It’s not easy these days being a Hindu in Pakistan. The number of cases of members of the Hindu community being kidnapped for ransom is on the rise, both in Sindh and in Balochistan. While recently attending a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Law and Justice, I realised that a stringent law was already in place under which a person convicted of this offence could be sentenced to life in prison or even death. As usual, the discussion revolved around the fact that while we had good laws, they were not being implemented.
Personally, I am against capital punishment — and the logic is quite straightforward: since we don’t give life, we have no right to take it away. And hence life imprisonment is acceptable but not capital punishment. However, the rise in cases of kidnapping, often of children, has altered this view. Those who kidnap people for ransom need to be dealt with a heavy hand, more so because in Pakistan where we hardly ever see anyone punished for this crime. In August, before the floods had hit Sindh, I visited a Hindu Sindhi family in Kashmore whose six-year-old had been kidnapped. The state of the mother was enough to convince me to press for severe punishment as a deterrent to stop this kind of crime.
I was told that Hindus were being targeted because, by and large, they lacked political clout and made for easier targets. Furthermore, those involved in kidnapping for ransom often had connections to powerful people, and this explained why, in most instances, the kidnappers were never caught.
The tragedy is that as a result of these kidnappings, many Hindu families have migrated to India. After all, it is better to live in another country than in perpetual fear. This is the biggest failure of the so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan — that its minorities don’t feel safe on their own soil.
Clearly, the government’s package, called ‘Aghaz-e-Huqooq Balochistan’ has not achieved much in that province. For instance, in 2009 a 13-year-old was kidnapped and released after a ransom of Rs1.8 million was paid. Another Hindu was kidnapped from the busy Sariab road and released after a ransom of Rs4.2 million was paid. A Hindu man was kidnapped and released after his family paid Rs1.5 million. A Hindu shopkeeper was asked to pay Rs6million at which point he migrated to India — this happened in August of this year. And this is just a partial list.
The Hindu community is peaceful — so what is its biggest sin? It is a minority in a land where there is no rule of law. All that is needed is the political will to go after those involved in these kidnappings — the incidents will stop and our Hindu compatriots will stop fleeing to India.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2010.