Hearing them out: Christians, Parsis stay away as Sikhs, Hindus cast votes

Minorities express mixed emotions about elections.


Rabia Ali May 10, 2013
Hindus and Sikhs of Ranchore Line are excited about political revelry and festivities.

KARACHI: For years Yaqoob Mashih cheered for Karachi’s largest party. Owner of a small grocery shop in the narrow lanes of Essa Nagri, he would put up a glittery kite outside his house and proudly pin the party badge on his chest come elections time. Not anymore. 

Masih has decided to not vote this time around and register his protest and dismay. He is not alone as hundreds of his fellow Christians from Essa Nagri are doing the same. “They have not done anything for us so why should we vote for them,” came a reply from the middle-aged Masih.

Against a backdrop of several Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) flags hanging from ‘kundas’ and hoisted on rooftops, residents narrated their grievances they have had in the last five years and listed forceful occupation of their houses, extortion and harassment by people of neighbouring localities as their biggest problems.

Shoaib, an unemployed youth, said that the overall situation has worsened over the last few years. “When armed men come and fire at us, MQM is nowhere to be seen.” Joseph Riaz pointed out the small shops that have popped up and openly sell drugs. This, Riaz said, together with the rising unemployment is luring their boys towards the dark side. Ruby Bashir, a housewife, has chosen not to exercise her right to vote. “We know our votes will be automatically cast if we don’t turn up on May 11 but we don’t want to nominate the wrong people.”

In contrast, Hindus and Sikhs of Ranchore Line are excited about political revelry and festivities. At Narayanpura, people could be seen sitting near a political camp that blared out songs, cheered on by applauding young men.

A tour of the locality showed that despite overflowing potholes and heaps of garbage lying in the open, people remained loyal to their party. Mangan Chohan, an elderly resident, said that they would vote for the MQM as they have high hopes it would help get their housing issue sorted.

The Sikh residents also voiced their support. “Our elders have always voted for MQM as it speaks of minority rights,” said Amar Singh, a resident. Kishan Singh, caretaker of the gurdwara in Ranchore Line, concurred with Amar. “Non-Muslim candidates from other parties ignore us and the last minorities minister did not spend a single penny on the uplift of our community.”

The Parsis were, however, wary of stepping out of their houses to vote owing to the precarious law and order situation. Behram Avari, a representative of the community, confirmed that this is indeed the case. Two Parsis that The Express Tribune talked to said they live in DHA Phase 1 but are registerd in Matiari and are unwilling to go there to vote.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2013.

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