rights groups for the reform and repeal of the Hudood Ordinance, the Pakistan government has yet to take action. Readers may have not forgotten the famous case of Mukhtar Mai that had created international indignation. Women, Muslim or Hindu, can expect very little from the majority sections of people in a country that still lives in the barbaric Middle Ages.

Hindus continue to be the target of kidnappings, rape, and intimidation in Pakistan. There are reports of desecration and destruction of Hindu temples and lands, theft and looting of Hindu property, discrimination, abuse, and abduction of Hindu females. Unfortunately, few reports about specific and targeted human rights abuses against Hindus are available, not only due to the continued decreasing population of Hindus in Pakistan, but also because reports of such attacks are either poorly covered in the local media or completely ignored. In most cases police do not register cases reported by Hindu victims.

A worrisome trend in Pakistan, particularly in the Sind province, is that of Muslims kidnapping Hindu girls and forcing them to convert to Islam. One of the most egregious cases of intimidation and kidnapping of young Hindu women occurred in September 2005. On September 14, Hindu parents alleged that four men abducted their daughter in Sind, and forced her to marry one of the accused and convert to Islam. The authorities arrested two of the abductors, but the court dismissed the case when the girl was forced to provide a legal statement that she willfully married and converted. Gayan Chand Singh, than a legislator in Pakistan’s Parliament, said that the kidnapping should be categorized as rape and should be registered as such an offense for the abductors.

In a similar case, Sapna Giyanchand was taken to a shrine in the Shikarpur District by Shamsuddin Dasti, a Muslim married man and father of two children. The custodian of the shrine, Maulvi Abdul Aziz converted Sapna to Islam, changed her name to Mehek, and married her to Dasti. When Sapna’s case was presented in court, Muslim extremists deluged her with rose petals and chanted religious verses. Sapna, terrified by the setting, could not manage to speak to her parents, who were also present in court. Aziz, also in attendance, is claimed to have said, “How can a Muslim girl live and maintain contact with kafirs; non-believers of Islam?”

Kidnapping Hindu girls

In a recent investigative report it is described how young girls, as young as 12 or 13, have been kidnapped in Sind, converted to Islam, and forcibly married to Muslim boys. “Kidnapping Hindu girls like this has become a normal practice. The girls are then forced to sign stamped papers stating that they’ve become Muslims,” said Laljee Menghwar, a member of Karachi’s Hindu Panchayat (council of village leaders). At least twenty nine similar abduction cases have taken place in Karachi alone, and six in the Jacobabad and Larkana districts. Wasim Shahzad, the Minister of State for Interior, had upset legislators in the National Assembly when he was quoted by the state-run APP news agency as saying, “These incidents are taking place to force the Hindus to leave Pakistan where they have been living for the past 5,000 years.”

In a shocking incident, it was reported that three young Hindu girls had suddenly converted to Islam.  The three girls, Reena (21), Usha (19) and Rima (17) – daughters of Sanno Amra and Champa, a Hindu couple living in the Punjab Colony section of Karachi, Pakistan – went missing on October 18, 2005. According to a widely circulated report in the Pakistan newspaper Dawn, entitled “Conversion losses,” the London based Pakistani commentator, Irfan Hussain, described the shock experienced by Sanno Amra and Champa when they returned home after work on October 18, 2005 to discover their three daughters had unexpectedly disappeared.  Only after desperate queries to the police, the parents received affidavits stating the daughters’ conversions to Islam.  Private visits with their daughters, free from chaperones and even police officers that have supervised their only interactions thus far, have been consistently denied.  After their disappearance from home, the girls have been living at a madrassa (Islamic seminary) in the vicinity of their home and may potentially be denied the freedom to return home.

Earlier in 2005, Shazia Khalid, a doctor, reported that she was gang-raped in a government natural gas plant. Instead of providing her with medical treatment, officials drugged her into unconsciousness for three days and then transported her to a psychiatric hospital to prevent her from reporting the rape.  Due to her persistence of reporting the rape, Khalid was placed under house arrest in Karachi.  The police insinuated that the presence of cash in her house meant that she was working as a prostitute.  Although her husband has stood by her, his grandfather was quoted as saying that Dr. Shazi disgraced the family and should be killed.

