Monthly Archives: September 2013
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
In our 7th grade textbook there is a lesson on how to invite a Christian to convert to Islam. If this is the case how we can we learn to have tolerance when we grow up?
On 22 September, two suicide bombers brutally attacked the All Saints Church of Peshawar. Eighty-one Christian worshippers, including 37 women, were killed and 170 were critically injured. It is reputed to be the deadliest attack on the Christian community in Pakistan to date.
Surprisingly, only two policemen were on duty to provide for the security of 600 Christian worshippers. This contributed to the ease with which suicide bombers carrying hand-grenades and pistols entered the church to ruthlessly target the congregation. As well it demonstrates the government’s inability to provide adequate security for the Christian worshippers as well as a careless attitude towards minorities. After the deadly attack,Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Sahidullah Shahid spoke on the phone to the BBC Urdu service, saying that the suicide attack against the Christian parishioners was in accordance with the Shariah. He did not claim responsibility for the attack.
It is worth mentioning that the tiny population of Christians, only two per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million population, lives constantly in fear. Because of Pakistan’s strict and rigorous blasphemy laws, Christians have allegedly been accused of committing blasphemy. Christians also complain about the attitude of local Muslims who desecrate their churches and burn their houses on the pretext of blasphemy. For instance, on March 9, 2013, an enraged Muslim mob attacked the Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan, torching more than 200 houses and two churches. The alleged reason for the attack was Sawan Masih alias Bodhi, who quarreled with his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, a local barber. Although both of them drank together, in an argument, Shahid Imam falsely accused the Christian man, Sawan Masih of making blasphemous remarks.
In 2001, Christians were assaulted in Bahawalpur and Islamabad.
In 2002, Christians were assaulted three times: firstly, on August 9, 2002, Muslim gunmen threw hand grenades on the grounds of the Taxila Christian Hospital in northern Punjab, which killed four, including two nurses and a paramedic, and wounded 25 men and women. Secondly, on September 25, 2002, unidentified Muslim gunmen shot to death six Christians at a Christian charity in Karachi. Thirdly, on December 25, 2002, two burka-clad Muslim gunmen threw a grenade into a Christian church that killed three girls during a Christian sermon in Chianwala in East Pakistan.
In 2005, hundreds of Christians had to leave their houses in Faisalabad when one of the Christian residents was blamed for burning the pages of Holy Qur’an. After that, a Muslim mob set ablaze Christians’ houses and schools in the Faisalabad town.
In 2009, a mob burned 40 Christian houses and killed 7 in the Gojra town of Punjab province, after rumors that a copy of the Holy Quran had been desecrated during a Christian marriage ceremony.
On January 4, 2011 ,Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab, was assassinated by his security guard Mumtaz Qadri. Salman supported Asia Bibi a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. Many Muslim clerics gave fatwa not to mourn and not to
attend Salman Taseer’s funeral prayer due to his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law and terming it a black law.
In March 2011, the former Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was gunned down in the Sector 1-8/3, Islamabad. He was an advocate of amending the blasphemy laws.
In August 2012, Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl, was accused of committing blasphemy by a cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chisti. She was soon found guiltless and released. However the cleric did not face trial for false accusations against the helpless girl. She was fortunate enough to flee to Canada. Otherwise, she would have been targeted.
It seems that Christians are “unwanted” and “undesirable” in Pakistan. They are considered unequal citizens and are treated like low class citizens. We even teach our school-going children that Christians are anti-Islam. In our 7th grade textbook there is a lesson on how to invite a Christian to convert to Islam. If this is the case how we can we learn to have tolerance when we grow up?
Interview by Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Professor Aziz Mohammad Bugti is a renowned Baloch author, intellectual and analyst. He has authored several books in Urdu and Balochi languages about the Baloch people and Balochistan. He has also a great contribution toward Balochi Literature. Our correspondent Muhammad Akbar Notezai spoke to him about the history of Hindus based in Balochistan, their contributions and contemporary challenges.Excerpts:
How did the Hindus settle in Balochistan?
It is exactly unknown how the Hindus settled in Balochistan. But it is said that the Hindus lived in the adjacent areas of Karachi, like Hub and Lasbella before the invasion of Mohammad Bin Qasim (712 AD). Besides, traces of the Hindus settlement are also found in Kalat and Sevi (Presently known as Sibi). The name of Kalat city has also been taken from a Hindu ruler, the Kalat Seva. But after the arrival of the Arabs and Balochs, Hindus’ influence and domination dwindled gradually and slowly.
In Balochistan, how do you trace back the history of sacred places of Hindus?
In Balochistan, the sacred places of Hindus are located in Bella, Kalat Seva (Kali Mata Temple) and Sevi, which are very old. These sacred places have been existing in these districts since Hindus’ domination in the areas of Balochistan.
The Hindu people’s hub, Deybal, where they ruled, is near the Bella. The Hinglaj Mata temple is situated there. It signifies, the Hindus have ruled once over here too. Still, Hindu devotees come from all over Pakistan to visit Hinglaj Mata temple of Balochistan.
How do you describe the plight of the Hindus in Balochistan?
Historically, the Hindus lived in Baloch populated districts. But they were also lived in Pashtun districts, such as Lorlai, Hindu Bagh (now named as Muslim Bagh) and Chaman, before the Partition days in 1947. They, after the Partition, migrated from these districts due to religious tumult. Now, a small number of Hindus lives in Pashtun-majority districts. However, the Hindus are fleeing Balochistan due to insecurity. They are migrating to Sindh and India.
What are the reasons behind it?
Well, they are deprived of the local people’s security and support which they enjoyed in the past. They have become strangers on their own indigenous land. The government is also not taking measures to address the challenges faced by the Hindu community.
How would the Baloch elders, especially Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, treat the Hindus community of Balochistan?
The Baloch elders, especially Nawab Akbar Bugti, have been very sympathetic to the Hindu community of Balochistan. They would never isolate the Hindus from themselves and their people due to their religion. Very interestingly, Baloch and the Hindus were treated equally by the Baloch elders. They were given all kinds of freedom.
Presently, it is pertinent to say that the Baloch elders cannot safeguard their rights because their tribal influence is diminishing due to the intervention of establishment in the tribal affairs.
What sacrifices have they tendered for Balochistan?
In Balochistan, Hindus have been tendering sacrifices from the day first. They have been side by side with the Baloch people in the struggles for rights. They have also been with each other at the time of happiness and sorrows.
There have been 65 Hindus killed in Dera Bugti District of Balochistan in the military assault against Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in March, 2005. And in that assault, many more sustained serious injuries.
How can the Hindus overcome these sufferings?
Hindus cannot get rid of these all sufferings until or unless they are ensured safety. It can also stop them from migrating. But if this is not done, then Hindus’ migration process may never stop.
The writer/interviewer is doing a research on the Balochistan based Hindus. Twitter: @Akbar_notezai Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in The Baloch Hal on September 8, 2013