Hinduism in Pakistan
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|2.5–4.5 million (2005)
1.6–1.85% of the Pakistani population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Predominantly Sindh with minorities in Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa|
|Predominantly Sindhi • with small minorities of: Punjabi and English|
After Pakistan gained independence from Britain on 14 August 1947, approximately 6 million of the country's minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India. Similarly, nearly an equal number of Muslims left India to live in Pakistan. The 1998 census of Pakistan recorded less than 2.5 million Hindus. The overwhelming majority of Hindus in Pakistan are concentrated in the Sindh province.
In 1951, Hindus constituted 22% of the Pakistani population (this includes East Pakistan, modern day Bangladesh); today, the share of Hindus is down to 1.7% in Pakistan, and 9.2% in Bangladesh. (In 1951, Bangladesh alone had a 22% Hindu population.)
Hinduism, once a major religion in present-day Pakistan along with Buddhism, has endured many invasions, migrations, conquests and settlements of many tribes and ethnic groups. There has been historical decline of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism in the areas of Pakistan. This happened for a variety of reasons even as these religions have continued to flourish beyond the eastern frontiers of Pakistan. These regions became predominantly Muslim during the rule of Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Pakistan and the rest of South Asia.
Various archaeological finds such as the swastika symbol, yogic postures, what appears to be like a "Pasupati" image that was found on the seals of the people of Mohenjo-daro, in Sindh, point to early influences that may have shaped Hinduism. A group of people known as Aryans are thought to have migrated from regions like Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex, Central Asia, Iran, Eastern Europe or Russia, crossed the river Sindhu, and mingled with the Dravidians, the indigenous people. The religious beliefs and folklore of the Indus valley people have become a major part of the Hindu faith that evolved in this part of the South Asia.
The Sindh kingdom and its rulers play an important role in the Indian epic story of the Mahabharata. In addition, there is the legend that the Pakistani city of Lahore was first founded by Lava, while Kasur was founded by his twin Kusha, both of whom were the sons of Rama of the Ramayana. The Gandhara kingdom of the northwest, and the legendary Gandhara peoples, are also a major part of Hindu literature such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Most Pakistani city names (such as Peshawar and Multan) can be traced back to Sanskrit roots.
According to the 1998 Pakistan Census, caste Hindus constitute about 1.6 percent of the total population of Pakistan and about 6.6% in province of Sindh. The Pakistan Census separates Schedule Castes from the main body of Hindus who make up a further 0.25% of national population. The total number of Hindus in Pakistan, including Scheduled Castes, however, is often suspected[by whom?] to be much higher than what was reported in the 1998 Census. According to unofficial reports, experts, and politicians, the real number of Dalits in Pakistan exceeds 2 million as opposed to 500,000 while the number of other caste Hindus is far higher than the 1.6% reported in the last census.
Based on the 1998 Census as well as the stabilization of Pakistan's Hindu population since then, Pakistan would, today, have roughly 3 million Hindus.
Hinduism and independence
When Pakistan was formed in August 1947, over 8 million Hindus and Sikhs from what was East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Pakistan's Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwas left for India, and a similar number of Muslims chose to migrate to Pakistan. The reasons for this exodus were the heavily charged communal atmosphere in British Raj, deep distrust of each other, the brutality of violent mobs and the antagonism between the religious communities. That over 1 million people lost their lives in the bloody violence of 1947, should attest to the fear and hate that filled the hearts of millions of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs who left ancestral homes hastily after independence.
Many Hindus who attained great success in the public eye in India, like the film stars and directors Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Ramesh Sippy, Vinod Khanna, Manoj Kumar, Rajkumar, Yash Chopra, Balraj Sahni, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt, trace their birthplaces and ancestral homes to the towns of Pakistan. Independent India's first Test cricket captain, Lala Amarnath, hailed from Lahore, prime ministers I K Gujral and Manmohan Singh are also from the part of the Punjab which became part of Pakistan, and former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani was born in Karachi. Nearly all of these individuals left their homes due to the violence and turmoil of independence.
