Changing Sindh

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Sindh rightly took pride in its culture of tolerance. It is said to be a land of Sufis who always preached equality, accommodation and patience. But lately a change has been witnessed that has been subtly creeping up on the land of saints. There have been suicide blasts and bomb attacks on shrines and against Shia minority which upon closer observation are found to be the handiwork of people who come from the same region. The districts that have majority Hindu and other religious communities have seen a mushroom growth of seminaries. The very same seminaries are found to be either directly behind the forced conversion of Hindu girls and their marriages with Muslims or seen overtly supporting such moves.

Much like other parts of the country religious seminaries have cropped up everywhere in the province which wield increasing influence in politics and day-to-day affairs. Just a day before yesterday, a vigilante group in Sukkur forced some heatstroke centres to close down. Those people, reportedly associated with a religious organization, came armed fired some shots in the air, forcing the organisers to run to save their lives.

As Met office had earlier warned the people of Karachi and other parts of Sindh to brace themselves for an extended heat wave, the temperatures in the region had gone up to 40 degrees. To cater to the situation, the local municipal corporation had set up the camp.

The vigilante group earlier had warned the organisers to discontinue the practice as according to their skewed interpretation of the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance it was a violation of the Act.  The local authorities succumbed to the hooliganism and have closed down their operations.

Karachi in the past few years have witnessed severe heat waves and dozens of people have died, most of them were the labourers and poor people who could not afford to not work during the summer months.

The extremist elements, here, made a wrong interpretation of the religious injunctions that clearly exempt the sick and the travellers. That is why even during the Zia era who enforced this Ordinance the restaurants around the bus stops and airports were found to be open. And eating at such outlets that were usually covered by putting up shamianas around the establishments was not considered disrespect to those fasting.

Besides, even if such a law has to be enforced, it cannot be left to the whim and fancy of an individual or a group. The state authorities should deal with this issue at their own level. It should start an awareness campaign as to what constitutes the violation of a certain law.

And we need that tolerant Sindh back that when Punjab was seeing large scale massacre in the aftermath of the Partition, it not only did not indulge in any kind of killings but also retained its eclectic culture by encouraging the Hindus and other non-Muslim communities to stay on.