Although violence against women transcends their religion, it is disproportionately focused on Hindu women in Pakistan.  In May 2005, a group of middle-class Pakistani women held a demonstration for equal rights in Lahore.  In response, the police beat them and took them to police stations.  In particular, they targeted Asma Jahangir, a U.N. special rapporteur, who was also the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.  Ms. Jahangir said an intelligence official close to General Musharraf told the police to “teach the (expletive) a lesson (and) strip her in public.”  The police tore her shirt off and tried to remove her trouser. That was General Musharraf, the Kargil invader and soldier of fortune in a military dominated country.

Between 2003 and 2009 about 100 cases of kidnapping of Hindu women were reported from Punjab. Besides a temple in Lahore two other temples in Multan and Gujranwala were desecrated. According to estimates over 900 acres of Hindu land were forcibly occupied in Sialkot, Lahore, Multan, Zhang etc places. Hindu students studying in government schools are made to read Quran and offer namaj.

I have personal respect for the liberation struggle of the Baloch people and had written two essays in this portal. However, in Balochistan there are about 36, 686 Hindus. There are several instances of Hindu traders being kidnapped and released after hefty ransom. They are pressed both by the rebellious Baloch elements and the Pakistan army. The police and armed forces suspect that the Hindus are used as conduit by the Indian Intelligence agencies. Only in 2009 five Hindu traders were kidnapped from Quetta for ransom. Only three lucky traders returned; the two others could not pay in cash, but paid with life. Minorities, particularly Hindus and Ahmadiyas, continue to face a wave of violations in Balochistan, the area where Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests on the orders of President Musharraf in October 1999.  The native Balochis experience a severely degraded status since the occupation.  Although the exact number is unknown, more than 5,000 Hindus were forced to escape from the unrest in Balochistan and enter Sind in 2005.  Militant Muslim groups have desecrated Hindu temples, set their homes on fire, and destroyed Hindu shops and property.  Here too, Hindu females, particularly school students, are forcibly converted to Islam.

On March 21, 2005, sixty civilians were killed and one hundred and fifty were injured in Dera Bugti, Balochistan when Pakistan’s Frontier Corps attacked the town with “artillery shelling, rockets, and indiscriminate machine gun fire.”  Among those killed were innocent Hindu women and children as well as dozens of Bugti tribesmen

Minority hatred

The famous Hindu temple town of Hinglaj, in a narrow valley of Hingol river is however, respected by the Baloch political leaders. In 2008 Pakistan government had urged the Baloch provincial agency to confirm a resolution for construction of a damn on Hingol River. Balochistan’s Irrigation and Power Minister Sardar Mohammad Aslam Bizenjo and other provincial ministers moved a resolution on the floor of the assembly over the weekend that categorically objected to the dam being constructed near the historical Hinglaj Mata Temple, where an annual festival is held every April. The Baloch Assembly resolution warned that if the dam was constructed, the temple could go under water sooner than later, and this would hurt the sentiments of all Hindus. It requested the federal government to have the dam constructed elsewhere. Taking into consideration the plight of the Hindus in Sind and Punjab it can be said that Balochi Hindus generally enjoy trust of the original Baloch tribes; but they are under pressure from Punjabi settlers.

Pakistan’s education system is constructed in such ways that Hindu, Sikh and Christian students are automatically discriminated. Extracts, translated from Urdu to English, from the government-sponsored textbooks approved by the National Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education demonstrate the derogatory and inflammatory portrayal of Hinduism to the youth of Pakistan:

  • Grade IV: “The religion of Hindus did not teach them good things, and the Hindus did not respect women.”
  • Grade V:  “The Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam.”
  • Grade VI: “The Hindu setup was based on injustice and cruelty.”
  • Grade VII: “Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation and several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase Muslim culture and civilization.”
  • Grade VIII: “Before Islam people lived in untold misery all over the world.”
  • Grade X: “Islam gives a message of peace and brotherhood…There is no such concept in Hinduism.”

