Pakistan is a 71-year long show-case of Islam in action. Here’s how the great Islamic values of ‘democracy’, ‘equality’ and ‘justice’ actually work on the ground, as reported by journalists in Pakistan. This is part one. Part two of this article will feature a Pakistani Hindu pouring his heart out.
A Pakistani Hindu law-maker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told the National Assembly of Pakistan in May 2014 that “around 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Pakistan to India every year”.
Pakistan is a country that was carved by carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs in India’s north-western parts which already had a Muslim majority, thus completely unbalancing the society there and preparing the ground for its alienation from Indic roots and slide into Islamic barbarism.
Having started many months before the actual Partition of India in 1947, that process of ethnic cleansing never came to an end in Pakistan but has continued ever since in less macabre but more insidious ways, with great implications for India.
One of these implications is the erosion of residual non-Muslim communities and cultures in Pakistan – particularly those that bear the label ‘Hindu’ – under the effects of a poisonous mix of prejudice, Islamism and radicalization, and their seeking refuge in India.
A Pakistani Hindu law-maker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told the National Assembly of Pakistan in May 2014 that “around 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Pakistan to India every year”.
He spoke with reference to the persecution of Hindu communities in Pakistan.
A more important implication of the unending ethnic cleansing is the appraisal that India must carry out of its own role in abandoning a vitally important part of its own cultural sphere to the tender mercies of a State that has been on a pernicious and ethnocidal course right from the word go.
Conversion to Islam is a one-way process. Once a person becomes Muslim – forcibly or voluntarily – going back will be an act of apostasy, which is punishable by death in Islam under penal law,
One of the many ways in which Hindu communities in Pakistan have been mauled by the Muslim majority is forced conversion – particularly of their young women and minor girls who are abducted and bullied into marriage with Muslim men.
Twenty or more Hindu girls are abducted and converted to Islam every month in Pakistan, although exact figures are hard to obtain, according to Amarnath Motumal, former vice-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), as cited in a submission made to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
An NGO called South Asia Partnership-Pakistan had published a report in July 2015 stating that at least 1,000 girls, mostly Hindus, are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year.
A case that attracted much media coverage was that of Ravita Meghwar, a 16-year-old Hindu girl from a Scheduled Caste family, who was abducted by men in Wanharo village near Nagarparkar in Sindh on 06 June 2017.
Within hours, Ravita was made a ‘Muslim’, given a new name, ‘Gulnaz‘, and married off to a 36-year-old Muslim man of the influential Syed community.
As usual, Sindh High Court allows forcibly converted Scheduled Caste Hindu girl to go with her kidnapper, who is now her husband.
— Shujauddin Qureshi (@shuja98) June 23, 2017
The next day her ‘husband’ Nawaz Ali Shah produced her before journalists in Umerkot where she announced she had “embraced Islam” and married the man without any pressure.
Ravita’s parents told the police that she was a minor, and was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. Nawaz Ali Shah then filed an application at the Sindh High Court to seek “protection” from her family and relatives.
The case was settled on 23 June 2017 when the Sindh High Court allowed Ravita to go with her ‘husband,’ ignoring the 2013 Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act which prohibits marriages under the age of 18.
As this case shows, the so-called ‘conversion’ to Islam has little to do with freedom of belief or any other freedom; it’s an act of stealing a person from their culture, their flesh and blood, everything they are made up of, and whisking them off to a grotesquely kleptocratic world of Islam – with no exit – in which each resident was similarly stolen at some point in history.
“Conversion to Islam is a one-way process. Once a person becomes Muslim – forcibly or voluntarily – going back will be an act of apostasy, which is punishable by death in Islam under penal law,” writes Sadiq Bhanbhro in The Conversation in August 2017.
A social anthropologist, Bhanbhro has conducted field research in the Sindh province on forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam.
Conversions of entire families, clans, and villages are also commonly reported.
About 850 Hindus underwent conversion to Islam during the year 2016 at Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) madrasa in Chhor in Umerkot district, which runs a ‘settlement’ for schooling fresh converts, according to an article published in August 2017 in Dawn.
