7th April 2020
Even during the time when the World is facing the worst global crisis of recent times due to Corona Virus (COVID-19) and global communities coming together to fight the pandemic. The intolerance and discrimination religious minorities are facing in Pakistan, yet again came under the spotlight. Hindus and Christians in Pakistan have been denied food because of their religious beliefs, for which Pakistan has received critical opprobrium over social media from across the world.
The first reports came to light, when Saylani Welfare International Trust a Karachi NGO, operating in the area of Korangi since 1999, handing out aid and meals to homeless people and seasonal workers, was accused of denying food to non-Muslims. The reason given was that only Muslims are entitled to them. According to reliable sources, Saylani Welfare International Trust receives a great amount of donations from the UK Pakistani Muslim Community. The reason for denying food to non-Muslims is Zakat, which is one of Islam’s five pillars and is reserved for Muslims. Zakat is an Islamic finance term referring to the obligation that an individual has to donate a certain proportion of wealth each year to charitable causes, which is a mandatory process for Muslims and is regarded as a form of worship. The minimum amount for those who qualify is 2.5% of their annual income or 1/40 of the total savings and wealth.
“Since Non-Muslims do not contribute to Zakat,” that NGO workers claim, “non-Muslims should not benefit out of this Muslim Money.” This reasoning was told to one Hindu man who was denied food.
Similar reports have emerged of Hindus& Christians being denied from Cities like Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad in the Punjab Province and, Karachi in Sindh province.
Currently, Pakistan has almost 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 41 reported deaths. Pakistan has been under lock-down, since March 23rd, 2020, which has now extended till April 14th, 2020, to avoid the spread of the virus. The lock-down has placed the families of daily wage workers in a dire situation, the earns are out of work and the families are left with little to no money to survive on. They are now completely dependent on the government and other relief organizations for help.
ANI a news agency reported: Scores of marginalized people gather at Karachi’s Rehrri Ghoth, to receive food supplies and daily essentials, as shops remain closed to curb the spread of corona virus. But those belonging to the Hindu community (Hindus being technically the largest minority in Pakistan), is told to go back since the rations are only meant for Muslims.
“We only hear that people in our neighborhoods are receiving essential goods. My son drives a rickshaw. Due to the lock-down, all services have been suspended. He is sitting idle at home. We do not have anything to eat. We have no money. Even when we visit the ration distribution centers, the authorities assure us that they will send essential items in separate trucks but eventually they don’t,” said another member of the Hindu Community in Karachi.
During this time of hardship for Pakistan’s religious minorities, Hindu Community from the United States have started a Facebook fundraiser. They have raised almost $9,000 in 4 days, to help the people in need, primarily residing in Pakistan, who are being deprived of the basic necessities due on their religious belief. As per the organizers, they are not restricting the supplies to Hindus but are helping anyone in need. The fundraiser is initiated by Mr. Jaydeep Chaudhari and is being coordinated by Mr. Sachin Chitlangia and other Hindu NRIs.
The information provided on fundraiser page states, “Not only Hindu and Christians but also Sikhs and Ahmediya Muslims are also denied food supplies. Recently, I have received many requests from minorities of Pakistan to extend the help with food supplies. I request all the known and unknown friends to donate for the cause.”
Danish Kaneria, a well know Pakistani Cricket Player, also joined the effort in helping the people in need. Danish, is very familiar with mistreatment, as he faced discrimination from within the Pakistani Cricket Team for being a Hindu. However,everyone involved in the cause believes in the core principle of Hinduism, to help people in need regardless of their faith.
Thus far, hundreds of families are being supplied with “food packets.” One food packet consists of:10 kgs Wheat Flour, 250 gm Tea, 1 kg Cookies, 2 liters Cooking Oil, 2 kgs Rice, 2 kgs Sugar, 1 kg Salt, ½ kg Washing Powder, 2 packets of soap, 5 matchboxes, and 3 kg pulses. The cost of each packet is around $25 USD.
The population of Pakistan is around 220 million, out of which 5.5 million are Hindus, which “technically” makes them the largest religious minority. However, the Hindu community was subdivided as Hindu and Schedule Caste (SC) into 41 various castes by a Presidential Order in November 1957. Which makes Christians, the biggest minority of Pakistan.“ This is done to seek support and funding of Western Countries, which has predominantly Christian population” says a Human Rights activist from Pakistan.
“To an extend Christian Organizations are somehow able to help and grow their community (not to the extend they can) based on the above-mentioned reason, on the other hand, there is no major Hindu organization able to do so. There are one or two Hindu Organization, like Pakistan Hindu Council, but they belong to “rich Hindus: who hang around the Pakistani Politicians, with no major organization work on the grass-root level, apart from SEWA International, which does an incredible job help the poor and has committed to helping another 500 families, during Corona Virus Crisis” he added.
Based on our research “Hindu” organizations like Pakistan Hindu Council had always been on the lap of Islamist of Pakistan. They are used to give anti-India, anti-Hindu statements, especially during a certain occasion, in order to deny allegations of atrocities on religious minorities in Pakistan.
A prominent member of Pakistani Hindu Community says: “Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which is a statutory board of the Government Department, which administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus & Sikhs who migrated to India after partition in 1947. It was supposed to have a Hindu Chairman, to date no Hindu has been appointed as a Chairman of ETPB. This is just another example of the exploitation and religious discrimination Hindus experience in Pakistan.”