Minority hatred and persecution is built in the Pakistani system. Pakistan’s Constitution at face value guarantees fundamental human rights and equality in front of the law to its citizens. However, Article 19 of the Constitution states, “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan,” thus securing the supremacy of Islam in the country. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Article 20 which states, “Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.” Unfortunately, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and the Ahmadiyas continue to be persecuted in Pakistan today despite the assurance provided by the Constitution. Temples are desecrated, deities are destroyed, and they risk persecution, particularly because of the Blasphemy Act.

Article 25 of the Constitution maintains, “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law…There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.” Rape, honor killings, and domestic abuse are common types of violence that the women of Pakistan face. Despite the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, these women are left to fend for themselves, as the Pakistani laws do not provide adequate protection.  They continue to face a myriad of inequalities in the judicial system, and will continue to do so, as long as the Hudood Ordinance is not repealed.
Article 35 mandates, “The State shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child.”

Article 36 states, “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services.” In reality, however, neither families nor minorities are being protected by Pakistan today as kidnappings or forced conversions of Hindu girls continue to occur without convictions of the felons.

Insignificant numbers

Curiously, Pakistan has taken no action toward ratifying or signing the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), although it did ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on September 19, 1966.

However, only in rural and semi-urban Sind, Hindus have some visible presence. As shown on the map the Hindus are more concentrated in Hyderabad and areas bordering India (notice green colour in the map). Besides Soda Rajput, most of the Hindus are classified as “Low Caste”, engaged in scavenging work, night soil carrying job and other menial works. Except for the appointment of Bhagwan Das as the Chief Justice of Pakistan (took oath on Quran) no other Hindu has so far succeeded in climbing up the ladder in the Pakistani armed force, civil services and other spheres of national activities. We propose to discuss several atrocious attacks on the Hindu minority in Pakistan in later chapters of this essay.

Though numerically insignificant the Hindus of Pakistan have organized a few representative bodies to espouse their welfare and other causes with the provincial and federal governments:

Pakistan Hindu Panchayat has branches in all the provinces important towns. They hold annual conferences and represent with the provincial Nazims (district collectors), police officials and political leaders. Pakistan Minority Welfare Council is also a broad representative body which works in close liaison with the Human Rights activists in Pakistan.

In a latest development Ramesh Lal, a PPP MNA and other Hindu MNAs walked out of the Pakistan National Assembly in protest against highly derogatory and biased comments by a Pakistani High Court judge. Chafing at a Lahore high court judge’s comment that Hindus were financing terror attacks in that country, nine Hindu members of Pakistan’s national assembly staged a walkout in protest on Wednesday.

“The sentiments of four million Pakistani Hindus are hurt by Justice Khwaja Sharif’s uncalled for remarks,” said Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Ramesh Lal. He was then joined by other Hindu lawmakers who then walked out. Members of the Awami National Party, too, joined in. Their protest was described as the first in Pakistan’s national assembly against the judiciary. Justice Sharif had made the remark while hearing a petition on barring the deportation of Afghan Taliban leaders on Monday.

The apparent trigger for the comment was a lawyer’s observation that a US security firm was responsible for the blasts in Pakistan, including the recent ones in Lahore. Justice Sharif rebutted him saying, “Muslims, and not Hindus, are involved in terror acts in Pakistan. Hindus might be the financiers of such attacks.”

As a member of ruling PPP, Ramesh Lal called for intervention from President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, saying Justice Sharif’s questioning the patriotism of Pakistani Hindus had left the latter hurt and angry. He also asked Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary to take suo motu note of the “highly objectionable” remark. The protesters later returned to the assembly after some persuasion, as reported in Times of India on March 18. 2010.