The article says that “New Muslim Welfare Association” of the madrasa in Chhor “provides converts with brick and mortar homes to live in, ghee, flour, sewing machines, dowries for their daughters,” as well as the facility of cultivating crops on land that is canal-irrigated all year round.
An illustration of how criminally permissive the environment is for converters and how invasive it is for the targeted communities is a Dawn report that said that a police officer in Badin district of Sindh announced on 04 July 2018 “that seven members of a Hindu family have converted to Islam through his efforts”.
SHO of Matli police station Riaz Ahmed made the announcement while a ‘Kalma recitation’ ceremony was underway at the police station’s mosque for the conversion of a Bheel family from Tando Allahyar district, comprising three adults and four children.
The Dawn report carries pictures of the police officer in plainclothes posing for the cameras while handing the ‘envelope’ and other ‘gifts’ to the new converts.
“I will continue my efforts to preach Islam in the future too,” the police officer is quoted as saying and “explaining” that he had contacted the head of the family through their relatives living in Matli, who had earlier “embraced Islam”.
The ‘Sufi’ shrines and Pirs had also played a part in the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs during Partition of India.
State complicity, ‘Sufi’ wolf
Most of the forced conversions take place in the Thar region (Umerkot, Tharparkar and Mirpur Khas districts) and in Sanghar, Ghotki, and Jacobabad districts – all in Sindh province.
About 90 percent of Pakistan’s Hindu population is concentrated in Sindh, according to an estimate by Pakistan Hindu Council, and the remainder is spread across Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
(There is, however, no clarity on the actual population of Hindus in Pakistan. While Pakistan Hindu Council estimates it to be 80 lakh, other sources say it’s closer to only 40 lakh.)
The conversions take place through a nexus – between Islamic madrasas/dargahs, political parties, police and the lower judiciary – that is unique to a country the preamble of whose Constitution promises the observance of “the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice” – “as enunciated by Islam”.
“There is a shrine near Sukkur called the Dargah Bharchundi Sharif which plays a part in this criminal activity. Over the past three years, more than 150 hapless Hindu girls were converted to Islam at this shrine. The current Pir of Bharchundi Dargah is MPA (member of provincial assembly) Mian Abdul Khaliq,” wrote Kamal Siddiqi for the Express Tribune in June 2017.
Pakistani Hindus keep losing daughters in the name of Islam. Now a young Hindu girl Nisha Deewan abducted from Pano Akil in Sukkur, Sindh, married to her abductor and converted by the notorious Mian Mitho at Dargah Bharchundi Sharif. #HumanRights pic.twitter.com/QrIg6ayARn
— Naila Inayat (@nailainayat) February 10, 2018
He added: “Once a girl is kidnapped, the rest is a staged drama. While the family of the girl runs from pillar to post to get information about her whereabouts, the state machinery works in favor of the kidnappers. After much to and fro, an FIR is lodged, but by that time the Pir in Dargah Bharchundi has already issued a ‘conversion certificate’ and married off the couple. So when the police finally ‘locates’ the couple to present it to a court, all the legal formalities have been completed.”
The involvement of ‘dargahs’ (i.e. ‘Sufi’ shrines such as Bharchundi Sharif in Ghotki district and Sarhandi Pir in Umerkot district) in destroying Pakistan’s cultural diversity through conversions calls into question the tall claims that are usually made about the role played by so-called ‘Sufism’ in promoting social harmony in the Indian Subcontinent.
The ‘Sufi’ shrines and Pirs had also played a part in the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs during Partition of India, when they supported the Muslim League in its poisonously communal election campaign of 1945 against the Punjab Unionist Party, demonizing non-Muslims and calling for the creation of Pakistan.
“The Pirs (custodians of Sufi shrines) and ulema (Muslim clerics) told the Muslims that voting for the Muslim League would be voting for Prophet Muhammad; those Muslims who did not do so, their marriages would be annulled, they would be refused an Islamic burial. The Hindus and Sikhs were told that they would be tried under Islamic law and they would have to bring their cases to mosques,” writes Pakistani-Swedish academic Ishtiaq Ahmed whose book on Punjab’s partition is based on many years of research in India and Pakistan.
