In Pakistan’s ‘city of Akbar’, Hindus, Muslims champion interfaith harmony

This picture shows the Shiv Mandir in Umerkot which Hindu residents are insisting should be opened for pilgrims from India by constructing a corridor similar to the one in Kartarpur. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Updated 11 December 2019

In Pakistan’s ‘city of Akbar’, Hindus, Muslims champion interfaith harmony

  • Mughal emperor who ruled India for almost half a century was born in Umerkot
  • To this day, all communities in this area in Sindh partake in each other’s religious activities

Umerkot, Sindh: Rasool Bux is a Muslim activist who hosts gatherings on two major Hindu festivals, Diwali and Holi, in Umerkot – a small city in Pakistan’s Sindh province and famous for being the birthplace of Mughal emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar.

With a population of over one million, Umerkot or Amarkot is home to equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims who continue to uphold Akbar’s values of interfaith harmony.




This canopy in the Umerkot city of Pakistan's Sindh province is the birthplace of Mughal emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, popularly known as Akbar the Great.(AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

“During Akbar’s reign, Muslims and Hindus maintained exemplary interfaith harmony. This is the city of Akbar. It’s a city of interfaith harmony,” Bux said.

Historical data suggests that Akbar, who ruled India for almost half a century as one of its most illustrious monarchs, was born on November 23, 1542 in Umerkot.

It was during a time when Humayun, after being routed by Sher Khan, the-then Afghan Governor of Bihar, took refuge in Umerkot along with his wife Hamida Banu, seven horsemen and a handful of followers.




A plaque shows details at the birthplace of Mughal emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar in the Umerkot city of Pakistan’s Sindh province.(AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

“The fugitive uncrowned king celebrated the auspicious occasion [of his son’s birth] by distributing Mushk (a perfume) among his faithful companions with these proud words: ‘One day, the fame of this new born baby will spread all over the world like the fragrance of this Mushk’,” a plaque at Akbar’s birthplace reads.

The popular monarch, who earned the moniker “Akbar, the Great” for his vision and secular attitude, is known to have celebrated Diwali, and would allow Brahmin priests to tie strings around his wrists as a form of blessing. He had also renounced consuming beef and forbade the sale of all meats on certain days.

It’s these very qualities that have trickled down from one generation to another.




Maharaj Gyan Puri Goswami talks to Arab News on November 27, 2019. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

Raja Ramu Chand runs a small restaurant in Umerkot and said it was difficult to identify who was a Muslim or a Hindu in the city.

“Only when someone enters his place of worship, then people get to know about his/her faith,” Chand said, adding that they “only know love.”

“We have kept the fire of hatred extinguished. We have got this value of brotherhood from our elders,” he said.

The feeling is mutual says Dileep Kumar a Hindu resident of Umerkot who waits to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday every year.




Akbar Nama, a book by Abul Fazal which details the history of the Mughal empire up to the 47th year of Akbar’s reign, on display at the museum in Umerkot city of Pakistan's Sindh province.(AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

It’s on this occasion, among others, when Hindus and Muslims share the stage at the city’s community hall.

When the processions pass by, it’s Kumar’s duty to ensure the participants stay hydrated by offering them water at regular intervals.

“On Diwali, the diyas of my home light with oil which my Muslim friends bring,” Kumar, a trader, said before explaining why this “love and respect for another faith is not one way.”

Kumar said his family has been participating in Muharram processions for the past 35 years.

“Whether Holi or Diwali, our Muslim brothers join us in our moment of happiness,” he said.

Umerkot is also home to a temple of Hindu deity, Shiv, which houses Pakistan’s only Shivling.




A photo of the Shivling which Maharaj Gyan Puri Goswami told Arab News is one of the 12 divine stones for Hindus. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

“We have been part of each other’s events of happiness and grief,” Gyan Puri Goswami, Maharaj of the Shiv Mandir, said, adding that not only Hindus but Muslims also visit the temple.

Arbab Naik Muhammad is a Muslim scholar of history. He said that celebrating each other’s achievements is an important part of Umerkot’s DNA.




This picture taken on November 27 offers an aerial view of Umerkot city from the wall of the Umerkot fort. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar) 

“When a girl from the village gets married, all villagers, irrespective of their faith, give her the gifts and when the bridegroom comes he is considered a son-in-law of the entire village...

“The poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, a Muslim, is recited in Hindu temples and that of Bhagat Kabir, a Hindu, can be heard from a mosque”.

