“Consider us Pakistanis first and then Hindus,” said a member of the minority community during a press conference organised by 15 NGOs at the Karachi Press Club to condemn the recent killings of three Hindu doctors in Shikarpur.
Representatives of the civil society demanded the arrest of the culprits involved in the murder of the medical professionals. They also demanded an end to the target killing of doctors and injustices against the Hindu community.
Samrina Hashmi of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said that doctors are migrating from the country due to target killings. “During the last year, between eight and ten doctors were killed on the basis of sectarianism and extortion. Meanwhile, doctors from Gulshan-e-Hadeed and Naushero Feroze were kidnapped and later released after payment of ransom.”
In the last six months, around five doctors have been abducted in interior Sindh and were released after paying ransom. Hashmi said the writ of the government had ceased to exist and Sindh, once a province known for religious harmony, is now faced with extremism and violence. She said that the state was not protecting minorities and urged the relevant authorities to take action.
Hashmi said that these days, there is an unfortunate trend of converting Hindus. A number of cases had emerged in which girls from the community were forced to convert their religion. “Are Ahmadis, Christians or Hindus not citizens of the country?” she asked. The PMA member said the Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not convert anyone forcibly and she questioned how his followers could do the complete opposite. While highlighting the problems of the Hindu community, the patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council Ramesh Kumar said that forced conversions and target killings had become daily occurrences.
Calling for the arrest of the killers, he said that the murdered doctors were the sole bread earners of their families and demanded that the government provide Rs5 million to their families and Rs2 million to the injured.
Kumar said that before 1999, there was a difficult period in which the Hindu community migrated to other countries, but the situation got better and people moved back. However, the current situation is making the lives of people difficult and they are being forced to leave the country, once again.
“We have been living here for the last 1000 years and have major shares in the cotton and rice industry. Also, the Hindu community is the highest tax-payer, but today we are being targeted simply because we are peace-loving citizens.”
He also touched upon the issue of forced conversion and said that in 2007, he filed a constitution petition, but nothing has been done since then. Kumar said that girls are kidnapped and converted on a daily basis, following which they have no contact with their families.
He cited examples of cases such as the kidnapping of a woman from Bahadurabad a few days ago, whose whereabouts remain unknown. Kumar added that between 150 and 200 families from Kandkhot moved to safer areas as the situation in upper Sindh became difficult for the community. Further South, Hindu doctors in Hyderabad are continuously being threatened on the basis of their religion.
Speaking about the Evacuee Trust Property Board, he said that it is giving out property on lease which belongs to the Hindu community, while its chairman does not belong to the minority.
Kumar believed that the MPAs and MNAs on minority reserved seats are not representative of the community, but rather a specific political party. He said that the minority’s population, which is widely believed to be three percent, is in fact six percent and in Sindh alone, around 20 percent of the people belong to the Hindu community. In Karachi, there are over a million Hindus, Kumar claimed.
Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission’s Sindh Chapter, Amarnath Motumal said that they should be considered Pakistanis first and then Hindus. He said that in Shikarpur, the doctors were targeted because of extortion.
Representing the Women Action Forum, Anis Haroon said extremism has generated from militancy. “It is the government’s responsibility to provide them constitutional rights.” She also demanded the arrest and public punishment of the criminals involved in the murder of the doctors. Resident director Aurat Foundation Mahnaz Rahman, while recalling the11th August speech of Quaid-e-Azam on minorities stressed “We all are Pakistanis. Religion is a personal matter.”
She said that the first constituent assembly was headed by a Hindu, while the only Pakistani to get a Nobel Peace Prize was Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi. But sadly, no one gave him the respect he deserved. “When we are killing doctors, the loss is ours only,” Rahman said