HIN­DUS IN LINE OF FIRE

Three doc­tors are killed in one of Pak­istan’s worst at­tacks on mi­nori­ties

India Today - - NEI GHBOURS - by Qaswar Ab­bas in Is­lam­abad

Three doc­tors of Pak­istan’s mi­nor­ity Hindu com­mu­nity were gunned down in Sindh prov­ince on Eid-ul-adha. A phar­ma­cist, Sath­pal, is bat­tling for life at Karachi’s Aga Khan Hos­pi­tal. Doc­tors Ashok Ku­mar, Naresh Ku­mar and Ajeet Ku­mar were shot dead in their clinic in Chak town, 400 km north of Karachi, when two uniden­ti­fied men on a mo­tor­cy­cle opened fire. The in­ci­dent, one of the worst at­tacks on mi­nori­ties in Pak­istan, has sent shock­waves through the Hindu com­mu­nity. Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions are yet to be­gin for­mally be­cause the ter­ri­fied fam­i­lies of the vic­tims have not filed a first in­for­ma­tion re­port.

A po­lice source says Dr Ashok Ku­mar was killed be­cause he de­manded a fee for treat­ing an yet-to-be-iden­ti­fied leader from the in­flu­en­tial Bhayo tribe. The Mus­lim tribe with a pop­u­la­tion of 10,000 con­trols the lo­cal agri­cul­ture-based econ­omy of the town on the banks of the In­dus. Tribal el­ders en­joy a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion and are be­lieved to have es­tab­lished pri­vate tor­ture cells and labour camps.

Fol­low­ing the al­ter­ca­tion over the fee, the source says, the tribe’s el­ders waited to ex­act re­venge. They seized the op­por­tu­nity pro­vided by an in­ter­re­li­gion row that broke out on Di­wali. Three Hindu youths were ar­rested with a Bhayo nautch girl on the night be­fore Di­wali. The tribes­men said the girl had been raped and de­manded a young Hindu girl of their choice to be raped by four Mus­lims as com­pen­sa­tion. “It was a pre­pos­ter­ous de­mand as she was nei­ther raped nor forced to dance. She was a pro­fes­sional mu­jra artiste who was paid hand­somely for her per­for­mance,” says Manohar Lal, a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Hindu com­mu­nity. Even as ten­sions sim­mered, two weeks later, hired killers sent by the Bhayo el­ders struck the clinic on Novem­ber 7.

Shikarpur district, in which Chak falls, has a pop­u­la­tion of 40,000, of which be­tween 5,000 and 7,000 are Hin­dus. Most com­mu­nity mem­bers run whole­sale busi­nesses and are forced to pay pro­tec­tion money to the Bhayos. The amounts range be­tween Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh per year. Of late, the

bhatta (pro­tec­tion money) had stopped. This fur­ther an­gered the Bhayos. The last rites of the dead took place on Novem­ber 8 at the Sathu Bela tem­ple near Sukkur. Hin­dus al­lege the po­lice are pro­tect­ing the crim­i­nals. Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari di­rected Mem­ber of National Assem­bly Ramesh Lal and Sindh Min­is­ter for Mi­nor­ity Af­fairs Mo­han Lal Ko­his­tani to look into the mat­ter. Both at­tended the funeral and as­sured that the cul­prits would be ar­rested. “Once the FIR is reg­is­tered, po­lice will move for­ward,” says Lal.

Vi­o­lence against mi­nori­ties is on the rise in Pak­istan. In March, as­sailants shot dead fed­eral min­is­ter Shah­baz Bhati, a mem­ber of Pak­istan’s Chris­tian com­mu­nity, in Is­lam­abad. The as­sailants are yet to be caught. The Re­li­gious Free­dom Re­port re­leased in the US in Septem­ber says Pak­istan is among 10 coun­tries which fail to pro­tect re­li­gious rights. Kid­nap­ping of Hindu women and con­vert­ing them to Is­lam is com­mon prac­tice in Sindh. Hin­dus make up a lit­tle over 1 per cent of Pak­istan’s pop­u­la­tion of 18 crore.

DE­MON­STRA­TORS PROTESTAGAINSTTHE KILLING OFDOC­TORS, IN SINDH’S HY­DER­ABAD

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