On the other hand, the Sikhs are a microscopic community, slightly more than 20,000. They live mostly in Peshawar, Lahore, Nankana Sahib and a few other places of worship. Pakistan’s population is more than 96% Muslims; Hindus 1.6%, Christians 1.6 % and rest are Sikhs, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists etc. There is one traffic inspector from the Sikh community in Punjab, one army officer, one singer, a poetess and a MLA in the province of Punjab (PPP). After Taliban rampage in Afghanistan a few hundred Sikhs migrated to Pakistan and settled with their relatives in FATA, NWFP and Lahore areas.

They were again uprooted from FATA area when Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of Baitullah Mehsud demanded rupees 20 crores (200 million) as Jizya. About 5 Sikhs were taken to custody and they were released after paying rupees 20 lakhs (2 million). Most of the uprooted Sikhs are still living in camps and have not gone back to FATA locations.

Like the Hindus, the Sikhs have also been persecuted. The Sikh temple at Naulakha Bazar in Lahore was taken over by the Muslims in August 2007. The Pakistan Evacuee Trust Property Board (PETPB) had recently taken over lands worth millions of rupees which belonged to Samadh Bhai Man Singh and Gurdwara Deh.

Recent kidnapping of the Sikhs in NWPF area, beheading of two and quarantine of the others demanding Jizya has sent shiver of fear amongst the Sikhs of Pakistan and the world community has also been rattled. The Taliban and local Nazims are demanding Jizya from the Hindus and the Sikhs-a detestable religious tax revived in India by the bigoted Mughal Empire Aurangzeb, which was prevalent off and on till the British had put an end to the barbaric system.

Sikh affairs in Pakistan were in disarray. Pakistan constituted a Gurdwara management body in April 1999 with Lt. General Javed Nasir, the hardcore Tablighi and former ISI chief as the chief. He opened his office inside Gurdwara Nanakmatta, Lahore. After one year the body was disbanded and one Shyam Singh (Sindhi) was appointed Chairman. Shyam Singh had earlier acted ac coordinator between the Sikh terrorists and the ISI. However, there has not been any formal election to the committee and the chairman, a front man of the ISI, manages the religious affairs of the Sikh community in Pakistan. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee of India poses as self appointed caretaker of the Sikhs of Pakistan. They are treated as a pliable tool by Pakistan. It is alleged by certain Pakistani journalists that some figures in the SGPC receive underhand money from Pakistan. It is difficult for the author to probe authenticity of such allegations.

Separate electorates

There are several comments in Pak media that Pakistan gives some preferred treatment to the Sikhs because of its hidden agenda in “Indian Punjab.” Pakistan had earlier encouraged, assisted and armed the Sikh terrorists and even now the ISI has sheltered leaders of the Khalistan Zindabad Force, Babbar Khalsa, Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Liberation Force and the International Sikh Youth Federation. Important leaders who live in Pakistan as guests of the ISI are Lakhbir Singh Rode (nephew of Bhindranwale), Wadhwa Singh, Mehal Singh, Vikram Singh Canada, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, Ranjit Singh Nita etc. Pakistan is trying to revive terrorism in Punjab through these desperate tools living at the mercy of the ISI. However, collusion between the Sikh terrorists and the Pakistan establishment does not offer any solace to common Sikhs. They live on the point of threat of the Saif (sword) of Islam.

The Hindus of Pakistan, now reduced in number, have lost all leverages in political, economic and administrative systems of Pakistan. There are only two Captain rank doctors in Pakistan military hospital; Capt. Danish and Capt. Aneel Kumar. There are no Hindu officers in the fighting ranks. In the administrative services no Hindu holds high position and to come by any Hindu in strategic lower position even in the provinces of Punjab and Sind is rather impossible. They are not simply trusted and are not given preference in spite of the fact that some of them are better qualified. We must not forget Dipak Kaneria, the Pakistani leg spinner, who is more shunted out of the team than allowed to display his cricketing skill.