And this, he said, is because we have common heroes.


Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

Updated 14 min 36 sec ago

Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

  • Senate approved Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 on Feb. 1
  • The bill makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the federal capital

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 90 percent of Pakistanis are in favor of a senate bill that makes Arabic classes compulsory at school, a recent survey shows.

Pakistan’s upper house of parliament last month approved the Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 which makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the capital, Islamabad.

“Eighty-nine percent Pakistanis said that they are in favor of the approval of a Senate bill that calls for Arabic to be a mandatory part of the syllabus in educational institutions,” Gallup & Gilani Pakistan said in the study released on Friday.

The study was carried out on a sample of 1,503 men and women in urban and rural areas of 100 districts of all four provinces of Pakistan between Feb. 6 and Feb. 27.

To become law, the senate bill on Arabic teaching now requires approval by the National Assembly.

The lawmaker who presented the bill, opposition senator Javed Abbasi, argued that a command of Arabic, the official language of over 25 countries, would open up more job opportunities for Pakistanis in the Middle East, leading to lower unemployment and increased remittances.


Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

Updated 07 March 2021

Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

  • Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan earlier this week met Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials in Colombo
  • Pakistan last month offered a $50 million credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security  

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief has offered support to and agreed to strengthen cooperation with the Sri Lankan military, PAF said on Saturday.

Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan arrived in Colombo on Thursday, where he met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials.

As Marshal Khan lauded the efforts of Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their fight against terrorism during a meeting with Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, he offered Pakistan's support and cooperation, PAF said in a statement.


In this photo released by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on March 6, 2021, Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan meets Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne in Colombo. (Photo courtesy: PAF)

"The leaders agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation especially in training and professional enhancement programs," PAF said, adding that Gen. Gunaratne welcomed the Pakistani air chief's visit as "manifestation of the strong bond between the Armed Forces of both the countries, especially the two Air Forces."

The Pakistani air chief's visit follows Prime Minister Imran Khan's official visit in late February, during which Pakistan offered a $50 million new credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Updated 48 min 2 sec ago

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

  • Accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province
  • Eight cars of the 18-car train from Karachi to Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch

MULTAN: Eight cars of a Lahore-bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.

The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.

Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.

Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.

Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.


Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

Updated 44 min 35 sec ago

Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

  • The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold for many years until authorities launched military operations in the area
  • The militants killed in the recent attacks were involved in terrorist activities against security forces and locals since 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces conducted two separate intelligence-based operations in North Waziristan district, said the military’s media wing, ISPR, in an official statement on Saturday, adding that eight militants were killed in the ensuing battles. 

The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold until Pakistani authorities launched clear-and-hold military operations to destroy the hideouts and communication centers of various proscribed groups. 

The recent operations in the territory were launched against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in which three senior commanders of the outfit were also killed, the ISPR statement informed. 

It added that these people were “involved in terrorist activities against security forces, law enforcement agencies and locals of the area since 2009.” 

The militants used improvised explosive devices and indulged in target killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. 

The statement continued that the TTP members were also involved in recruiting young and impressionable minds, adding that security personnel recovered huge caches of arms from their hideouts. 


PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

Updated 06 March 2021

PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

  • The prime minister expresses his faith in Shaikh's professional abilities while praising him for shoring up the national economy
  • Shaikh can work in his current capacity until June, though the government may try again to get him elected to parliament

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his close aide Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to continue working as finance minister after Shaikh lost a general seat from the federal capital to a joint opposition candidate in the recent Senate elections, local media reported on Saturday.
In a one-on-one meeting after securing the vote of confidence from parliament earlier in the day, Khan said he had complete faith in Shaikh's professional abilities and applauded him for shoring up the ailing national economy.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration relied heavily on its finance minister to bring down the current account deficit and keep the financial system on track during the coronavirus pandemic.
After the Islamabad High Court ruled in a case in December that no special assistant or advisor to prime minister could chair or participate in cabinet committee meetings, Khan exercised his constitutional authority to elevate Shaikh as a federal minister for a period of six months.
According to Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, the finance minister cannot be reappointed to the same position as an unelected individual, and his defeat in the Senate election implies he may only be able to serve in his current capacity until June.
According to The Express Tribune, however, the government is likely to make one more effort to get him elected to the upper house of parliament by de-seating an opposition member, Ishaq Dar, who was elected to the Senate from Punjab in 2018 but did not take oath to the office.