LAHORE: Amid increasing cases of violence and lack of security against their community, 60 Hindu families from Balochistan and Sindh have decided to migrate to India, Express News reported on Thursday.
Four out of the 60 families left for India during midday via Samjhota Express from Lahore Railway Station. The rest of the families are expected to travel by today.
According to Express News correspondent Aftab Bukhari, five families residing in Aatma Raam Haweli – joint residence – vacated it this morning in order to move out to India.
Bukhari said that the families had complaints that their shops were looted, their houses were raided by unknown men and their women were forcefully converted.
He said that the visas on their passports were not permanent, however, he said that chances of them coming back to Pakistan were slim.
A resident in the locality informed Express News that the families who have vacated their houses had to sell them off at half price.
Express News’ correspondent from Lahore, Naeem Qaiser, reported that the families have been planning on leaving since the last 6-8 months.
Qaiser said that the members of the four families who left for India had refused to talk to the media. However, when their relatives were approached by Express News they said that they could not endure the violence and that even moving to another province was not an option.
Migration reports just propaganda: Malik
Responding to news reports that Pakistani Hindus were being driven out of Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik dismissed the reports of migrations as propaganda.
He said that propaganda is being made at the international level about the migration of Hindus from Pakistan.
In an interview‚ he said Indian High Commission has been asked to explain why it issued visas to 250 Hindu citizens of Pakistan.
Strangely enough, Mukesh Chawla, a member of the Sindh Provincial Assembly on a Pakistan Peoples Party ticket – much like Rehman Malik, had dismissed the travel of the Hindus and explained their visas as 40 day pilgrimage travel permits.
Malik added that the DG FIA has been instructed to pursue the matter.
CM takes notice
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the pleas of Hindu community and formulated a three-member committee comprising minority ministers to look into the matter.
Babu Mahesh, the representative of Hindu community in Jacobabad, has also expressed concern over the migration. He appealed to the Hindu families to take back their decision and stay in Sindh which is their “motherland”. He added that he will hold a conference in the evening to talk to the families.
Human rights activist Farzana Bari, talking to Express News, said that the issue is of a very serious nature and that the religious minorities in Pakistan do not get enough security.
“It is not easy to leave your settled life and move somewhere else. They are really afraid and this is a continuous phenomenon which we have been seeing in Sindh,” she said.
Bari maintained that it is the responsibility of the state to provide protection to its people. “What if this starts happening with Muslims in India and they migrate to Pakistan? Will we be able to give them adequate protection?”she questioned.
‘Families not migrating’
Sindh Minister for Excise and taxation Mukesh Kumar Chawla, who’s also heading the committee formed by the chief minister, denied reports that Hindu families in large numbers are migrating to India.
Talking to Express News, Chawla said, “I want to clarify this: Around 200-250 of the people leaving are going for a pilgrimage. They will come back after their 30-40 day stay.”
He admitted that there was a poor law and order situation in Sindh but the government has done everything to get rid of the problems.
When asked about families who leave on a visit visa, but apply for residence in India and stay over there, Chawla said that it was true and people did it for business purposes, “but 99% of the people come back”.
He added that the three-member committee will go to Jacobabad tomorrow to investigate the matter and will present a report within 2-3 days. “Security is being provided to the minorities,” he maintained.