A major issue Hindus faced until 2002 was that of the separate electorates for Muslims and non-Muslims. In the system of separate electorates, members of religious minorities could only vote for members of their group, which resulted in their marginalization in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association convened a national conference on the issue in December 2000. In 2001, Hindus, Christians and Ahmadiyas successfully conducted a partial boycott of the elections. In 2002, Musharraf granted religious minorities the right to vote for mainstream general seats of National and Provincial assemblies, which they did in 2002. While this was definitely a positive step for the well being of Hindus and the democratization of Pakistan, it remains to be seen how this will affect their overall status. Politically the Hindus have no voice in any power structure in Pakistan, whereas in India the Muslims are gaining more political stature.

Despite Musharraf’s assurances minorities are still elected to the National Assembly from reserved constituencies. They are mostly elected from Sind, Punjab (Multan), NWFP (Bannu) etc places. Majority of them were elected to the NA from PPP tickets, though PML, PML N and MQM also had fielded minority candidates in their own concentration areas. Shabaz Bhatti, MNA from Lahore, belongs to an influential family and is minister in charge of minority affairs. But his portfolio has very little to do with minority welfare. Bhatti is treated more as a minority face to a system that is squarely poised against the minorities including the Ahmadiyas (treated as non-Muslims).

The Hindus, who had received assurance from Jinnah, despite his not so mute encouragement to communal killings, the community that counted for one fourth of Pakistan’s population after independence is now shrinking by the day; now they count for 1.6% of the population. Not only the Hindus are discriminated in matters of jobs, services and any other means of livelihood that require some sort of state patronage, they are threatened, induced and even forced to convert to Islam. Their landed properties are forcibly grabbed, their temples destroyed and their women kidnapped systematically. Under such pressure thousands of Hindus have escaped to India from Sind, Punjab and Balochistan. In Rajasthan alone over 20,000 refugees from Pakistan are living in temporary encampments or with relatives. Neither the government of India nor the present Rajasthan government has taken up any welfare programme to settle these refugees from Pakistan.

According to Seemant Lok Sangathan (SLS), a group working for refugees in Rajasthan, over 10,000 Hindu migrants from Pakistan is living in Jodhpur alone. Nearly 20,000 others are scattered in Jaisalmer and other areas of Rajasthan areas bordering Pakistan. Efforts of the SLS resulted in granting of long term visa by the government of India, but no relief work was initiated.

Only during the last BJP government in Rajasthan more than 4,50,000 refugees from Pakistan were given voting rights and one refugee was given ticket to contest election. In contrast to this the new Congress government closes eyes when hundreds of Pir Pagaro followers of Sind (Muslims) cross over to India and settle down in the bordering villages with their relatives and clansmen. The illegal Pir Pagaro followers are given voting right, issued ration cards and are pampered by the vote-bank political sharks. Here exist a situation similar to West Bengal and Assam where political patronage by the ruling parties encourage Pakistani Muslims to settle down on the bordering region. Unfortunately for last 20 years the government has not undertaken any survey of these Muslim dominated villages.

Inhuman condition

Interview of several Hindu refugees conducted during November-December 2009 indicate that they were physically assaulted, they were paid paltry remuneration as against the Muslim employees. Parents have to keep Muslim names for their children with a view to get admission in schools. Besides destruction of temples, desecration of deities the Hindus, mostly of lower casts are subjected to extortion and their women are kidnapped, raped and converted to Islam. Hindus in Pakistan are persecuted for their religious belief. Even the Sindhi rural Muslim landlords indulge in forcible grabbing of lands belonging to Hindu farmers. Few summed up points of inhuman condition in which the Hindus have to live in Pakistan are enumerated below:

  • Hindu Children do not get admission into schools.
  • Hindus are converted into Islam by force.
  • Hindu Girls & Women are abducted, molested & raped.
  • Hindus and Sikhs are forced to pay Jizya Tax by Talibans.
  • Hindu Employees are beaten to death in the factory complex.
  • Provocations against Hindus are inserted in the school text books.
  • Hindu children are forced to pray Namaz & generally called as ‘Kaffir Kutta’ – Infidel Dogs.
  • Hindu farmers and labours are forced to do their jobs as bonded labours, with very paltry payment.
  • 80% of lands are snatched from the Kaffir Hindus to fortify total Islamisation of Pakistan.
  • The about 20% population of Hindus in Pak in 1947 came down to 1.6% in 1991.
  • Hindus in Pakistan are treated as 3rd Class citizens or not the citizen of Pakistan at all.
  • The migrating Pakistani Hindus in India also face various troubles to get long term visa.

