PESHAWAR: Leaders of non-Muslim communities have criticised the government for ignoring them in the development schemes and demanded allocation of sufficient funds to repair their worship places and support students, religious festivals and the families who suffered due to terrorism.

Talking to this correspondent here on Saturday, All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement chairman Haroon Sarab Diyal said that the people belonging to various minority groups had grievances against both the federal and provincial governments because they were not paid proper attention despite repeated appeals.

He recalled the services of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf activist late Soran Singh who served as adviser to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and worked a lot for all the people irrespective of their religious affiliations in the province.

“Mr Singh’s murder (in 2016) caused an irreparable loss to the non-Muslim communities because he was a true representative who served the people keenly,” Mr Diyal said. He urged the government to allocate sufficient funds for welfare of minorities because they had suffered in terrorism incidents and several people, especially those who sustained injuries in All Saints Church Kohati Gate were still in need of support and medical care.

Demand protection of their land properties, development funds

He also criticised the federal government for its failure to protect properties of the non-Muslims, saying that even the places of worship were not protected from land grabbers in parts of the country.

He said that thousands of kanals of land property owned by Hindus was in illegal possession of irrelevant people, but the government was least bothered to recover the plots. He said that the Hindus were crying for setting up of shamshan ghats in different districts for the community, but to no avail.

Sikh community representative Sardar Charan Jeet Singh told Dawn that in the absence of shamshan ghat the Sikh and Hindu communities were left with the only option to bury bodies of their beloved ones, which was not acceptable to them. He said that now the space in the graveyard was also not available and Hindus were compelled to shift the bodies to Khairabad or Kohat for cremation. He said that poor people could not afford the expenses to shift the bodies and they were in dire need of government’s support in this regard.

Christian community representative MPA Azeem Ghauri said that the provincial government was reluctant to allocate funds to the opposition lawmakers, especially to those belonging to the minority groups.

However, Ravi Kumar, coordinator to the chief minister for minorities, when contacted, said that after the murder of Soran Singh the case was in court and once it was decided they (non-Muslims) would get a representative in the provincial cabinet.

He said that the provincial government had approved several uplift schemes of Rs180 million which also included two shamshan ghats in Peshawar and Nowshera and three graveyards in Kohat, Mardan and Swabi.

The site for shamshan ghat at Nowshera, he said, had been identified but in Peshawar the Sikh and Hindu communities were yet to submit proposals to the government, mainly due to unavailability of a reasonable site. He said that funds had also been approved for construction of community centres in Nowshera, Mardan, Donga Gali and Peshawar, while work on Mardan and Peshawar churches was in progress. Mr Kumar said that funds had also been allocated for religious festivals.

Answering a query, he said that funds had also been allocated for scholarships, skill training of youth, repair of worship places, etc.

“I am working voluntarily without availing of any kind of perks and privileges. At present, the government has given me only office just to facilitate the people of minority groups,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2018

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