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HomeNewsSenate of Pakistan hears Hindu MP plead for survival of community

Senate of Pakistan hears Hindu MP plead for survival of community

Presenting his views in the Senate, Hindu MP Danesh Kumar Palyani said Pakistan gave his community protection against forced conversions to Islam

Pakistani Hindu leader and Senate member Danesh Kumar Palyani expressed concern over the serious human rights crisis in Sindh province on 1 May, saying that girls from the Hindu community were being forcibly converted to Islam. Danesh Kumar Palyani said that Hindu girls were being forcibly converted to Islam by some anarchists who target Hindu settlements where they convert the girls to Islam.

At Pakistani Senate

Presenting his views in the Senate, Palyani said Pakistan gave his community protection against anybody forcing them to convert to the religion of the majority. He cited the Qur’an to say that there should be no compulsion in religion. “Even after this, some people do not have faith in the Constitution of Pakistan and even in the Qur’an sharif,” he lamented.

The Pakistani Hindu leader also expressed his views on social media platform X after his statement in the Senate. He said, “The daughters of Hindus are not looted property, whom anyone can forcefully convert. Referring to the kidnapping of a 2-year-old girl named Priya Kumari, he said that Hindu girls were being forcibly converted to Islam in Sindh.

Palyani alleged that the government of Pakistan was not taking any strict action against such people, due to whom the country is earning a bad name. The Hindu member of the Pakistani Senate further said, “It is written in the Constitution of Pakistan and even in the Holy Qur’an that forced religious conversion is wrong.”

Earlier on 11 April, the United Nations had expressed concern over the issue of girls and women going missing from minority areas of Pakistan. United Nations officials had said that Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan are being forcibly converted and girls from Hindu-dominated areas are facing crimes like religious conversion, kidnapping, child marriage and human trafficking.

UN officials had called this a heinous crime that would not be tolerated. A platitude, maybe.

Senate of Pakistan

The Senate of Pakistan, also known as Aiwān-e-Bālā Pākistān, is constitutionally recognised as the House of the Federation. It serves as the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Pakistan, similar to the Rajya Sabha of India and the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. As of 2023, the Senate has a maximum membership of 96, with 92 members elected by provincial legislatures using a single transferable vote, while four represent the Federal Capital. Senators serve terms lasting six years, with half of the house up for election every three years. Unlike the National Assembly, the Senate is a continuous chamber and is not subject to dissolution.

Established in 1973, the Senate’s composition and powers are outlined in Article 59 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Each of the four provinces is represented by 23 senators, regardless of population, and the Islamabad Capital Territory is represented by four senators, all serving staggered six-year terms. The Senate secretariat is situated in the east wing of the Parliament Building, while the National Assembly convenes in the west wing of the same building.

The Senate holds several exclusive powers not granted to the National Assembly, including the authority to pass parliamentary bills into law. Elections are conducted every three years for half of the Senate, with each Senator serving a six-year term. The Constitution prohibits the dissolution of the Senate.

Originally consisting of 45 members, the Senate’s membership was increased to 63 in 1977 and to 87 in 1985. The government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf raised the membership to 100 through the Legal Framework Order (LFO) in 2002, and the government of Asif Ali Zardari further increased it to 104 through the 18th amendment in 2011 (including four minority members from four provinces). Following the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, the number of Senate seats was reduced to 96 after the removal of seats for FATA post its merger with KPK.

Persecution of Hindus since 1947

Following the independence of Pakistan in 1947, more than 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs migrated from West Pakistan to India, while 6.5 million Muslims opted to move to Pakistan. The mass migration was fueled by the tense communal environment in the British Raj, mutual distrust, violent mob attacks and religious animosity. The fact that over 1 million individuals perished in the violent events of 1947 is a stark reminder of the fear and animosity that gripped the hearts of countless Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who hastily abandoned their ancestral homes post-independence.

Presently, Pakistan is home to approximately 4.4 million Hindus, representing 2.14% of the total population, making Hinduism the second-largest religion in the country after Islam. The Umerkot district boasts the highest proportion of Hindus at 52.2%, while the Tharparkar district has the largest Hindu population, totalling 7,14,698 individuals.

Although Hinduism was once a prominent religion in the region, today Hindus constitute only 2.14% of Pakistan’s population, amounting to around 4.4 million people as per the 2017 Pakistani census.

The decline of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism in Pakistan has a historical background. These religions have thrived beyond the eastern frontiers of Pakistan, but within the region itself, they have faced challenges. During the rule of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire, Pakistan became predominantly Muslim. The conversion to Islam was a gradual process, often attributed to the influence of Sufis. Some individuals converted to Islam for various reasons, such as tax relief, land grants, marriage opportunities, social and economic advancement, or to escape slavery, while others were forced to convert.

The Muslim population in Pakistan strongly supported the Muslim League and the Partition of India. As a result, after Pakistan gained independence in 1947, minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India, while Muslim refugees from India settled in Pakistan. Approximately 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs moved to India, while 6.5 million Muslims settled in Pakistan.

Many Hindus in Pakistan feel marginalised and believe they are treated as second-class citizens, leading to continued migration to India. According to data from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, around 1,000 Hindu families fled to India in 2013. Additionally, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, disclosed in the National Assembly of Pakistan that approximately 5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India annually.

