Non-Muslim Communities Christian, Hindu and Sikh have been living in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) like other parts of the country. They follow same traditions and lifestyle as common tribal people do but they face problems more than the Muslim majority tribal do.
According to the data of Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) about 28,600 families are still IDPs who wait to the government act upon their announcements. However, their rehabilitation is dependent on the security situation in FATA where they would need basic facilities of life. They can hope only that they will return soon. Nevertheless, there are many families who are hopeless yet, and those are the minorities of FATA.
Talking about the hurdles faced by minorities during the displacement from FATA, Pakistan Council of World Religion’s chief and minority’s activist Sardar Charnjit Singh says that there are no special arrangements for the registration of minority IDPs like common tribal people. “Minorities survive on meagre relief during the displacement in different areas of the country. Most of the displaced minority families were settled in Peshawar, Hasan Abdal and Nankana Sahab under self-help,” Charanjit added that they have made arrangements on community level to fulfil their economic needs.
Due to the lack of proper arrangements for the registration of minority IDPs, exact number of displaced minority families is unknown. However, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs were displaced on large number from Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency and Orakzai Agency.
Christians, Hindus and Sikhs were displaced on large number from Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency and Orakzai Agency.
Maria Kumari, a social worker and minority rights activist says about the difficulties of displaced non-Muslim communities that 32 families including her own family migrated due to the sectarian violence in Kurram Agency and settled outside FATA in 2009. “Those displaced people were registered after facing a lot of hurdles. Their rehabilitation process was started in 2013 but only residents of the Christian colony in Kurram could returned while others are still waiting for help,” Ms. Kumari said.
Answering to a question, she told that they all want to return to their homes in FATA. “There is no proper mechanism for rehabilitation of the minority IDPs nor government have such arrangements for us,” she said, “Our houses are completely destroyed and we have no job opportunities there in FATA.”
Talking about how those non-Muslim tribal people live during the displacement, Maria said that they were helpless completely. “Most of them have no ATM cards for cash aid (issued by the government to the IDPS of FATA). Their relief packages are stopped and we failed to get any relief from government despite trying our best.”
When requested for information about the minority IDPs of FATA, an official of the FMDA pleading anonymity, said that, “We have data of minorities only from North Waziristan where 32 Christian families of North Waziristan were registered and they were sent back to their colony in Miranshah,” the official told adding that FDMA had no data of the migrated minorities because there were no proper arrangements for their registration.
FDMA has no data of FATA’s migrated minorities.
Not only in case of conflict and displaced families minorities’ issues were not addressed properly but even now the minorities have issues in general census.
The much-awaited sixth population census simultaneously began on March 15, 2017 which to be continued until Arpli15, 2017 across the country. The first phase of the national census only includes the Orakzai agency. While the other six tribal agencies will be surveyed in the second phase, which begins in April. However, the Sikh religion had been ignored in column 6 of the census form by the government.
A Sikh tribal leader and Provincial Youth Assembly’s Minister for Minority Affairs Mr. Gurpal Singh has filed a writ petition in the Peshawar High Court. He told the Tribal Post that that Sikhism is the fourth largest religion in Pakistan but unfortunately, it has been excluded from the census count form. He said: “We marked the ‘Digar’ (other) field in column 6 of census form for our religion after which we would probably do not know correct number of the Sikh community in Pakistan.”
He said that their religion was included in the census form in 1981. He said: “Now the court ruled in favour of us saying that Sikhism field will be included in the second phase of census which will begin on 25th April and continue until 25th May, 2017.” Mr. Gurpal added that Sikh population is above 15,000 in Peshawar and most of them have marked “other religion” in the column 6 of the census form because of the unavailability of category in the registration form.
Peshawar High Court has order of iclusion Sikhism as religion in Census forms.
An official of the Department of Statistics told Tribal Post that religion is shown based on population whereas Sikh population is 0.003% of the total population of Pakistan according to the previous census of 1981. However, he told that Sikhism will be included in the second phase.
Non-Muslim communities were considered ineligible for most of the jobs in FATA. Because domicile certificate was a condition to be eligible for any opportunity and minorities were not given the right to get their domicile certificate. However, recently government has ordered to issue domicile certificates to non-Muslims in FATA.
A young player Nauman Masih who comes from Christian community of the Khyber Agency said; “We have been given the right of having domicile certificates. We are so happy because now we have Pakistani citizenship. It would reduce hopelessness among non-Muslim communities of FATA.”
Nauman Masih told that total four “Malaki” (tribal eldership) to the Christian and eight to Sikh communities were given by government. “This would substantially reduce the problems of minorities in FATA.”
Only 3,200 votes of minorities were registered in the elections of 2013.
Gurpal Singh while answering a question said that correct number of the displaced minority people was not known but they had 3,200 registered votes in the elections 2013. “We can easily understand from our registered votes that large number of minorities had migrated from FATA due to militancy.”
He said; “Their rehabilitation would not be possible until a proper mechanism is formed. These people have been living in terrible situation away from their homes in FATA.”
Head of a group of human rights organizations in FATA, Mr. Zar Ali Khan Afridi said that Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) has deprived not only majorities of their rights but also minorities of their basic rights.
“War against terrorism and militancy in FATA have affected most the minorities settled in Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram and North Waziristan agencies,” he said adding that government had no proper plan for their rehabilitation. “They are patriotic as we are and they were living there for centuries.”
A minority leader Arshad Masih who has been made a “minority tribal elder” officially said; “Our population is about 50,000 in FATA including Sikh, Christian and Hindu communities and most of them are IDPs. Now it is government’s responsibility to make proper arrangements and plans for their rehabilitation.”