Minorities in Pakistan: No public holiday for Hindus for festivals

Published: March 20, 2011
Hindu devotees pray during Holi celebrations at Swami Narayan temple in Saddar, Karachi on March 19. PHOTOS BY ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Hindu devotees pray during Holi celebrations at Swami Narayan temple in Saddar, Karachi on March 19. PHOTOS BY ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS


Hindus celebrated Holi, one of the community’s most significant religious festivals on Saturday. But while ceremonies were held across the country, the vast majority of Hindus did not take leave and went about their everyday chores.

While most employers are flexible about giving leave and government employees use off-days from their quotas, private companies cut salaries of those who avail the holiday.

“Minorities should have equal rights. Those working for the government should be given special leave,” says Shakuntala, whose husband works for a government office in Multan.

According to the Pakistan Hindu Council’s statistics for 2011, over seven million Hindus live in Pakistan. The figure is almost double that of Christians in the country who enjoy a public holiday on Christmas.

Ram, who is a senior member of the community from Rahim Yar Khan, said that it was regrettable that minorities were living in fear. “Even though the constitution says so, religious minorities in the country do not enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by the majority,” he said.

While heads of state also send out felicitation messages for Eid and Christmas, no such greetings are made for Hindu festivals. For Eids, special monetary announcements are also made but for Hindu festivals, only the government of Punjab announced special financial relief. The provincial government has given Rs5,000 to each Hindu family living in southern Punjab, where over 150 Hindu families live. However, in Sindh, where many more Hindu households can be found, no such fiscal measure was announced.

Over 97 per cent of Pakistan’s Hindus live in Sindh and Punjab.  “We have not received any stipend or other financial assistance even though this event is an important one for the community,” said Rajeev, a young labourer from Jacobabad.

While those with jobs are able to take days off, students, especially schoolchildren, almost always have to miss out on ceremonies to attend school.

“I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony because I had to attend class. I am very upset at missing out,” said Raas Damin, a student of grade 9 in Hyderabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (54)

  • Amna
    Mar 20, 2011 - 10:18AM

    I am part of the religious minority in the United States. I have my rights here, but I don’t get day off for Eid, neither do Hindus get a day off for Holi.

    Granted Pakistan has its issues with giving proper protection to minorities, but everything isnt a case of not having equal rights. Really, Express tribune, not every article needs to stir the drama pot by being titled “minorities in Pakistan” Recommend

  • Mohammad Irfan
    Mar 20, 2011 - 10:46AM

    This is such a shame. India has public holidays for all major Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist festivals. http://bit.ly/gADKm4Recommend

  • Don
    Mar 20, 2011 - 10:47AM

    In India we have 3 Public holidays for Eid, 2 holidays for good friday and christmas, 2 holidays for Sikhs, one holiday for Jains, one holiday for Budhha birthday in a year.Recommend

  • Rizwan Khalid
    Mar 20, 2011 - 10:59AM

    I wanted to point out that the creative ness was dull in this picture while at the day-time there were more celebrations and a lot of pictures with good creative ness could be made.
    I hope you will read my comment and try to improve the website.
    Rizan Khalid
    P.S : The theme of the story was also not well distinguished with the piture.Recommend

  • Mar 20, 2011 - 11:34AM

    They should officially be given leave, bonuses and every sort of facility and happinesses they need to celebrate their festivals.Recommend

  • Jahan
    Mar 20, 2011 - 11:40AM

    Please Stop this non-sense there are more than 200 millions Muslims in India which makes huge percentage of overall population but how many hindus are there is Pakistan not even more than 2 percent hence they don’t deserve public holiday.Recommend

  • Ravindra Mishra
    Mar 20, 2011 - 11:44AM

    Why is a financial package to be handed out by the provincial or the federal government? That too in a time of financial tightness. Such populist measures are the reason why the coffers of the state, not exactly overflowing to begin with for reasons of low tax compliance and for an overemphasis on defense and non-essentials; are perennially running empty.


    In a secular state, no one should be given an extra handout for festivities, which in any case is an individual’s personal choice and a community event. The Punjab state government has set a wrong precedence by handing out a package. This is no way to promote a secular profile or to set an example of multi-cultural / pan-national identity.


    This is exactly the kind of tokenism that is indulged in India, in the name of financing Hajj pilgrims annually; or in the USA, when a major holiday each of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, African-Americans, Hindus are clustered towards the fourth quarter of the year to provide an uninterrupted shopping bonanza for the retailers. So much so, that ‘Merry Christmas’ is now being exchanged for the more neutral ‘Happy Holidays’. Tokenism, is a short-cut.