Those Hindus who will continue to stay accursed in Pakistan will, I am afraid, by gradual stages and in a planned manner be either converted to Islam or completely exterminated,” wrote Mandal before leaving Pakistan
Islamic ‘social justice’
Importantly, most of the Hindu victims of abduction, forced conversion and other forms of persecution belong to communities that the Pakistan government designates ‘Scheduled Castes,’ such as Kolhi, Meghwar, Bheel, Bagri, Balmiki, Jogi, and Oad.
That is obviously “social justice as enunciated by Islam” that the Constitution of Pakistan promises!
It would not have surprised India’s own Constitution-maker and leader of the Dalits, B.R. Ambedkar, who had the following to say about Islam (as cited in ‘Pakistan or the Partition of India,’ a collection of his writings and speeches).
“The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is the brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity, but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation, there is nothing but contempt and enmity.”
The Islamic brand of “social justice” would probably have elicited a sardonic ‘you-are-telling-me!’ smile from Jogendra Nath Mandal, Pakistan’s first law minister, whose hopes of securing in Pakistan a dignified life for Hindus in general and the Scheduled Castes, in particular, had been blown to smithereens soon after the Partition.
In his long resignation letter, dated 08 October 1950, to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan – a devastating expose of the predation and plunder that the State of Pakistan embodies – Mandal wrote: “After anxious and prolonged struggle I have come to the conclusion that Pakistan is no place for Hindus to live in and that their future is darkened by the ominous shadow of conversion or liquidation.”
“The bulk of the upper-class Hindus and politically conscious Scheduled Castes have left East Bengal. Those Hindus who will continue to stay accursed in Pakistan will, I am afraid, by gradual stages and in a planned manner be either converted to Islam or completely exterminated,” wrote Mandal before leaving Pakistan for good and migrating back to India.
Loot of ‘Somnath’ continues
In his resignation letter, Jogendra Nath Mandal also pointed out how Pakistan government had been appropriating the temples, gurudwaras and other landed property of the Hindus in Sindh by wrongly designating them as “evacuee property,” and handing them over to the Muslim refugees and locals.
“I have got a list of 363 Hindu temples and gurdwaras of Karachi and Sind, which are still in possession of Muslims. Some of the temples have been converted into cobbler’s shops, slaughterhouses, and hotels… I personally know that 200 to 300 Hindus were declared non-evacuees by the Custodian a pretty long time ago. But up till now, properties have not been restored to any one of them.”
‘Evacuees’ were the millions of Hindus and Sikhs fleeing Partition violence to India. The great majority of them were from Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) which is now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
‘Evacuee property’ refers to the land and buildings left behind by these people, including temples and gurudwaras. Those assets were vested in Pakistan government’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which continues to manage them and to coordinate pilgrimage and other activities pertaining to the Hindu/Sikh community and their sacred places.
ETPB – which had become, in the years following Partition, one of the government departments with the highest financial worth – is now known for wide-scale land grab and corruption, according to an article published in December 2017 in The News International.
It holds a total of 100,000 acres of land (mostly in Punjab) of which about 20,000 acres have been “under illegal occupation of influential people and the government departments.”
The scale of corruption in ETPB can be gauged from the fact that its former chairman Asif Hashmi has been accused, according to the article, of causing a loss of Rs 60 billion (Rs 6,000 crore); he is currently being prosecuted.
Citing a survey conducted by a Hindu rights body, the Express Tribune reported in March 2014 that out of 428 temples managed by the ETPB, 408 had been illegally leased out to be converted into toy stores, hotels/restaurants, government offices, and schools.
An ancient Kali Bari temple in Dera Ismail Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province), for instance, was leased out to Muslim businessmen who turned it into ‘Taj Mehal Hotel,’ the chairman of the Hindu rights body, Haroon Sarab Diyal, was quoted as saying.