The Indus river is a holy river to many Hindus, and the Government of Pakistan periodically allows small groups of Hindus from Pakistan and India to make pilgrimage, though most Hindus are forced to do this along the banks of the river that flows through a small part of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The communal violence of the 1940s and the subsequent persecutions have resulted in the destruction of many Hindu temples in Pakistan, although the Hindu community and the Government of Pakistan have preserved and protected many prominent ones. The Hindu Gymkhana in Karachi has tried to promote social development for Hindus in the city. One of the few temples remaining in Karachi today is the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Karachi.
Hindus are allotted separate electorates to vote and seats in the provincial assemblies, National Assembly and the Senate. The Pakistan Hindu Panchayat and the Pakistani Hindu Welfare Association are the primary civic organizations that represent and organise Hindu communities on social, economic, religious and political issues in most of the country, with the exception of the Shiv Temple Society of Hazara, which especially represents community interests in the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in addition to being the special guardians of the Shiva temple, at Chitti Gatti village, near Mansehra. There are minority commissions and for a while, a Ministry of Minority Affairs in the Government of Pakistan looked after specific issues concerning Pakistani religious minorities.
Karachi's city culture allows for a secular environment, providing opportunities to Hindu minorities. Though Islamisation has swept the country since the 1980s, the secular institutions established during British rule allow Hindus to take advantage of education, sports, cultural activities, and government services, and participate in mainstream Pakistani life. Prominent Pakistani Hindus include Pakistani cricketer Danish Kaneria, fashion designer Deepak Perwani, and former Chief Justice (Acting) of the Supreme Court of Pakistan Rana Bhagwandas. Many of the Muslims throughout Pakistan still prefer the community surnames of Hindu/Sikh ancestry such as 'Chouhan', 'Bhat', 'Rajput', 'Sodhi', and 'Chowdhury'.
Decline and persecution
There has been historical decline of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism in the areas of Pakistan. This happened for a variety of reasons even as these religions have continued to flourish beyond the eastern frontiers of Pakistan. The region became predominantly Muslim during the rule of Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Pakistan and the rest of South Asia. The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslims refugees from India settled down in Pakistan. Approximately 6 million Hindus and Sikhs moved to India while a nearly equal number of Muslims settled in Pakistan. Some Hindus in Pakistan feel that they are treated as second-class citizens and many have migrated to India.
In 1951, Hindus constituted 22 percent of the Pakistani population and the Hindu population was concentrated in East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh, while the Hindu population in West Pakistan was less than 2%. By 1998, the proportion of Hindus was down to around 1.7 percent. Minority members of the National Assembly have alleged that Hindus were being intimidated to force them to leave Pakistan. The Hindu percentage decline of the total Pakistani population is also related to the higher birthrate among the Muslims and the permanent settlement of over 1.7 million Muslim Afghan refugees in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Following the Babri Mosque demolition in India in 1992, riots and attacks on Hindus in retaliation have increased; Hindus in Pakistan are routinely affected by communal incidents in India and violent developments on the Kashmir conflict between the two nations. It remains the hope of many that a permanent peace between the two nations will go a long way in making life better for the roughly 3 million Hindus living in Pakistan.
In July 2010, around 60 members of the minority Hindu community in Karachi were attacked and evicted from their homes following an incident of a Dalit Hindu youth drinking water from a tap near an Islamic Mosque. A leader of the Karachi Hindu community, "Amarnath Motumal, stated that at least 20 to 25 girls are abducted and converted to Islam against their will every single month". In January 2014, a policeman standing guard outside a Hindu temple at Peshawar was gunned down.
Pakistan Studies curriculum issues
According to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute report, "Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus. For the upholders of the Ideology of Pakistan, the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus, and hence the Hindus have to be painted as negatively as possible". A 2005 report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a non-profit organization in Pakistan, found that Pakistan Studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy-makers have attempted to inculcate towards the Hindus. "Vituperative animosities legitimise military and autocratic rule, nurturing a siege mentality. Pakistan Studies textbooks are an active site to represent India as a hostile neighbour", the report stated. 'The story of Pakistan’s past is intentionally written to be distinct from, and often in direct contrast with, interpretations of history found in India. From the government-issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backward and superstitious.' Further the report stated "Textbooks reflect intentional obfuscation. Today’s students, citizens of Pakistan and its future leaders are the victims of these partial truths".
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