    Happy Holi. May the spring bring happiness to your, your family, your community and to your country. Do well. Do good. Do your best.

    It does not inculcate the values of tolerance, understanding and acceptance that all religions are supposed to teach their adherents. Pakistan’s leaders and elites would do well not to go down this route. The better option, would be for the Hindus to turn down such cultural ‘blood-money’ and consider to highlight, their contribution and participation in the economy and fibre of Pakistan, by staging a larger outreach to their Mussalman neighbours. Else, they will be mired in the same mire of ghetto self-victimisation, that the Indian Muslims have needlessly allowed to fetter themselves with. This is counter productive not just to the minority communities, but to the respective countries as well. Come out and play. And foil the tokenism. Recommend

  • Mar 20, 2011 - 12:01PM

    We can have unusual and uncalled for strikes in abundant over an year. Why can’t an official day off that is observed by millions in the countryRecommend

  • Tariq
    Mar 20, 2011 - 12:44PM

    @Jahan: 100% Agreed.Recommend

  • Gandu
    Mar 20, 2011 - 1:40PM

    @Jahan U are right we need ti kick out those 200 m from India and rest from the world ..it will happen very soonRecommend

  • Salman
    Mar 20, 2011 - 1:44PM

    Happy Holi to all our Pakistani brothers and sisters.Recommend

  • jibran hayat
    Mar 20, 2011 - 2:07PM

    i want wish a very happy Holi to all the Hindus in Pakistan!! and to those celebrating around the world!!
    @ jahan , fine giving public holiday is debatable but, GOP must announce the holiday for all the hindu community in our country
    try be a bit flexible Recommend

  • Sarah K
    Mar 20, 2011 - 2:47PM

    I live and work in the UK. We do not have public holidays for Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus or Buddhists. Mr. Jafri should refrain from hate mongering.Recommend

  • Optimistic
    Mar 20, 2011 - 3:13PM

    Forget stipend, there should be a day off for Hindus (or any other minority group) on important festivals such as Holi and Diwali for hindus!Recommend

  • Prashant Kohale
    Mar 20, 2011 - 3:20PM

    @Jahan: stupid Jahan in India percentage of Parsi population is less than 0.0002% but we have public holiday on Parsi Navroz. so keep your comparison with you only, and your comment also shows your respect about other religion.Recommend

  • Prashant Kohale
    Mar 20, 2011 - 3:25PM

    Hindus and Christians of Pakistan how can you people live in such country, leave the Pakistan before it completely turn into Taliban!!! Recommend

  • Raj
    Mar 20, 2011 - 3:25PM

    Forget giving holidays!!! Give them basic rights and security first, if the country can!!!!!!!!
    Which i don’t see happening at any time soon, and perhaps never will as time goes by there will be more clergy involvement in your politics.Recommend

  • Imran Khan
    Mar 20, 2011 - 3:46PM

    Enough is Enough! We want Jinnah’s Pakistan, where every minorities is treated equall and should be given public holiday for their festivals! Subh Holi to every Pakistani Hindus! With Love.Recommend

  • Malik
    Mar 20, 2011 - 3:47PM


    You and Hindus are new arrivals in US while Hindus in Pakistan are how I should say natives of this land. Trying to oppress them is like trying to oppress Native Americans and you have done a good job of it.Recommend

  • Shahzad S. Janjua
    Mar 20, 2011 - 4:00PM

    I agree 100% with Amna’s comment. Moreover, what percentage out of those minorities didn’t get their holidays.

    So out of the total minority population I guess might be hardly 1% would be the case where this article applies.

    This shows how bias our media really is when it comes to portray the country image in front of the whole world.

    I am not being extremist, but being practical. Would like to know what percentage of these minorities didn’t get the holidays.

    Even for your kind information, in govt offices, by law is allowed to grant them holidays. Better check the facts out before publishing.

