Lawmakers representing minorities have decided to take a firm stance and lodge a protest in parliament against what they say is the government’s lax attitude towards protecting their rights.
“We are all set to record protest in parliament if the government does not safeguard the places of worship of minorities, particularly the Hindu community,” Minister of National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti told The Express Tribune on Sunday. “Minorities in Pakistan are in deep trouble,” he added.
“The government should be committed to safeguarding the places of worship of the minorities in the country and all possible steps should be taken for the care and maintenance of these places,” said Bhatti. Lawmakers from Sindh have already conveyed their concerns to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani over the enforced marriages of girls from the Hindu community in the province. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Dr Azra Fazl has also raised the issue in the National Assembly, saying that Hindu girls were being forced to live in madrassas in Sindh.
Taking notice of the protest of members of the Hindu community in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad on Friday for the repossession of their temple in Narowal district, the minister said that no one should be allowed to occupy minorities’ places of worship. He also directed the authorities concerned to take up the matter and resolve it at the earliest.
“Interfaith harmony can only be achieved through interfaith relationship ... we should have interactions to understand each other’s point of views,” Bhatti told The Express Tribune.
Meanwhile, All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairperson Haroon Sarb Diyal emphasised the same message of interfaith harmony on Sunday. Diyal, who is also a member of the World Minority Parliament, visited Peshawar in an effort to promote interfaith harmony between the Muslim and Hindu communities residing in the provincial metropolis. He also met Syed Muhammad Sabtain Gilani, son of well known religious figure the late Maulvi Jee and provincial Ameer of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani).
Talking to The Express Tribune, Haroon said: “We are Pakistanis irrespective of our different religions and cultural backgrounds and I believe that we should work together for the peace, welfare and prosperity of the both communities and Pakistan, which is our only true identity”. Speaking on the occasion, Sabtain Gilani said that being a majority group, it is the responsibility of the Muslim community in the country to protect the lives and property of minorities.
A total of 1,225 Hindu and 500 Sikh families reside in Peshawar, according to a survey conducted by the National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony.
The survey revealed there are around 47,000 Hindus, 5,000 Sikhs and 125,000 Christians in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2012.