Hundreds of Hindus and Christians demonstrated in Hyderabad in solidarity with Jamaat-ud-Dawa. (IOL photo)
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Hindu and Christian minorities are angered by the government's crackdown on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), crediting the charity with helping the country's poor and needy irrespective of religion or cast.
"I would say, this is not a ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa, but it is against the poor people of Pakistan, who were being assisted by the charity," Kamran Michael, a Christian sanitary worker from the northeastern city of Lahore, told IslamOnline.net.
Hundreds of members of Pakistan's Hindu and Christian minorities demonstrated in the southern city of Hyderabad on Tuesday, December 16, in solidarity with the JD.
The Muslim charity was banned by both Islamabad and the UN Security Council last week over alleged links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT), the outlawed group India blames for the bloody Mumbai attacks.
Along with the ban, Pakistan closed down hundreds of JD-run schools, hospitals and clinics across the country, where services are provided to the poor free of charge.
"The government has failed to provide us health and education facilities. Now, they have banned those who had been providing us these facilities," Michael said.
"Let’s see what will the government do? But I have little hopes."
For Naresh Kumar, a Hindu farmer in the historic town of Hala, the ban and the crackdown are unjustifiable.
"My family was being provided with monthly ration (food) and free medical treatment for my children and parents by the JD for months," said Kumar.
"I am a poor laborer. I could not afford that, if the JD would not be able to help me."
Headquartered some 30 kilometers north of Lahore, JD has established itself as one of biggest charity organizations in the South Asian Muslim country, where 34 percent of the total population is living below poverty line.
|Hindus and Christians said the Muslim charity helped them on the basis of humanity not religion. (IOL photo)|
Minority groups hailed the Muslim charity as a champion for humanity rather than a terrorist organization.
"They helped us on the basis of humanity," says Michael, one of hundreds of Christians who had been benefiting from the JD charity works in Lahore, the capital of the populous Punjab province.
"A ban on such organizations means a ban on humanity."
The charity is popular in many parts of Pakistan, especially those hit by natural disasters, where it played a major role in providing help to victims.
The Christian worker affirmed that the charity offered his community help irrespective of their religious affiliation or social standing.
"They never asked me or any other Hindu or Christian about our religion or cast."
Christians are the largest minority in this South Asian Muslim country, making around 3 percent of a total population of 170 million.
Most Christians belong to the low-income bracket and work in low-key jobs.
Naresh, the Hindu farmer, can't see how a group doing so much help to religious minorities can be branded a terrorist organization.
"There are a number of big Hindu businessmen here, but they never cared about us because we belong to schedule cast. The JD people never asked us about such kind of things."
Hindus are the second largest religious minority in Muslim Pakistan, constituting 2 percent of the populace.
Most of them are based in southern Sindh, the second most populous province, where they work as farm workers.
"They helped us just because they treat us like human beings," maintains Naresh.
"I think those who respect humanity cannot be terrorists."