    The thing which I would dearly love, that like the west, if some news paper published a phony news article, the news paper alongwith the publisher got prosecuted. I wish it would be the same, had it been. Our life would be much better. Recommend

  • Rahul Singh
    Mar 20, 2011 - 4:42PM

    I am not at all surprised with the ill treatment given to minorities specially Hindus in Pakistan. Islam never teaches to live in harmony with other religions, it has spread with the brutal use of violence and even in 21st century they think of continuing it. The ancestors of majority of Muslims in India and Pakistan were Hindus and they were forcefully converted to Islam. Quran contain ample injunctions to hostility and war against the unbelievers. When it does not even allow valid debate over blasphemy laws and kill its own men, even to think that they will give equal rights to Hindus is idiotic. Recommend

  • Malik
    Mar 20, 2011 - 4:48PM

    Great point about the numbers. Let’s stop giving Muslims facilities in countries where they are in single digit percentages. Oh my, that would be almost every western country.Recommend

  • Malik
    Mar 20, 2011 - 4:54PM

    @Sarah K:

    I live in UK too and Muslims do get the Eid holiday should they want. The only problem is they can’t get to agree on a single day for Eid. UK government also sponsors Hajj mission as well as providing Halal food in schools, Jails etc. Imams are provided in Jails, Army and so on. Don’t know how you missed out on all this.Recommend

  • John
    Mar 20, 2011 - 5:59PM

    Why should there be public holidays for Minorities in PAK . There are no minorities there anyway.Recommend

  • sharma
    Mar 20, 2011 - 6:01PM

    Happy holi to all brothers and sisters from the world ,especially to one who are suffering from extremism in afganistan and pakistan!

    hindus can never have even limited rights in unstable pakistan ,ruled by mullah,corrupt army and inefficient,divided politicians..

    hindus in pakistan wont even care about festival holiday on Holi,once their life is at stake.

    Government of india should have no problem taking 8 million peaceful hindus.we are home to illegal 50 million muslims from bangladesh after creation.
    Once CPI(M)=>chinese party of india( for minority)can allow bangladeshi muslims for their votebank,
    why indian govt cant consider these people to move freely.50 million bangladeshis are sucking our resources in state like assam where hindus are reduced to minority from
    majority with in 30 years which in future can create new kashmir like problem there.

    Anway taking 8 million peaceful hindus,2 million christians and few sikhs; wont be a much pressure on india’s resources!!I

    If Government of india dont have enough money ,they should create a special tax free fund for the cause in all over the country and world.
    We NRI all over the world , are always ready to help them migrate to their homeland where they can live their life under no fear.Recommend

  • Angelos
    Mar 20, 2011 - 7:44PM

    Granted Pakistan has its issues with giving proper protection to minorities, but everything isnt a case of not having equal rights. Really, Express tribune, not every article needs to stir the drama pot by being titled “minorities in Pakistan”…..rightly said!Recommend

  • hinduism is the true religion
    Mar 20, 2011 - 10:48PM

    happy holi to all the hindus around the world
    hindus of pakistan you should leave QUICKLY you cant trust pakis to me they are all terrorists and should be sh*t dead

    if india can provide holidays for muslims why cant pakyland?

    ohh i am also from the UK and feel know that at school you are allowed 3 days off, halal meet etc.Recommend

  • Saad
    Mar 20, 2011 - 11:18PM

    this article is just to make an issue out of a non-issue , in West there are holidays for Christians but not for Muslims Hindus and other religions .Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Mar 21, 2011 - 12:08AM


    Since the creation of Pakistan, the majority in Pakistan had being ststemaically eleminating not just the religious minorities but also the ethenic minorities as well.

    The regiuous minorities had been brough down to 2% from 15% at the time of partition. Before the severance of Pakistan, they eleminated 3 million Bangalis too.

    Now the Pakhtoons and Balochs are being regularly and opening targeted by the Army and other Pakistani establishments.

    Since every one else will be battered to an insignificant level, so all minority issues are insignificant in Pakistan.

    P.S. : There are less that 0.1% Parsis, we have one holiday for them too.Recommend

  • Bill
    Mar 21, 2011 - 1:13AM

    ROFLMAO,u think it is an achievement?????Recommend

  • Mulla Toofhan
    Mar 21, 2011 - 2:03AM

    There is no public holidays in most of the Euroean and American countries for Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or other religion for specials days ,but your are entiled to have priority holidays on those days, Some Government and public places in N. America do not delcare the Christmas as Chridtmas holidays but as Seasons holiday, so for me, if Minorities do not get public holidays its not a big DealRecommend

  • Ravindra Mishra
    Mar 21, 2011 - 4:11AM

    My dear Pakistani brethrens:
    You will sorely miss your non-Muslim ‘minorities’, when they are gone.
    Instead of making them count in your national advance, you have been hell bent on discounting them all along.