While ETPB engages in wide-scale corruption (proving that what Mandal said 68 years ago in his resignation letter continues to hold), the non-Muslim heritage of Pakistan, such as the magnificent Katas Raj Temple complex in Chakwal district with at least 1500 years of history, continues to go to seed.
A mob of Muslims burnt down a Dharmasala-cum-temple and destroyed other properties of the Hindus in Larkana in Sindh on 15 March 2014 following a rumor (which turned out to be false later) that a Hindu man had desecrated a copy of the Quran.
The lawlessness of blasphemy laws
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, wherein punishment ranges from one-year imprisonment to mandatory death, is another means of terrorizing non-Muslims.
In August this year, a 19-year-old Hindu boy was booked by police in Mirwah Gorchani area of Mirpur Khas district for allegedly posting blasphemous content on Facebook.
“Residents of Mirwah Gorchani claimed that the suspect had been upset after his teenage sister Ganga (now ‘Ayesha’) had embraced Islam of her own will a few days ago. They added that some other members of his family were also expected to convert to Islam,” says a report published in Dawn.
A mob of Muslims burnt down a Dharmasala-cum-temple and destroyed other properties of the Hindus in Larkana in Sindh on 15 March 2014 following a rumor (which turned out to be false later) that a Hindu man had desecrated a copy of Quran, the Express Tribune reported.
The violence continued the next day, spreading to other cities and towns of upper Sindh, as well as in Suhbatpur, Dera Murad Jamali, Dera Allah Yar, Gandakha and Usta Mohammad in Balochistan – necessitating the deployment of paramilitary forces.
“Three protesters and one policeman were injured during clashes in Usta Muhammad, while 10 shops owned by Hindus were set ablaze,” said the report.
The Nation reported later that the police found no evidence of desecration of the Quran and that “some criminal elements had orchestrated the incident by giving religious color to a monetary dispute”.
In May 2017, violence erupted in Hub city in Lasbela district of Balochistan after police refused to hand over a Hindu man suspected of blasphemy to an angry mob of Muslim men, Dawn reported.
“Prakash Kumar, a local business owner, was suspected of sharing a picture containing allegedly blasphemous content on WhatsApp,” the report said, citing Hub police officials.
He was booked under Sections 295-A and 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. (The former prescribes a penalty ‘up to 10 years imprisonment, or fine, or both’ and the latter ‘mandatory death and fine’ and says the ‘trial must take place in a court of the session with a Muslim judge presiding’).
The violent unrest, in which men baying for Prakash Kumar’s blood pelted stones at the police, resulted in a child’s death and several policemen suffering injuries.
This resident of Hayat Pitafi, a village in Ghotki district of Sindh, was beaten black and blue by a Muslim police constable and his brother for publicly eating during the fasting month of Ramazan.
Loot and murder in Balochistan
The fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Baloch nationalists since 2004 has taken a heavy toll on the lives and property of the local Hindus.
Citing tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti who was then leading the insurgency, the BBC reported on 22 March 2005 that Pakistani security forces killed 32 Hindus on 17 March 2005 in an exchange of fire with Bugti tribesmen in Dera Bugti district of Balochistan.
“The Hindu residential locality that is close to Mr. Bugti’s fortress-like house was particularly badly hit,” BBC correspondent Zafar Abbas reported from the district.
The Pakistani military operation in Dera Bugti destroyed Marrhi Mandar (a temple), a gurudwara, all 200 shops owned by local Hindus and Sikhs, and led to the flight of over 13,000 Hindus and 10 Sikh families to Quetta and Sindh, said an article published in the Express Tribune in July 2013.
The report cited Ashok Kumar, a displaced Hindu, as saying that “over three dozen Hindus lost their lives during the operation” and that “the military and the FC (paramilitary Frontier Corps) personnel torched our shops”.
Another displaced Hindu is quoted as saying: “We, as a community, have suffered a Rs 10 billion loss, as the shops were destroyed.”
The Balochistan province is also well known for targeting of Hindu businessmen for abduction and extortion.
“As many as 41 people belonging to Hindu community have been abducted during the past three years, while four were killed as they resisted kidnapping attempt,” the Express Tribune reported from Balochistan in January 2011.
