The members of small communities settled in Pakistan are tired of being labelled ‘minorities’. Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Baha’is and Hazarwals across the country feel that the word has marginalised them and taken away their right to be called an official Pakistani citizen.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a series of meetings for the members of small religious groups to discuss these concerns. The third such session was held at the Regent Plaza on Thursday. A working committee, put together by HRCP in June 2010 in light of the discrimination faced by communities because of their beliefs, spoke at the meeting.
Advocate Rochiram claimed that Pakistani Hindus and the Sikhs don’t have any marriage laws. He elaborated that while courts accept proof of Christian marriages from priests, there is no such authorisation for Hindu marriages. The same goes for laws of inheritance, re-marriage, separation and adoption, he added.
Pushpa Kumari, a Hindu minority rights activist, told The Express Tribune that she is married and her daughter is at university, but as far as the law goes, she is single. “When I was going to Switzerland, the embassy asked me for my marriage certificate,” she said. “I had to dig up my wedding cards by calling distant relatives which was the only available proof except for my bindaya and mangalsutra (a thread worn by married Hindu women).”
The Sikhs face the same problems, explained Charanjeet Singh from Peshawar and Krishan Singh from Karachi.
As the focus shifted towards other communities, Munawwar Ali Shahid, an Ahmadi from Lahore, said that Ahmadis have been robbed of both religious and political rights ever since partition. Syed Muhammad Ashraf Zaidi, a Hazarwal who travelled to the meeting from Quetta, shared how his community has been brutally targeted since 1999. He said that the incidents have resulted in almost 500 deaths and 1,000 disabling injuries.
HRCP Secretary General IA Rehman assured the gathering that their organisation is working on these issues separately and in detail. He said that these communities do not need the Pakistani government to make laws for them. They can come up with solutions that cannot be challenged and suit everyone.
To resolve the issue of Hindu marriage, a committee of seven Hindu members from different Sindh districts was put together.
They are to come up with recommendations for a final draft for the Hindu marriage laws which will be forwarded to parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2011.
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