By: Rabia Ali
When Puspha Kumari’s sister and her three children came to Karachi from interior Sindh with prospect of a better future, little did they know that their religion would become an obstacle to the children’s education. Fifteen days ago, they were kicked out of a private school in Gulshan-e-Iqbal when their teacher came to know they were Hindus.
“Their teacher remarked that being Hindus, they can’t perform Wazu [ablutions] and therefore can’t sit for Islamiat class. She turned out, proposing that my nephews and niece should apply for a missionary school. Where are our rights now?” said the woman from the minority community at the fourth meeting of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Working Group on Communities Vulnerable because of their Beliefs.
Held at a local hotel on Saturday, the meeting focused on issues such as the Hindu marriage law, census and voter registration of the minorities, need for an effective minority commission and equal rights for the communities.
Director HRCP I A Rehman said the situation for the minorities was getting worse with every passing day, and that in the future when extremism increased, the injustice against the vulnerable communities would increase as well.
Citing a recent example of growing intolerance, he said that when the organisation reported a case against the theft of their office vehicle, the police were more concerned about knowing why the organisation had hired a Christian driver than about investigating the incident.
Speaking on the occasion, Kishan Chand Parwani, who is member of the National Assembly, admitted, “Being on reserved seats, we do belong to the minorities but we are not representation of them in the assembly. We represent our parties.”
He criticised the government for not being serious in their efforts to provide security and protection to the communities, and said that in India whenever the Muslims were targeted, the anger was vented against them in Pakistan. He noted that during the 1992 episode of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, around 240 Hindu temples in Pakistan were demolished.
MPA Pitanber Sewani said incidents of kidnappings had reached great heights as, during the last two years, around 29 men from Kandkhot had been kidnapped and several women forced to convert.
He was of the opinion that the real issue of the minorities was a lack of security and job rights.
He said the religion or country was not under threat, but some extremists were using the religion to attack the minority communities.
The MPA said a bill suggesting the minorities should be taught according to their religion was lying with the Sindh government.
From the Christian community, Zahid Farooq said that those who were involved in terrorist activities against his community were never captured. “Where are the attackers of Aman o Insaf, a Christian NGO which was attacked, or those involved in the Shahbaz Bhatti murder?”
He thought it was unfortunate to live in Karachi as it was divided in areas of religion, sect and ethnicity.
Mangla Sharma from the Pak-Hindu Welfare Association said the political parties should nominate those on minorities’ seats, those who had a clear history, and those who were popular among the community. She also spoke on the curriculum, saying that because of the discriminatory course against the non-Muslims, intolerance seemed to be increasing. She said that in Islamiat, the students should also be taught about the rights of the minorities.
Jimmy Engineer suggested that the word minorities should be eliminated as it caused an inferiority complex among the people. All communities should be united first and then solve their issues, he said.
Meanwhile, when the parliamentarians were brought under fire about raising voice against the communities in the assembly, MNA Kishan Chand said he tried to speak on the issue but was helpless as he could not speak against his party. He said the political leadership took them for granted.
On the Hindu marriage law, the parliamentarians said a bill in the National Assembly was being introduced, while efforts were being made to bring the community together. There were also calls for translating the bill and distributing it to the public.
The participants also called for an effective minority commission, as Rehman said that currently there was a bogus minority commission with the appendix of the Religious Affairs Ministry, with no separate budget. Nuzhat Williams of the YWCA called for the inclusion of people working at grass-roots level. While Zohra Yusuf of the HRCP said there should be commission for the minorities on the national level.
Then there were talks about the census and voter registration process, in which MPA Pitanber Sewani said that according to the 1998 census in which Hindus were 2.4 million, a figure they never accepted, the number had now reached 10 million. While Sabir Michael said that in his house in PIB Colony during the house counting process, no government official came and instead activists of a political party were involved in the process.
At the end of the conference, five groups — each on forced conversion, census, voter registration, curriculum, and for the minority commission — were formed.

Source: The News (http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=77292&Cat=4) – 13/11/2011