No cow slaughtering in Pakistan’s border district, not under compulsion but respect

In this file photo, People carry animals they bought at a cattle market for the upcoming Muslim festival Eid al-Adha in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 23 August 2018

No cow slaughtering in Pakistan’s border district, not under compulsion but respect

  • More than 40 percent of Tharparkar districts’ 1.6 million population comprises of Hindus, according to the 2017 census
  • Muslim majority has always taken care of our sentiments so other countries, especially neighboring India, should take a lesson from it, says Hindu trader, Kaldeep Kumar

KARACHI: Tharo Khan, a resident of Islamkot town of Tharparkar, bought a goat for sacrifice on Eidul Adha. This cost him Rs. 18,000 ($146). He could get a share in a cow which would cost him less than Rs. 6,000 ($49) but he opted for goat. The reason is not “affordability” but “respect for the fellow citizens practicing another faith.”

“Sacrifice (slaughtering animal) is a religious obligation which I have to fulfil. However, at the same time I have a social obligation to take care of the sentiments of my Hindu friends, who make up 90 percent of our town,” Khan told Arab News.

While the slaughtering of cows and subsequent lynching of Muslims who are the minority faith in India often makes headlines, in the Pakistani border district of Tharparkar the majority of Muslims opt to not slaughter cows to avoid hurting the feelings of their Hindu fellows.

Tharparkar, situated at the India-Pakistan border, has the lowest Human Development Index of all the districts in Sindh. It has a 1,649,661 population (1.6 million), as per census of 2017. Of these 1.6 million, well over 40 percent are Hindus. 

However, in urban areas, including its headquarter Mithi and Tehsil towns of Diplo, Islamkot, Chachro, Dahli, Nagarparkar and Kaloi, Hindus forms majority of the population. In Islamkot Hindus are more than 90 percent.

“We are faced with drought and have the lowest human development index but we are rich in terms of love, respect and brotherhood,” Kaldeep Kumar, 40, and president of the Islamkot traders’ association, told Arab News.

Kumar on Wednesday visited his Muslim friends to greet them at Eid; he ate sweets and grilled mutton, since his Muslim friends like other Tharis don’t slaughter the cow.

“Hindus of Thar arrange Iftar dinners for the Muslim friends in the fasting month of Ramadan. They (Muslims) attend our religious rituals and festivals,” said Kumar.

“Although not prohibited by law, there is an unannounced ban on the slaughter of cow, which is sacred to Hindus. This ban is however not forced but self-imposed and reflects the centuries-old interfaith harmony,” said Abdul Ghani Bajeer, a local journalist.

“This is not confined to Eid. You can’t find a single of a dozen of meat shops across the district which may be offering cow’s meat to its customers,” Bajeer told Arab News. “In the Muslim weddings, serving food of cow meat is being avoided as many Hindus also attend the wedding ceremonies.”

At Eid, the locals chose to slaughter goats but in some cases if they slaughter a cow, it’s done away from the eyes of Hindu fellow citizens out of respect for their religious feelings. 

Bajeer said that over the past few years, different welfare organizations including Al-Khidmat Foundation, Human Relief Foundation, Darul Uloom Karachi, Al-Mustafa Trust, have started arranging sacrifices for the underprivileged local Muslim communities. “But local volunteers make sure that slaughtering process is being done in closed spaces and the meat doesn’t reach the Hindus,” he said.

Piaro Shawani, the 40-year-old Hindu owner of Café Thar in Mithi, said that Tharparkar is backward in resources but is wealthiest due to its interfaith harmony, brotherhood, respect and love. “In the rainy season, we celebrate the rain related festival together. We also attend each other’s religious festivals,” he said.

Abdul Rehman Otho, the 45-year-old principal of a private school in Diplo town of Thar, said that there is no prohibition on slaughtering cow. “No Hindu can stop us from slaughtering (the cow) but we have inherited this legacy of not hurting the feelings of our fellow Hindus from our forefathers,” Otho told Arab News. “Hindu-Muslim women are even more attached to each other.”

Advocate Faqir Sagir, general secretary of the Mithi Bar Association, said: “This interfaith harmony leads to a tolerant society where the crime rate is low. We have a zero crime ratio.” 

Ghansham Das, the 60-year-old former chairman of Islamkot City union council, said: “If we are not asked by someone about it we even don’t remember about cow slaughtering.”

In our area, people of two different faiths live together but this is a blessing for us not a curse, unlike what we see in many places around the world. “We are not only an example for the rest of our country but for the entire world. We participate in their festivals and they (Muslims) in ours.”

Amar Guriro, who has reported about Thar Desert extensively, said that Thar Desert is a hub of religious coexistence and interfaith harmony. “People of Sindh are emotionally attached to their motherland, language and culture, more than their religion. For Sindhi people, one’s religion or faith is not important but someone who loves their motherland, speaks their language, and practices Sindhi culture is important,” Guriro said.