    The result will be a farchand without that distinctive white strip on the flag … which incidentally is also closer to the flagpost.


    Jaagte Raho! Jaagte Raho!Recommend

  • Chaitanya
    Mar 21, 2011 - 6:10AM

    how do indians come in a pak website and spread their hate …..I don’t know man !!!Recommend

  • John
    Mar 21, 2011 - 8:22AM

    For all those complain about lack of religious holidays in USA for minorities.

    One day official holiday for Christmas, due to history of the country. That is it. Those who choose to work, such as emergency personnel, police etc., on Christmas can claim that holiday separately when they need it.

    Nothing for Good Friday -which is more sacred for Christians than any other religious holidays.

    In US there are floating holidays-paid leave, which people can avail as many minorities do for their religious festivals.

    All holidays are equal for all in all states. No exception. Recommend

  • Suhail
    Mar 21, 2011 - 8:50AM

    @Mohammad Irfan:
    The main reason for this may be that India is a secular country but Pakistan is a (supposedly) a Muslim state. Please keep in mind that India has a large Muslim minority, burt Pakistan does not have such a large Hindu minority. Therefore I believe if employers want they can give their Hindu employees a day off but it would be insane to make Hindu festivals a public holiday as they are not a considerable number.Recommend

  • LOL
    Mar 21, 2011 - 8:56AM

    @ Bill – it is an achievement to be inclusive to all. Recommend

  • Mir
    Mar 21, 2011 - 9:17AM

    People here have made a happy occasion into a slug fest as usual. The insect mentality of the sub continent will always be the same. Recommend

  • rofl
    Mar 21, 2011 - 9:25AM

    there are very less percentage of christians in india, still the got 3 public holidays ie, christmas, easter, good friday. Then also holidays will increase district wise.Recommend

  • rofl
    Mar 21, 2011 - 9:31AM

    @ bill
    That is not an achievnment. That is basic native minority right.Recommend

  • Questioner
    Mar 21, 2011 - 9:52AM

    In many cities of India it is not a holiday on holi. Recommend

  • ali tahir
    Mar 21, 2011 - 4:02PM

    what a pointless topic!
    there is no eid holiday in America.. had anyone complained?..
    waste of efforts!Recommend

  • Raj
    Mar 21, 2011 - 4:32PM

    Holi is celebrated in India, but there is no day off on this occasion in many states. Students come to colleges, universities on this day, bunk classes and enjoy festival. Majority of the teachers remain in their offices fearing students will squirt colors on them and they ( students ) often do. Recommend

  • Ron(Indian)
    Mar 21, 2011 - 7:58PM

    Common guys why do expect minority holiday in only one religion country just get off !! Thanks.Recommend

  • Mar 22, 2011 - 9:41AM

    In any case, we have so many strikes here in Karachi that everybody gets lots and lots of holidays. You shouldn’t expect more holidays. Yes, like in Singapore and Malaysia (and not like USA and Canada) owners and directors should be more forthcoming in their ways. They should allow leaves to religious minorities on their own. Recommend

  • AG
    Mar 22, 2011 - 1:55PM

    Its wrong to compare this situation with the US. And its not about holidays. It’s about how minorities are treated in Pakistan. Compare the situation in India and Pakistan if you have to.Recommend

  • Swati
    Mar 23, 2011 - 12:00AM

    Firstly I would like to say ‘Happy Holi’ to all my brothers and sisters all over the world. I have made one observation here on Tribune blog that many many Pakistani brothers and sisters have supported the demand for a flexible Holi holiday for us Hindus. But I suspect that you folks are the educated and cultured lot who are in minority and certainly none of the pak politicians can be called cultured forget secular so its very disappointing that this educated class has no effective voice or control in the Islamic terrorist stronghold country
    Come you guys make your voice heard and make Pakistan a good place once again
    Swati, UKRecommend

  • sceptic ali
    Mar 23, 2011 - 6:47AM

    @Amna: that is a disgusting statement,made worse since it’s coming from a seemingly educated female residing in america, where you are afforded rights hindu-pakistanis can not even dream of.
    in pakistan, where corruption and lost productivity is the norm and not the exception, how many percentage points would have been shaved off our gdp had we allowed hindus to take off two days a year, so they could celebrate their religion, which by the by, was practiced on our soil, by our ancestors, long before the advent of islam in arabia, let alone in the indus valley.
    bigoted people like you is exactly why we, liberal pakistanis, are loosing the war to the mumtaz qadris and fazlur rehmans of our benighted nation.