Hindus accounted for “a large number” of the 291 people who were abducted for ransom or other reasons in Balochistan in 2010, the report said, citing data collected by the home department of the province.
The tide of crimes forced five Hindu families to migrate from Mastung district of Balochistan to India and “more than 100 families” in the province were seeking to follow suit, the report said, citing sources in the Hindu community.
The Express Tribune reported in August 2011 that “More than a dozen Hindu traders have been kidnapped from Dadhar (in Kachhi district of Balochistan) alone and they were released after paying a huge sum of money as ransom.”
“Hindu traders are now forced to pay extortion as well as protection money,” the report said, citing a member of the community.
In May 2018, a Hindu businessman Jay Pal Das and his son Girish Nath were shot dead while they resisted a robbery bid in Gadani in Hub tehsil of Lasbela district of Balochistan, wrote Veengas Yasmine, a Karachi-based journalist, in Indian online magazine The Wire, citing a newspaper report.
In the same article, Veengas cites Mohammad Ali Talpur, a writer, as saying that the attacks on Hindus were an attempt to break the community’s hold on the local market of which they control the major chunk.
Reviewing a book on historic temples of Pakistan in October 2014, Raza Rumi of The Friday Times cites Reema Abbasi, the writer of the book, as describing her visit to the Valmiki Temple in Lahore (Punjab).
“Reema tells us how different faiths gather at the shrine and even a Cross is located within the temple. But the Hindu residents are scared and often conceal their identity. They have to adopt Muslim manners and customs so that they are not identified and subsequently persecuted by the extremists within the majority population.”
In Karachi it’s common to find notice boards in community buildings that warn Hindus against performing their “religious ceremonies” in shared areas, Veengas wrote in Indian online magazine DailyO in June 2016.
“Hindus have been complaining for years, but their complaints have no value in the eyes of local authorities,” she writes and underscores the cruel irony that Hindus are no longer allowed to perform their ceremonies on the land of their ancestors.
In June 2016, the images of a heavily bleeding Gokal Das, a Hindu man in his late 80s, went viral on social media.
This resident of Hayat Pitafi, a village in Ghotki district of Sindh, was beaten black and blue by a Muslim police constable and his brother for publicly eating during the fasting month of Ramazan, the Express Tribune reported.
Pakistan’s Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, originally passed in 1981 under the regime of Islamist dictator Zia-ul-Haq, imposes fines and prison terms of up to three months for eating or drinking publicly in the month of Ramazan.
“If you are fine with Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance then you have no moral right to be critical of the beef ban in India,” wrote Ammar Anwer, an Islamabad-based journalist, in an article published in May 2017 in Daily Times.
“Our national identity has been constructed on three bases. One is Islam. Another is Urdu. And the third is our view of ‘Hindu’ as an entity that we must be the exact opposite of.”
Politicians, Members of National Assembly (MNAs), even the Chief Justice of Pakistan are not free of vitriol against the Hindus.
Kapil Dev, a Sindh-based rights activist and writer, reported in June 2015 in Dawn that Lal Malhi, a Hindu law-maker, made a strong and indignant remonstrance in the National Assembly of Pakistan after some MNAs mocked and hurled abuse at Hindus in the House under cover of criticizing India.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar expressed his loathing for the Hindus when he said in a speech in August 2017 with reference to the ‘two-nation theory’ that, “…There were two nations: one was Muslims and the other… well, I don’t even want to utter their name”.
Law-maker Lal Malhi pointed out in the aforementioned statement he made in the National Assembly that Hindus were not allowed to join the armed forces of Pakistan until the year 2000 – much in contrast to the Christian community whose members have been serving the army for much longer.
“The Hindu community in Pakistan was never truly accepted or trusted by the state. Among other things, this has remained evident in the curriculum taught in the country’s public schools, which openly fosters intolerance of the community,” writes Umair Jamal, a Lahore-based journalist, in an article published in June 2016 in The Diplomat.
