Peace and tolerance of Thar will be at risk if banned outfits continue to work: NCHR
UMERKOT: A team of National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has called for immediate intervention in Thar and warned that the peaceful, pluralist and tolerant area risks being converted into a new Waziristan if banned organisations continue to work freely and without check in the region.
NCHR chairperson retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan, who headed the team comprising Anees Haroon, Nuzhat Shereen and barrister Haider Zaffar, told journalists here on Friday that the team had noted that the tolerant, peaceful and pluralist society of Thar was being distorted by proliferation of seminaries.
The number of madressahs was on the rise without any government department noticing it and extremists were moving about freely accusing anybody of being an ‘infidel’, he said.
He said that hate speeches must be stopped as no one had a right to declare the other wrong or right. An interfaith convention would be held in Umerkot in October this year, he added.
He said that the majority should protect the minority and banned organisations should not be allowed to set up their offices in the region.
He condemned the practice of ‘forced conversion’ and said that the law guaranteed that a girl or a boy could not marry before they were 18 years of age; likewise they could not convert at an early age.
Mr Chowhan said that blasphemy law was being used to settle personal scores, otherwise, no one could dare commit blasphemy nowadays.
He said the team had met officials of district administration, PTI MNA Lalchand Malhi and different segments of society to get firsthand knowledge about the state of affairs. It would compile a set of recommendations for provincial and federal governments in the light of their visit to Thar, he said.
He advised victims of enforced disappearance to send complaints to the NCHR and it would take suo motu notice. Mr Chowhan directed police stations concerned to register FIRs for ‘missing persons’.
Ms Anees Haroon recalled the good old days of peace and pluralism in Umerkot and said it had all changed within five years because religion and politics had been mixed and banned organisations had been allowed to work in the region.
She demanded immediate intervention before this peaceful area was converted into a new Waziristan.
Ali Akbar Rahimoon, Sardar Bhayo and Abdul Haleem Soomro said that Thar’s culture of tolerance and coexistence had been compromised by the elements that were bent on creating an atmosphere of harassment, forced conversions and religious intolerance in the area to serve their own vested interests.
They said the intelligentsia should not allow them to sabotage peace and pointed out that missionaries of Muslims, Christians and Ahmadis had opened religious schools in Umerkot and Tharparkar, which were exploiting people’s poverty and posed a threat to the area.
They appealed to political entities not to mix religion with politics in order to ensure exemplary coexistence among various communities.
Abdullah Khoso said that district government needed to make its dormant peace committee functional to play its role in such a situation.
Umerkot bar president, former MPA and general secretary of Minority Wing Sindh Poonjo Mal Bheel said that the theory which was the basis for Pakistan could not be forgotten.
He recalled that in past Hindu legislators were voted for by Muslims but this year during local body elections Hindu candidates bagged votes in the name of religion, which was condemned.
He said the popular slogan of forced conversion was raised only when a girl from the Hindu upper class was lured into love marriage by a Muslim.
He was a Bheel, a lower-caste minority, but he had been elected thrice as president of the bar, he said.
The NCHR team played a video clip in a meeting with district administration officials at DC office in which Pir Ayub Jan Sarhandi was shown asking participants in a gathering to be ready for sacrifice.