Discrimination against Hindus in Pakistan

Pakistan’s first minister of Law and Labour Jogendranath Mandal left for India in 1950, three years after taking office, citing anti-Hindu bias by the bureaucracy. He said, “I have concluded that Pakistan is no place for Hindus to live in and that their future is darkened by the ominous shadow of conversion or liquidation”.

Following the establishment of separate electorates for Hindus and Christians in 1985, a policy initially suggested by Islamist leader Abul A’la Maududi, Christian and Hindu leaders expressed concerns about feeling sidelined in the political process. However, the policy received significant backing from Islamists. Before 1999, when former military chief Pervez Musharraf ousted Nawaz Sharif’s government, non-Muslims possessed dual voting rights in general elections, enabling them to vote for both Muslim and non-Muslim candidates.

In the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition in India, violent incidents targeting Hindus erupted in Pakistan, with Hindu-owned shops being attacked in Sukkur, Sindh and Hindu homes and temples facing assaults in Quetta.

In December 2020, a mob in Karak District attacked and set fire to a Hindu temple that had been previously demolished in 1997 but restored by the Pakistan Supreme Court in 2017. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, declared plans to protest in front of the Supreme Court against the temple attack, stressing its significance as one of the four major holy sites for the Hindu community in Pakistan. Religious discrimination continues to be prevalent in the country, leading to Pakistan being labelled a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) due to its involvement in or tolerance of severe violations of religious freedom.

Former Pakistani Hindu cricketer Danish Kaneria claimed mistreatment due to his Hindu faith

The Taliban’s rise in Pakistan has significantly contributed to the persecution of non-Muslims in the country. In 2011 and 2012, 23 Hindus were abducted for ransom and 13 were killed in targeted attacks. A policeman guarding a Hindu temple in Peshawar was also fatally shot in January 2014. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has requested a report from the government on ensuring access to temples for the Hindu minority.

Former cricketer Danish Kaneria claimed mistreatment due to his Hindu faith. The ban on celebrating the Hindu festival Holi on university campuses in June 2023 sparked controversy over religious discrimination, which was later lifted following public outcry. A gang of dacoits attacked a Hindu temple in Sindh Province with rocket launchers, marking the second incident of vandalism against a minority place of worship in less than two days.

Brainwashed by Islamic education

A Sustainable Development Policy Institute report says, “Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus. For the upholders of the Ideology of Pakistan, the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus and hence the Hindus have to be painted as negatively as possible”.

First lesson in Pakistan schools: Hindus are kafirs, Jews enemies of Islam
“First lesson in Pakistan schools: Hindus are kafirs, Jews enemies of Islam,” read the headline of a report in The Times of India dated 16 October 2020

According to a report published in 2005 by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a non-profit organisation, it was revealed that Pakistan Studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used as a means to propagate animosity towards Hindus, as intended by Pakistani policy-makers. “From the government-issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backward and superstitious”, the report stated.

In 1975, Islamic studies became mandatory, leading to a significant number of minority students having to register for the subject. In 2015, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government offered Ethics as an option to Islamic studies for non-Muslim students in the province, followed by Sindh in 2016. Hindu students are frequently compelled to follow the Islamic educational program, with reports indicating that schools in Pakistan propagate animosity towards Hindus.

Speaking at the UN Working Group on Durban Declaration and Plan of Action in Geneva, the president of Baloch Voice Association Munir Mengal said,

I used to go to school in a very high-standard state-run Army school called Cadet College the first lesson to us was Hindus are Kafirs, Jews are enemies of Islam both are liable to death for no other reason.

Mengal said further,

Even today the same is the first most important and basic message from uniformed Army teachers that we have to respect guns and bombs because we have to use these against Hindu mothers to kill them otherwise they will give birth to a Hindu child.

The Pakistan government implemented the Single National Curriculum (SNC) in 2021, introducing separate books on religion for Non-Muslim students such as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Kalash and Bahais. Under this new curriculum, Hindu students in Grades 1 to 5 will learn about various aspects of Hinduism including symbols like Om, concepts like Dharma and Moksha, yoga practices, Hindu celebrations, deities, saints and sacred places in Pakistan.

A recent report by the Brookings Institution highlights the SNC’s attempt to mimic reforms seen in successful countries, a phenomenon known as isomorphic mimicry. The SNC also aims to integrate madrassas into mainstream education, potentially introducing extremist and theological subjects into formal schools.

From sexual exploitation in Pakistan to CAA in India

Pakistani Hindus who flee Pakistan and seek refuge in India often cite reasons such as sexual harassment of Hindu girls in schools of the Islamic country and mockery of their religious practices. In response, the Indian government plans to issue Aadhaar cards and PAN cards to Pakistani Hindu refugees, simplifying the process for them to acquire Indian citizenship.

In 2019, India passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which allows persecuted Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs who arrived in India before the end of December 2014 to obtain Indian citizenship, which was misinterpreted by vested interests like leftists and leaders of the Indian Muslim community as a bid to snatch away the citizenship of Muslims of India. The deliberate misinterpretation led to wide-scale rioting by Muslims, endangering lives and public properties, whereas many persecuted Hindus languishing in Pakistan do not even know a provision called the CAA exists in India.

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