A Hindu legislator has cautioned the new administration against a possible exodus of his community members from the country. At the same time, he called for quick and effective legislation to safeguard the rights of minority communities in Pakistan.
Dr Mahesh Malani, the only non-Muslim politician who was elected to the Sindh Assembly from PS-61 (Tharparkar), claimed that discrimination against Hindus, the country’s largest minority group, was forcing his community members to migrate to ‘safer places’.
“The increasing sense of insecurity, caused by issues like forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam, is compelling the community members to migrate to other places [like India],” said Dr Malani, who contested the May 11 elections on the PPPP ticket.
The Hindu legislator, who has been pushing for a proposed law seeking registration of Hindu marriages since 2008, said the government should form committees at the district level to deal with such cases immediately.
These committees should comprise Muslims, non-Muslims and members of the Council of Islamic Ideology and it should take up cases related to alleged forced conversions and forced marriages. He claimed that rampant poverty was the main reason behind such incidents, particularly in Sindh where Hindus make a substantial chunk of population.
Some Hindu businessmen are also shifting their businesses due to lawlessness in Karachi, Dr Malani said.
Since September 2012, nearly 1,000 Hindu families have been struggling to migrate to India. Some of them succeeded in making their way to India, a development likely to raise questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect its religious minorities.
Several Hindu welfare organisations in Jodhpur, a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, which shares a border with Sindh, have extended their support to Pakistani migrants, claimed Ramesh Jaipal of Hare Rama Foundation.
He also recalled that leaders of the Hindu community had taken up the issue with the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which ordered implementation of laws to address the concerns of minorities. “The existing laws should be implemented to protect their [minorities]’s rights – this was the court’s order,” said Malani, who also served as MNA on a reserved seat in the previous government.
At present, nine MPAs are representing minorities in the Sindh Assembly, eight in the Punjab Assembly and three each in the provincial legislatures of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Some 38 non-Muslims are representing the minority communities in Parliament as well as provincial assemblies where 10 members are elected on the reserved seats in the lower house of Parliament and four are already representing minorities in the Senate.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2013.