Monday, May 02, 2011
Sources inside the minorities’ ministry said that the new bill adopts almost all suggestions proposed by the Hindu community representatives, with only minor changes. Under the proposed bill, every marriage solemnised under the Hindu religion will be registered.
The 1998 census showed over one million Hindus in Pakistan, while currently the population has increased to over 4 million, making it the largest minority in the country. Currently, marriage registration facility is provided to Muslims in the form of a”Nikah Naama”, and to Christians in the form of “Certificate of Marriage”. All other communities are deprived of this right of registration of marriages. To pursue their demands for marriage registration bill, representatives of the Hindu community had recently threatened to hold a sit-in before the parliament to push the government to introduce the much-awaited bill in the parliament.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs, in its written reply, confirmed the development and said that efforts are being made to assist the minorities in every possible way. The ministry said during the last three years, a total of 40,387 needy individuals belonging to minorities have been granted financial assistance, while a total of 4,142 students from minorities have been granted scholarships. It said the government has approved to set up a hotline to address grievances of minorities, which will operate around the clock.
The ministry informed that for the upkeep of religious places, the government has approved 222 Small Development Schemes for the welfare and uplift of minorities since April 2008. It said that the present government has also increased the development and scholarship funds for minorities from Rs75 million to Rs172 million. Moreover, the government will construct prayer rooms for minorities in all jails of the country, while an Interfaith Complex will be established in Islamabad. It said that that remission in the punishment for minority prisoners involved in minor crimes is also under consideration.
According to the minorities’ ministry officials, ten religious festivals of minorities are celebrated officially in Pakistan.
These festivals include Christmas and Easter for Christians, Holi and Diwali for Hindus, Biasakhi and birth anniversary of Guru Nanak for Sikhs, Nauroze for Zoroastrian, Eid-e-Ridvan for Bahai’s, Festival of Lights for Buddhist community, Chelum Jhost for Kalash people.