“The Muslim majority has always taken care of our sentiments so other countries, especially our neighboring India, should take a lesson from it as well,” Kaldeep Kumar said.

Car boom brings gridlock misery to ‘green and happy’ Bhutan

Updated 37 min 52 sec ago

Car boom brings gridlock misery to ‘green and happy’ Bhutan

  • Bhutan has seen a more than five-fold increase in cars, buses and trucks on its roads in the past two decades
  • Congestion and lack of parking now makes driving stressful in the tiny Himalayan kingdom where there are no traffic light

THUMPHU: Famed for valuing Gross National Happiness over economic growth, Bhutan is a poster child for sustainable development.
But booming car sales may impact efforts to preserve its rare status as a carbon negative country — and an increase in traffic is testing the good humor of its citizens.
Bhutan has seen a more than five-fold increase in cars, buses and trucks on its roads in the past two decades, according to transport authority director general Pemba Wangchuk with capital Thimphu hardest hit by the influx of vehicles.
Phuntsho Wangdi, a media consultant, says the congestion and lack of parking now makes driving stressful in the tiny Himalayan kingdom where there are no traffic lights.
“I wish there were fewer cars. It wasn’t like this before,” he adds of life in Thimpu, which is home to half the cars in the country.
The nation’s economy has grown 7.5 percent each year in the past decade, according to the World Bank. Officials estimate there is now one car for every seven people in Bhutan, which has a total population of 750,000.
But the nation’s narrow country lanes and outdated city roads can barely cope. A lack of infrastructure, along with poor driving etiquette — some simply leave their cars parked in the middle of the road — compounds the problem.
“Every year the number of cars and the number of people are increasing, and the roads have remained the same, and it’s a problem for us,” Lhendup, a taxi driver, tells AFP.
Morning rush hour journeys that once took five minutes now take more than half an hour.
This may seem a small figure compared to the hours of gridlock faced by commuters in Manila, Jakarta, and Bangkok, but it is a step-change for the Bhutanese who say the situation has rapidly deteriorated in the past year.
“Its chaotic. I eat my breakfast in the car now to save time,” says Kuenzang Choden, who drops her four-year-old daughter at school every day before heading to work.
The traffic jams are a sign of the wider economic changes the nation is facing. Bhutan is renowned for prioritizing Gross National Happiness over GDP, and has captured tourists’ imagination as a tranquil, idyllic land, but there are signs of malcontent.
According to the World Bank’s 2018 report, the youth unemployment rate is high, as is rural to urban migration, which puts a strain on the resources of towns and cities. And despite it’s reputation as a place where well-being is prioritized — it ranked 95th out of 156 countries in the 2019 UN World Happiness Report.
The proliferation of the Internet and smartphones are fueling modern desires, while dealers are filling their showrooms with new brands and models from Japan and South Korea to lure buyers.
And while taxes have increased and restrictions put on vehicle loans, car buyers are not discouraged.
Local financial institutions gave 3.2 billion ngultrum ($46 million) in car loans in 2015, but by last year the amount had reached 6.7 billion ngultrum ($96 million).
The figures please local businessmen but worry environmentalists keen to ensure Bhutan remains one of the world’s greenest countries.
Environmental activist Yeshey Dorji explains: “As a nation that prides itself on being a carbon-negative country, the increase in the number of fossil fuel vehicles speaks poorly of our leadership position in environmental conservation.”
Bhutan and Suriname, both with lush forests, are the only two countries to claim they are carbon negative, absorbing more carbon pollution than they give off.
Methane from cows, the burning of crops and other farm activities used to be Bhutan’s main source of greenhouse gases. But that has changed in recent years to industry and cars.
Bhutan’s constitution dictates that at least 60 percent of the country must be forest and the figure is currently above 70 percent.
But Bhutan is now importing more in fossil fuels than it exports in hydropower to India — the country’s biggest revenue earner.
Public transport is poor, particularly in Thimpu, which is home to 100,000 people but barely 40 buses.
The capital’s mayor Kinlay Dorji plans to introduce bus-only lanes on city roads and wants to buy more buses.
“Its time for radical measures,” he says.
“We have to make public transport more attractive and discourage owning cars,” he adds, warning that unless action was taken Thimphu risked grinding to a standstill.
To ease congestion, the city is also constructing its first two multi-story car parks that will each take about 600 cars.
The National Environment Commission insists Bhutan is still carbon negative despite the traffic jams and vehicle boom, but wants to stop things worsening.
Commission secretary Dasho Sonam P. Wangdi explains: “We cannot stop people from buying cars, but we can introduce alternative, less polluting cars such as the hybrid and electric ones to reduce carbon footprint.”