    shame on you and shame on all those who “recommended” your callous remark.Recommend

  • sceptic ali
    Mar 23, 2011 - 6:57AM

    @Sarah K: answer me this – when was the last time, united kingdom’s muslims were massacred like animals by the majority people, like pakistani christians or when was the last time a british muslim member of parliament was assassinated in broad daylight like shahbaz bhatti?
    since the answer to the queries above is – never. you should refrain from using england as a comparison to support your deep rooted bigotry.
    i am surprised that women, who i would hope would identify with the minority’s plight, are so openly discriminating. shame!Recommend

  • jibran hayat
    Mar 25, 2011 - 10:24AM

    @ Rahul Singh!
    you made very sarcastic comments, anyways that show your ignorence about the Islam and its doctrine, Dnt compare the true face of Islam with extremist elements within Muslim commnuity, Islam is the religion which put enormous emphasis towards tolerant attitude,religious harmaniy, pluralistic mind set ..
    Islam spread because of persuasion not because of coercion measures
    now lets just take example of RSS india ,SHIV shena and many other extremist group of hindus, should i say that hinduism preaches violent attitude and bloodshed . see what happened to Babery Mosque , it was the worse to its limits, take the example of state terrorism in Hayderabad when thousands of Muslims being killed,
    oh sardar jee!!!
    thoda bohot apney nal bi week!!!!!Recommend

  • AG
    Mar 25, 2011 - 2:53PM

    @jibran hayat:
    There are ehough comments on
    1. how Islam is a religion of peace and harmony,
    2. how Islam should not be judged by the deeds of a handful of extremists
    3. how in India also we have extremists like the Shiv Sena or the RSS

    So let me respond point by point
    1 and 2. For non Muslims, Islam is understood by the conduct of Muslims. What the Quran says we do not know, but we see what Muslims do. It is not the input that is important, it is the output. Can any Islamic country be shown as an example for advancement in Science, technology, Medicine etc? Is there any Islamic country where the will of the people rules? Why? If Pakistan has democracy today, we are not sure if it will remain so tomorrow. And we know what a sham democracy it is.
    As for peace and harmony, right from Libya, to Tunisia, to Egypt, to Yemen to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan to Pakistan, is there peace anywhere? In defence, the only stupid argument of the Pakistanis is that this is a conspiracy of the Jews and Hindus! Only if we were that powerful! Peace and harmony? Just tell us about what you do to the Hindus, and Christians and Ahmediyas, not to mention Salman Taseer or Shahbaz Bhatti. Pakistan is perhaps the only country where a murderer is showered petals of roses by no other than lawyers, that too in a court of law! And you say Islam teaches peace and harmony!! Were the lawyers not Muslims?
    3. The Shiv Sena and RSS vis a vis the Taliban or other extremist outfits in Pakistan: This is like comparing a 1st rank student in a primary school with a 1st ranker from a post graduate class. The kind of violence that the Pakistani extremists can consistently as a process carry on with, and the kind of fire power and resources they have they are leagues ahead of their Indian counterparts. No entity in India is so weaponized as in Pakistan to give effect to the kind of violence there. And for sure, the Indian diaspora is not so fanatical about religion as the hypocrite Pakistani religious class.
    Any comments?Recommend

  • Rahul Singh
    Mar 25, 2011 - 5:28PM

    @jibran hayat:
    The situation prevalent in almost all the Muslim countries is a clear indication of how tolerant, harmonious and pluralistic Islam is. Don’t rewrite the history by yourself, Islam has not spread by persuasion and peace but by brutal use of force and you are the example of it. Your forefathers were not Muslim by birth but were forcefully converted to it like majority of Muslims in Indian subcontinent. How ignorant you are about India is reflected in your comment when you compare Shiv Sena and RSS with terrorists like lasker e toyeba. Shiv Sena is a political party which is elected by people of this country and RSS is an organization that works within the democratic setup of the country.
    By the way your lack of knowledge about India is also reflected when you called me a sardar jee. All Indians with a “Singh” title are not necessarily a Sikh.Recommend

  • jibran hayat
    Mar 26, 2011 - 2:29AM

    yah sureRecommend

  • jibran hayat
    Mar 26, 2011 - 10:13PM

    i have !!!Recommend

    Apr 1, 2011 - 2:16PM

    @AG : You Rocked it !!!!!! Proud of you broRecommend

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