Often after religious minorities are attacked in Pakistan, one of the first public responses is to justify their existence in the country. Those who have not faced such persecution might find it hard to understand the need to cement identities above and beyond religion. Or understand why it is important to state the obvious.
Hindus and Sikhs participating in the seminar ‘Stop violence against minorities’ were no different with their emphatic assertions of belonging to Pakistan.
“Pakistan is our country. We are born here and we will be buried here,” said one of those in attendance.
The seminar, organised by the newly-formed Commission for Peace and Minorities’ Rights (CPMR), was held at Shelton’s Green Hotel on Monday. The group has been born out of frustration over the government’s failure to protect adherents of other faiths and human rights organisations’ failure to support minorities.
“We did not migrate from a neighbouring country; we belong to this soil of our forefathers,” said one participant. “Our elders sacrificed much for Pakistan yet minorities—Hindus and Sikhs in particular—are considered ‘refugees’ in comparison to others.”
Haroon Sarbdiyal, the president of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Association (APHRA) said, “We are marginalised and our ancestral property and places of worship are occupied by land grabbers, but the government does not take steps to return them to us.”
The Constitution guarantees the rights and protection of minorities but none of the governments yet have implemented this, said speakers at the seminar. This puts the life of the non-Muslim at stake and pushes them against the flow of progress.
Commission for Rights
Sarbdiyal said this was the first ever Sikh and Hindu association where both will raise a collective voice for their rights.
“So called human rights organisations could not support us and have kept silent over the murder of minorities,” said Sarbdiyal.
After Jagmohan Singh’s murder on August 6, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had told protesting Sikhs to arrange for their own security. Khattak was quoted as saying he, and even the police, is not safe in the province.
Sarbdiyal pointed out that in such times when Sikhs and Hindus felt scared for their lives, organisations like the Council for Islamic Ideology (CCI), the governor, and the central and provincial governments needed to step up. They have all been given time to solve these problems, said Sarbdiyal.
Jagmohan’s murder in Peshawar had followed the killing of Paramjeet Singh in March and of Baghwan Singh in January in Charsadda. Mindful of the unabated bloodletting, minority representatives at the seminar expressed “no confidence” in the government machinery, political parties and religious groups.
“With the repeated murders of our people by ‘unidentified armed men’, Sikhs in Peshawar have been confined to their homes in fear,” said one of the leaders.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2014.
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