In an article published in April 2012, the Express Tribune cited a few examples of the hate-filled propaganda against Hindus being fed to school children in Pakistan.
A lesson on Islami Jamhooria Pakistan (Islamic Republic of Pakistan) in ‘Social Studies textbook for class five says the following.
“The creeds of Muslims and Hindus are totally different. Hindus have many gods and idols, whereas Muslims believe in one God, who is the creator of this Universe and Muslims worship Him. Hindu religion has divided human beings into different castes and women have no dignity.”
A lesson on ‘Minar-e-Pakistan ki Kahani’ (The story of Minar-e-Pakistan) in Urdu textbook ‘Meri Kitab’ for Class 4 says the following.
“Hindus will not allow Islamic rule after Englishmen leave. They will not allow such God’s rule but instead Hindus laws where Muslims would be socially discriminated.”
According to another article in the Express Tribune, published in May 2012, the chapter on the ideology of Pakistan in the ‘Pakistan Studies’ textbook for Class 8 says the following.
“The Hindu belief was that only a Hindu nation could live in the Indian subcontinent. Other nations should become a part of the Hindu nation or leave India. Many Hindu extremist parties such as the Arya Samaj were working against Muslims since the 19th century and even after 50 years after the creation of Pakistan, these organizations continue working to erase the Muslims’ existence from the region.”
In an article published on 06 September 2018 in Urdu online magazine ‘HumSub,’ Zunaira Saqib, who teaches management at NUST Business School-Islamabad, also cites some instances of hatred against Hindus in school textbooks.
She says the federal ministry of Education’s social studies textbook for Class four makes the following claim about the violence that took place during Partition of India, completely omitting any mention of the massacre of Hindus and Sikhs.
“The Muslims of Pakistan provided all the facilities to the Hindus and Sikhs who left for India. But the Hindus and Sikhs looted the Muslims in India with both hands and they attacked their caravans, buses, and trains. Therefore, about one million Muslims were martyred on their way to Pakistan.”
Zunaira Saqib quotes a text-book of the Punjab Textbook Board for Class 10 as making the following assertion.
“Because the Muslim religion, culture and social system are different from non-Muslims, it is impossible to cooperate with Hindus.”
She cites another school text-book as claiming the following about the circumstances of the 1971 civil war in Pakistan resulting in the creation of Bangladesh.
“A large number of Hindu teachers were teaching in the educational institutions in East Pakistan. They produced such literature which created negative thinking in the minds of Bengalis against the people of West Pakistan.”
In Pakistani schools, both state-run and private, non-Muslim children are compelled to study Islamic Studies; the alternative subject, i.e. Ethics, is hardly taught anywhere because authorities have either failed so far to frame the curriculum or failed to provide books and teachers, writes Zunaira Saqib.
“I know many non-Muslim students who’d had to memorize the four Qul (‘protection surahs’) of the Quran. They had no choice.”
Participating in a discussion on the need to sensitize Pakistani students to human rights and civil rights, Tahir Kamran, a professor of history at Government College University-Lahore, says Pakistani national identity has been deliberately constructed as an “antithesis of Hindu”.
“Our national identity has been constructed on three bases. One is Islam. Another is Urdu. And the third is our view of ‘Hindu’ as an entity that we must be the exact opposite of. That is, if the ‘Hindu’ is black, we must be white. And if the ‘Hindu’ is white, then we must be black,” says Kamran in one of a series of discussions called ‘Bayania,’ whose video was posted on YouTube in November 2017.
Kamran says Pakistani school curricula reflect this construction of national identity as ‘anti-Hindu’, as borne out by a number of studies.
He says it’s easy to detect a ‘rider-on-the-horseback’ syndrome in Pakistani social sciences textbooks, evoking an image of a Muslim warrior that is out to conquer the world.
“An Intermediate student, for instance, is taught Islamic history in the first year. We then jump to 711 AD (the Arab invasion of India through Sindh), giving short shrift to the history of India prior to 711. And when we come to the year 1857, we are left with only the history of the Muslim elite,” he says.
“That is obviously not the history of this region.”
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