PESHAWAR: Religious minorities in Pakistan have a historical connection to this land and are the valuable citizens of this country. Under the laws and constitution of the country, their interests and rights are secured and they are completely free to follow their culture and religion without any influence.
Pakistan is facing a volatile security situation for the last few decades due to which thousands of people have been killed, mostly Muslims. During this time, not only temples and churches were targeted by also the mosques and shrines were attacked.
Pakistan is widely being criticized for violation of minorities’ rights. However, unlike this, the Muslim majority has always raised their voices for the protection of religious minorities. Remembering the incident of Islamic International University, where Parvaiz Masih, though had no relatives inside but he overpowered the bomber and saved the life of 150 Muslim girls.
Hinduism is a global tradition and the second largest religion in Pakistan after Islam; they are found in all provinces of Pakistan but are mostly concentrated in Sindh, there is no denying the fact that Hindus are sons of the soil. Sindh is known for its traditional, tolerant Sufi-culture, diversity, and pluralism, and for its cultural roots that could be traced back to Hinduism.
A Hindu Panelist Arun Kumar has once said ‘I’m committed that Pakistan is a country I belong to, I am the son this soil, I can never think of leaving my motherland to be settled in a foreign country. My forefathers played an important role in the formation of Pakistan. I’ve a serious contribution with my communities and with Pakistan as a whole.”
Hindus enjoying the right to life, including property, faith, freedom of movement, vocation, association, education, sports, government services and participating in mainstream Pakistani life, for example cricketers Danish Kaneria and Anil Dalpat, fashion designer Deepak Parvani, Leading TV Actress Sunita Marshall, former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan Rana Bhagwandas, Civil Judge Suman Bodani and including top businessman’s, doctors, engineers, and landlords etc. Punjab Parliamentary Secretary for Minorities and Human Rights, Sardar Mahinder Pall Singh has said: “we enjoying full freedom, we are all Pakistanis.”
Prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has said that we must ensure that our Hindus feel safe and empowered equally as Muslim populace. We are fulfilling the longstanding demands of Hindus to restore their worship places. We’ve reopened Peshawar Gurdawara that had been closed since partition, more than 60 million spent to rebuild and renovate every Mandars, Gurdawaras and Churches that previously demolished, destroyed or converted for other use, over 400 Temples will be recovered, among 22 will be recovered this year, basic facilities like electricity/sound system will be provided as well.
Government of Pakistan and Hindu community have preserved and protected many prominent Hindu temples and as well they periodically allow small groups of Hindus from India to take part in festivals in Pakistan, they have different worship places like temple located in Sindh, Baluchistan, Indus river, Hindu Gymkhana, Shari Swami Narayan Mender in Karachi.
Prime Minister Imran Khan met the representatives of Sikh and Hindu communities and apprised them of the decisions taken by the government for the welfare of minorities. He discussed different community problems and the PM reiterated the provision of rights to minorities was the priority of the government. Imran Khan doubled employment quota for minorities, as well as Rs140 million stipends for minority religious scholars and students.
Chairman of Pakistan People Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari attended the Hindus festival Holi in Umar Kot. On this occasion, he said: ‘Namasty, I also attended ‘Diwali’ with the residents of ‘Mithi’, so I decided to celebrate the festival of colours with friends of Umar Kot. We make this day as a national holy day. We promise you to make this country Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan.”
The Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, Pakistan Hindu Council and the Pakistan Hindu Welfare associations are the primary civic organizations that represent and organize Hindu communities on social, economic, religious and political issues in most of the country.
There are different commissions and for a while, Ministry of Minority Affairs in the Government of Pakistan looked after specific issue concerning Pakistan religious minorities. Former minister for foreign affairs Hina Rabbani Khar has once said that ‘our constitution is crystal clear on the rights of minorities to freely profess their religion and visit their places of worship, they are an integral part of the Pakistani society and all citizens are guaranteed equal rights and status, irrespective of religion or caste.”
In 2017, Government of Pakistan make a law for millions of Hindus about Hindu Marriage, this law paves the way for regulations on registration of marriage and divorce and fixes the minimum marrying age for males and females at 18 years old. And as well another law is also existed, Article 2-A, freedom of minorities and Article 36, protection of minorities.
According to Gilani Research Foundation Survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan, 87 % Pakistanis including minorities believed that minorities in Pakistan have freedom of speech, freedom for religious expression, and equal rights.
The author is a student of Journalism at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan. She is doing Bachelors in Journalism and Mass Communication. Email: itslaraiba[email protected]