Multi-tongued: Peshawar’s happy Hindus and Sikhs

While generally Peshawar isn’t considered a safe city, the minorities living in Peshawar think otherwise.


Ali Usman April 22, 2013
There are three main minorities living in Peshawar: Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. They have one thing in common: Punjabi. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

PESHAWAR:


On a Sunday morning, Christians in Saint John Vianney’s Church Peshawar were busy in praying. Father John William led the prayers in Urdu. Once the prayer was over, people started having chitchat in Punjabi. Once they went out of the church’s gate, they switched to Pashto.


“This switching of three languages is a routine practice. Many of us have never been to Lahore but we speak Punjabi. In most cases, our forefathers migrated to Peshawar some three or four generations ago. Since then we have been living here. We are Christians. We are Pakhtun but our association with Punjabi language is intact. It’s what we speak at our homes,” explained Pervaiz Arthur, one of the local Christians at the church.



While generally Peshawar isn’t considered a safe city, the minorities living in Peshawar think otherwise. There are three main minorities living in Peshawar: Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. They have one thing in common: Punjabi. All of them say they are proud Punjabi-speaking Pakhtun and feel safer in Peshawar than any other part of the country.

“Tolerance towards minorities in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, particularly in Peshawar, is much greater than in other provinces. Maybe it’s because Pakthun think the people belonging to different religions are also Pakhtun and their brothers. I have always been given preference over Muslims in business deals in Peshawar. I speak Pashtu because I am born and bred here but I am fluent in Punjabi,” said Augustine Jacob, a rights and political activist in Peshawar, talking to The Express Tribune.

What may be an issue of life and death in other parts of the country is a common practice in Peshawar. Many Christians and Hindu families don’t mind interfaith marriages. Mushtaq Gulzar and his wife Shanti Zeba are one such example. “I am a Christian and my wife a Hindu. We lived in a same neighborhood and started liking each other. When our parents came to know about this they got us married. She is still a Hindu and I am still a Christian. Our kids are free to choose the religion of their choice when they grow up,” Zeba and Gulzar said in unison.



“We don’t mind interfaith marriages if it’s between a Hindu and Christian. We do tell our boys not to think of getting married to a Muslim girl because in that case the whole family and community come under fire. There have been some rare cases when a Christian girl married a Muslim boy after conversion,” explained Gulzar.

Surindar Kumar is head of one of the Hindu families living in Peshawar. He is caretaker of a temple in Tehsil Gor Gathri, Peshawar. “It took me years to take possession of this temple through litigation but now everything is fine. I don’t feel discriminated on basis of my religion,” Kumar said in fluent Punjabi, sitting in the temple.

“Many Sikhs have migrated to Peshawar from Fata and run very good businesses. They are actually pampered by the people around them. Many Pakhtuns are pleasantly surprised when they first hear me speaking fluent Pashtu,” said a Sikh who runs a cloth shop in Qissa Khwani Bazaar.

“The condition of minorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has always been better than in other provinces. I have served as priest in Punjab and other parts of the country, but I see minorities having the least problems here. May be that’s why despite all odds, minorities have never thought about migrating from Peshawar,” said John William, a senior priest and Father at Saint John Vianney’s Church.

“There are above 4,000 registered Christian voters in Peshawar but there isn’t any specific party they will vote for. Everybody has his/her own political inclination,” said Finiase Masih. “Earlier, corporation (sanitary) jobs were considered to be reserved for Christians only, but with the influx of IDPs, many Muslims are given these jobs. This has somehow created frustration among Christians who aren’t educated or skilled,” said Masih.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2013.

COMMENTS (4)

Dr.MUNAWAR | 8 years ago | Reply

RARE TOPIC so a real news ..very well done

Moiz Omar | 8 years ago | Reply

Well this is great!

VIEW MORE COMMENTS
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

E-Publications

Most Read