The recent comments made by Interior Minister Rehman Malik on the migration of Hindu families amidst increasing cases of violence and lack of protection provided to their community by officials in Pakistan have angered our neighbour. When asked about the supposed migration of 60 Hindu families to India from Jacobabad, Malik claimed that India was carrying out a conspiracy against the government by issuing 250 visas to Hindus. As it turned out though, these visas were issued by the Indian High Commission so that the renowned Maharaj from Jacobabad, Santosh Puri, could leave for Yatra (religious pilgrimage) to India with his followers. As a result, a large number of people from Balochistan, Jacobabad and Kashmore had arrived at the border to bid him farewell.
Rehman Malik’s comments, however, would have been equally offensive had it turned out that the Hindus were actually migrating to India. We have made religious minorities feel so insecure in the country that many are left with no option but to reluctantly leave. In Sindh, Hindu girls are abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to Muslim men. Even the Supreme Court, which intervened in one such conversion case, ended up siding against the Hindu community. In Balochistan, Hindus are leaving their ancestral homes in droves, sometimes moving to India and otherwise going to large urban cities like Karachi and Quetta because of the threats they face. Since the trader Hindu community is relatively prosperous, it has been systemically targeted for kidnapping. The police have shown very little interest in recovering people belonging to a minority group and so families have either had to pay exorbitant amounts in ransom or lose their loved ones.
The interior minister should know that the Indian government and Pakistan’s Hindu community are not involved in any conspiracy. The only conspiracy here is the one hatched by a state that refuses to protect vulnerable communities. With his insensitive and thoughtless remarks, Rehman Malik may just have made things even worse for Hindus here. The suspicion with which Hindus were viewed will only increase now that their loyalty to the country has been questioned, when in fact, we should be focusing our efforts to maintain a more amicable relationship.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.