The Government of India takes a very biased stand. They do not push back the Pakistani Muslims to Pakistan from India, though their presence is reported by agencies. The Hindus migrating from Pakistan are treated as unwelcome guests and the vote-bank secularists treat them as possible voters for their political opponents.

Besides these general observations certain specific instances may drive home the message that Indians are not all concerned about the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian minorities in Bangladesh and Hindu-Sikh and Christian minorities in Paksitan. Destruction of one mosque at Ayodhya by Hindu fundamentalists had divided the country communally as well as politically. However, when Hindu, Sikh and Christian temples in Pakistan are destroyed these very “secularists” prefer to look the other way. We have mentioned about the destruction of Rangmahal Hindu Temple in Lahore. In the heart of Liyari area of Karachi a part of the Hindu temple at Baghdadi area was forcibly taken over by a group of butchers and the sacred place is now used for slaughtering animals. A huge portion of the temple land has been taken over by the land mafia by forcing the Hindus to surrender the land at a minimal cost. The Human Rights Commission of Punjab protested against these incidents. But the authorities in Karachi and Islamabad did very little to restore the temple and the land in question to the Hindu trustees.

According to BBC reporter Riaz Sohail (March 2007), Garish Kumar, an engineer from Hyderabad was kidnapped and his mutilated body was later discovered near a madrasa. Though police passed on this as an offence by a militant organisation it was known in the area that Garish was kidnapped for ransom and later killed. His is not the isolated case. Kumar’s father Saspal Das is a trader at Kunri town in Umerkot district. He was of the opinion that though more than 90% Hindus of Pakistan live in PPP president and national president Zardari’s home province he has very little time for minority welfare. However, Kishenchand Parwani, adviser on minority affairs to the provincial government openly refutes any atrocity against the Hindus but admits that Hindus are targeted even in Karachi town by the communal Muslim elements. In recent years kidnapping for ransom has become a routine in Sukkur, Hyderabad, Larkana etc areas. Ramesh Lal, MNA agrees that nearly 20 traders were kidnapped by the communal goons and only 12 could buy their release. Others were not rich enough to pay ransom and lost their lives.

From upper Sukkur, four Hindu women were kidnapped in late October by a known fundamentalist listed as a leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They were taken to a mosque, forcibly converted and married away to middle aged married persons with children.

Surprisingly, the Indian Human Rights activists and secular protagonists, who labour beyond all conceivable elasticity of the Indian system, do not shed even crocodile’s tears for the Hindu-Sikh-Christian minorities in Pakistan. These matters are not even taken up either in first track or second track diplomatic talks with Pakistan. Systematic destruction of Hindu temples and desecration of Sikh temples do not attract attention of the Indian political leaders and so-called secularist compradors. They are busy in distributing largesse among the minorities (Muslim) in India but are averse to even look at the plights of the Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The minority situation was created by the partition of the country. Plight of the minorities is an unfinished agenda of of the partition. India is attending to that duty rather with pathological urgency in respect of Indian Muslims. On the other hand in Pakistan and Bangladesh the minorities are persecuted with pathological criminal intentions. Can India not use diplomatic pressure, like other unfinished agenda of the partition, to ensure better deals to the minorities in the neighbouring countries? Would our secular, democratic and human rightist political leaders dare to answer the angry questions asked by the beleaguered Pakistani and Bangladeshi minorities? One Kandhamal incident in Orissa had created political storm amongst certain secularists, but systematic attack on Pakistani Christians, Sikhs and Hindus do not ruffle the feathers of so called secular and democratic leaders, NGO professionals and societal organisations. Mera Bharat Mahan?

(Maloy Krishna Dhar retired as a Joint Director of India’s internal intelligence agency, Intelligence Bureau. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)