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
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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.


Maldives strongman Yameen seeks second term amid rigging fears

Updated 24 September 2018
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Maldives strongman Yameen seeks second term amid rigging fears

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Polling booths in the Maldives closed Sunday after voting hours were extended in a controversial election marred by police raids on the opposition and allegations of rigging in favor of strongman President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen, who is expected to retain power, has imprisoned or forced into exile almost all of his main rivals. Critics say he is returning the honeymoon island nation to authoritarian rule.

The process is being closely watched by regional rivals India and China, who are jostling to influence Indian Ocean nations. The European Union and US, meanwhile, have threatened sanctions if the vote is not free and fair.

Many voters across the Indian Ocean archipelago said they stood in line for over five hours to cast their ballot, while expatriate Maldivians voted in neighboring Sri Lanka and India.

The elections commission said balloting was extended by three hours until 7 p.m. (1400 GMT) because of technical glitches suffered by tablet computers containing electoral rolls, and officials had to use manual systems to verify voters’ identities.

An election official said the deadline was also extended due to heavy voter turnout, and anyone in the queue by 7 p.m. would be able to cast their ballot.

“Eight hours & counting. Waiting to exercise my democratic right! Let’s do this, Insha Allah!” former Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon said on Twitter.

Maumoon, who is also the estranged niece of Yameen and daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, cast her vote at a booth in the Maldivian Embassy in Colombo.

Yameen voted minutes after polling booths opened in the capital Male, where opposition campaign efforts had been frustrated by a media crackdown and police harassment.

Before polls opened, police raided the campaign headquarters of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and searched the building for several hours in a bid to stop what they called “illegal activities.” There were no arrests.

Yameen’s challenger, the relatively unknown Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, also cast his vote.

Solih has the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen although he has struggled for visibility with the electorate because the media is fearful of falling foul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

Mohamed Nasheed, who was elected president of a newly democratic Maldives in 2008 but who now lives in exile, urged the international community to reject the results of a flawed election.

Some 262,000 people in the archipelago — famed for its white beaches and blue lagoons — were eligible to vote in an election from which independent international monitors have been barred.

Only a handful of foreign media have been allowed in.

The Asian Network for Free Elections, a foreign monitoring group that was denied access to the Maldives, said the campaign was heavily tilted in favor of 59-year-old Yameen.

Local observers said the balloting itself went off peacefully and most of the delays were due to technical issues. Results are expected by early Monday.

The government has used “vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and to intimidate and imprison critics,” some of whom have been assaulted and even murdered, according to Human Rights Watch.

There have been warnings that Yameen could try to hold on to power at all costs.

In February he declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution and ordered troops to storm the Supreme Court and arrest judges and other rivals to stave off impeachment.

Yameen told supporters on the eve of the election he had overcome “huge obstacles” since controversially winning power in a contested run-off in 2013, but had handled the challenges “with resilience.” 

The crackdown attracted international censure and fears the Maldives was slipping back into one-man rule just a decade after transitioning to democracy.

The US State Department this month said it would “consider appropriate measures” should the election fail to be free and fair.

The EU in July also threatened travel bans and asset freezes if the situation does not improve.

India, long influential in Maldives affairs — it sent troops and warships in 1988 to stop a coup attempt — also expressed hopes the election would represent a return to democratic norms.

However in recent years Yameen has drifted closer to China, India’s chief regional rival, taking hundreds of millions of dollars for major infrastructure projects.