The minorities face persecution and violence across the country and forced conversion cases in Sindh frequently make the headlines, but this is apparently not enough to push the Sindh Minorities Affairs Department into doing something about it.
With the financial year coming to a close, the department has failed to spend a single paisa of the development funds allocated in the current fiscal year for the uplift of religious minorities.
In fact, only days before the current fiscal year ends on June 30, the department issued tenders for, what it claims, the renovation of 48 temples in Sindh.
Despite the non-utilisation of funds, the minorities department is demanding more money for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and according to Secretary Badar Jameel, has asked for Rs100 million in the upcoming budget. He said that this was for “working effectively for the neglected minorities”.
Under the Annual Development Programme 2011-12, the minorities department was allocated Rs110 million for the renovation of different worship places of minorities, including churches, gurdwaras and temples. The project also included renovation and rebuilding of graveyards, but the department failed to utilise the funds.
Chief Engineer Mohammad Ali told The Express Tribune that they had called for contractors, but failed to answer why the tenders were issued at the end of the year. “We had some problems. But now we will renovate the temples from Karachi to Kashmore at an estimated cost of more than Rs90 million,” was his reply.
Similarly, Director Khadim Hussain said that 110 projects were approved by the government. He also, however, failed to show them on paper. None of these projects aim to grant stipends or scholarships to poor students belonging to the religious minorities or providing them job opportunities or helping out the deserving people.
The department also did not spend from the Rs2.9 million allocated to give cash to families on their respective religious festivals.
On the eve of Diwali last October, hundreds of Hindus had gathered at the department to receive their cheque of Rs 5,000 each as promised by the government, but the department failed to hand out the same. Then director Danish Saeed was transferred as he had refused to sign a fake Rs5 million tender for development plan of temples and church, and also revealed of the massive corruption in the department. In the fiscal year 2010-2011, the department was allocated Rs 25 million, but had failed to utilise the money then also.
Representatives of minorities confirm that no money has been spent on the uplift. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf minorities wing Sindh president, Michael Javed, lambasted the ministry for eating up the funds. “Every year, the department gets a hefty amount but nothing is done for the development of the minorities.”
Sikh representative Sardar Ramesh Singh said the department had failed to ensure five per cent minorities’ quota in government departments. “Jobs are handed out to those who are close to the minister. Not a single Sikh has been granted a job on the quota.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.