Immigration authorities today stopped 130 Pakistani Hindus from crossing over to India at the Wagah land border following a controversy over reports of an exodus of the minority community from Sindh province.
The Hindus were told by immigration officials that they could not cross the border despite having valid visas as they did not have “security clearance,” sources said.
The immigration authorities had reportedly received directions from the Interior Ministry not to let any Hindus go to India even for pilgrimage,the sources said.
The Hindu families reached Wagah at 8am but most of them were not given clearance to cross the border till noon.
Only two families from Karachi that had “no objection certificates” were allowed to cross over to India,the sources said.
However,Federal Investigation Agency official Waqar Haider said in Lahore that his organisation was not stopping anyone possessing valid travel documents from going to India.
The kidnapping of a teenage Hindu girl,Manisha Kumari,and her reported rape in Jacobabad city of Sindh province on August 7 has caused widespread concern in the minority community – report say of an exodus of some 250 Hindus from the region has taken place.
Kidnapping of Hindu girls has become rampant in Pakistan over the last few years.
Hindus from Sindh and Balochistan had decided to migrate to India because of forced conversions,extortion and kidnapping,TV channels reported.
The Hindus were travelling to India on 30-day visas for a pilgrimage to Haridwar and Vaishno Devi but many were not expected to return,the channels reported.
Taking notice of these reports,Interior Minister Rehman Malik yesterday said the Hindus would be stopped from going to India.
He said they would be allowed to travel only after a probe by the FIA.
Malik claimed the reports of the migration of the Hindus were part of a “conspiracy to defame Pakistan.”
The Indian High Commission should explain why visas were issued to the 250 Hindus,he said.
Reports from Jacobabad said seven Hindu families comprising 90 people had yesterday left for Lahore to travel to India.
“We are businessmen but have been compelled to leave our motherland because of harassment,lawlessness,looting,kidnapping of girls and their forced conversion to Islam,” said Amesh Kumar of Bakhshapur area in Jacobabad.
Another unnamed Hindu man from Quetta told the Dawn newspaper: “Pakistan is our homeland and at the moment we are going to India for visiting our sacred places. But if I find the situation in India better than in Pakistan,I will prefer to settle there and others also think the same way.”
There were also reports that 52 Hindu families from Jacobabad had migrated to India about six months ago.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah too took notice of the reports of the migration of Hindus and formed a three-member committee of provincial ministers to assess the situation in Jacobabad and submit a report.
Meanwhile,the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed alarm and a strong sense of outrage at the continued exodus of religious minority communities from Sindh and Balochistan provinces,saying the state has consistently failed to allay their concerns despite repeated reminders by the civil society.
A statement issued on Friday by Zohra Yousuf the Chairperson of the HRCP said: “The state of anger and panic caused by the reports that several hundred Hindu citizens from Sindh and Balochistan were migrating to India has subsided somewhat by the disclosure that they were on a pilgrimage. Most of them said they would return to Pakistan while some said they might not.
“In any case,reports of Hindu citizens’ migration to India have been coming form Sindh and Balochistan fairly regularly,” the statement said.
It also noted that some spokespersons of minorities have argued that vested interests are threatening and frightening the non-Muslim citizens with a view to forcing them to migrate.
“Some of these elements are said to be religious extremists while others have plans to grab the minorities property. In any case there is little doubt that the minorities have been driven to despair,” Yousuf said in the statement.
It said the continued migration from Sindh and Baluchistan of religious minorities is a reflection of the state’s failure to save these citizens from violence,discrimination and disgusting excesses such as forced conversion of young women.
“The live telecast of a recent conversion of a young Hindu man on television is a particularly reprehensible and indefensible manifestation of the attitude towards non-Muslims,” it said.
The “HRCP desperately hopes that the government shares its distress in this respect and reiterates its call for the state to address,in consultation with the communities in questions.”