South Asia

In Balochistan, Hindus Under Threat in the Face of State Indifference

Targeted killings, robberies aim to weaken the community's business influence.

Karachi (Pakistan): Minorities face threats and have been under attack in Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan. The province is struggling with an insurgency and Christians, Shias, Hazaras and Hindus are unsafe.

Recently, reports claimed that Christian and Hazara communities have been targeted by terrorist groups. Jalila Haider, an activist from the Hazara community, went on a hunger strike demanding protection for the Hazara community. “More Hazaras have been murdered than rump sheep in Quetta,” she said, speaking to BBC Urdu.

In Quetta, banned organisations operate openly and the city has experienced unending violence against minority communities.

Two Hindus – 40-year-old Jay Pal and his 19-year-old son Girish Nath –  were gunned down in Hub, a city in Lasbela district of Balochistan on May 12, 2018.

Jay Pal’s brother Sandeep Kumar said the two men were killed while resisting arobbery. “We belong to a middle-class family and my brother ran a small business. He was carrying 7 lakh rupees in cash and was killed during an attempted robbery, we are told,” he says.

He said other Hindu families were also regularly targeted by robbers. He thanked the local Baloch Muslim community and said political party leaders had assured his family that the culprits would be apprehended.

Why Hindus are targeted

According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, the Hindu population of Balochistan is 117,345. About 13,512 Hindus live in Lasbela district.

Jay Prakash Moorani, a senior journalist and president of the Hyderabad Union of Journalists, said Hindus are targeted because they are business oriented and effective in trade.“ The Hindu community is influential not only in Balochistan, but also Sindh,” he says.

Moorani said there were targeted killings of Hindus in Mithi and Umerkot in Sindh too. A cursory look at the First Information Reports (FIR) would show that robbers routinely target the Hindu community, he said. The city of Hub is well connected to Karachi, capital of Sindh, and has a thriving business market. Moorani insinuated that rivalry among business groups might also be a reason behind the robberies and killings. “Local Hindus have been working in Hub and share 80% of the business. Other groups have settled recently,” he said.

Mohammad Ali Talpur, a reputed writer, also felt the Hindu community was being targeted for their business orientation. The attacks were an attempt to break the community’s hold on the market, he said. Minority communities in Balochistan do not have any security, he felt.

The media has largely ignored the killings of Hindus, said Talpur. “Hindus and minorities are not the media’s concerns. The large rally held by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in Karachi was also ignored by the media,” he said.

Mol Chand, a councilor in Hub, said that when people from the Hindu community file FIRs, the police record it only as a formality and there is no progress later. “For instance, last year a young man was accused in a blasphemy case. The community was assured of justice, but he is still in prison. No one knows if there has been any progress in the case and his family is suffering. Indeed, many families have migrated,” he says.

Chand also felt that the Hindus were being targeted by ‘outsiders’ – though he refused to name any group –  for their business influence. “We only ask for safety and that we are allowed to go about our business,” he said.

Raj Kumar, a member of the Hindu Notable Forum, said that Hub has seen an influx of ‘outsiders’ who are supported by religious groups. Raj Kumar’s niece Rinkle Kumari was abducted and converted to Islam in 2012.

Indifference of politicians, judiciary

“The system has a policy to harass and target Hindus to try and force them to leave the country. The system has a policy against Hindus, not India,” says Raj Kumar.

The Hindu Notable Forum had held a protest against the killing of Jay Pal and his son, which was attended by a small crowd. “The media does not cover our issues,” he said.

Raj Kumar also referred to an advertisement issued by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where only non-Muslims and Shias were asked to apply for the position of sweeper. Imran Khan later opposed the advertisement in a tweet after criticism on social media. “If the party that wants a Naya Pakistan (new Pakistan) has this attitude, then what hope do we have?” he asks.

“We want Pakistan to give us equal citizens status, not treat us as a minority. Our children have a right to at least dream of becoming Pakistan’s Prime Minister,” says Raj Kumar.

Sunil Kumar, a leader of the Balochistan National Party said he was confident of achieving justice in the Jay Pal case. “Our local communities and political forces, especially nationalist parties like mine will keep following the case and support the Hindu community. We are in touch with officials and family members to pursue the case,” he said. Sunil Kumar’s uncle was also killed in a robbery which he says made him realise something must be done to protect the minority communities. “Hub is becoming more important because of its business and its connection to Karachi. Therefore, Hub has seen an influx of outsiders and the situation does not seem as peaceful as it once was,” he said.

Habib Tahir, an advocate and the vice-chairperson of Balochistan’s wing of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says, “Since 2006, the insurgency in Balochistan has unsettled the situation. Religious groups independently working in Balochistan are supported by state institutions. Minorities are not safe, and we saw how Christians and Hazaras were targeted. It is utterly a failure of the state. Hindus also face such a situation,” he said.

He said the religious groups are also funded by Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The judiciary is also not keen on protecting the minorities, said Tahir, citing Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s controversial statement last year in Quetta in which he said,  “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was probably the first thinker who conceived the Two Nations Theory, that there were two nations; one was Muslims and the other — well, I don’t even want to utter the word”.

“When the judiciary has this kind of mindset towards minorities, what can we expect”, said Tahir.

Veengas is a Karachi-based journalist who focuses on human rights and political issues.