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Arrest of journalist covering floods shows Pakistan’s bias against Hindus

Pakistan is denying aid to minorities in its worst-ever floods (Photo: Twitter)

Pakistan has arrested a journalist allegedly for reporting on discrimination against Hindu flood victims in the Sindh province. The Hindus had said that they had been expelled from the relief camp after being told that they are not flood victims.

Over one-third of Pakistan is under floods due to heavy rains and flash floods. It is believed that over 33 million people have been affected and over 1,300 have been killed. The 2022 floods have been declared as monster floods and Pakistan has appealed globally for humanitarian aid.

After visiting the relief camps in Mirpur, Sindh, Pakistani journalist Gadani reported that Hindus belonging to the Bhagri community had been refused humanitarian aid in the camps by the local administration. The victims told the journalist that they were denied water, food and shelter for their faith.

A video of the discrimination against the Hindus went viral on social media. The Sindh government acted promptly—it deleted the video and arrested Gadani.

The video shows one of the victims as saying: “We have been expelled for being Hindus. They have refused to provide us with even food and water. They think we are not victims of floods. We are poor and lost our house to the flood. The local administration tells us that we are not flood victims. We have small children with us. Where shall we go now?”

Two years back, discrimination against minorities was reported during the Covid-19 pandemic also. Because of faith-based and ethnic discrimination, Covid was called “the Shia virus” while Hindus and Christians were refused aid. The Diplomat reported that one of Pakistan’s top NGOs, the Saylani Welfare Trust (SWT), refused to give ration to the Hindus after ascertaining their faith from the official identity card. Even though the NGO refuted the claims of discrimination, a subsequent investigation found that minorities were discriminated on the basis of their faith.

During Pakistan’s earlier floods in 2010, religious discrimination in the distribution of flood relief was widely reported. The Hindus were turned out of relief camps and rations were denied to the families. The then president Asif Ali Zardari had to intervene and ask the Sindh government for a report on the faith-based discrimination.

Since then, things have changed for the worse in Pakistan. The past few years have seen radicalisation spread in the Pakistani society with blasphemy attacks being commonly reported on minorities. The lynching and burning alive of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Diyawadana over alleged blasphemy made global headlines in December 2021.

Pakistan’s organisations have often used natural calamities and the subsequent helplessness of minorities to convert them to Islam in exchange for humanitarian aid.

Currently, though almost all of Pakistan is affected by the calamity, Sindh and Balochistan are the worst affected. The Sindh chief minister has said that it will take between three to six months for water to drain out while almost all of Balochistan is under water.

News reports from Balochistan have highlighted how Hindu NGOs and temples have been helping flood victims cutting across communities. Dawn has reported that the Hindus in Balochistan are sheltering flood-affected people of all faiths at the Baba Madhudas Mandir.

With large amounts of aid coming into Pakistan, an international organisation has already sounded Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif about transparency as well as equitable distribution of flood relief. Transparency International has also warned against corruption because of the massive inflow of humanitarian aid.

In other reports, the Paris-based South Asia Press, has reported that members of the banned terror organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have been seen collecting donations and distributing relief to the flood affected. The organisation sounded a warning that the group is organising itself and is recruiting members for terror activities.

Also Read: Angry Baloch target Pakistan for poor relief work during deadly floods