80 Hindu couples tie the knot at mass wedding in Karachi

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Faisal Edhi, Chairman of the Edhi Foundation, takes part in one of the most important rituals of a Hindu marriage during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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A woman pours ghee or clarified butter during a ritual as part of a mass wedding for 80 Hindu couples at the Railway grounds in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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A bride holds a vessel and a coconut while participating in a Hindu wedding ritual during a mass wedding of 80 couples at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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A bride, Asha Das, gets ready for the rituals during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Das recieves blessings from her mother after the completion of her wedding ceremony at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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A man appliee sindoor or vermilion to his bride's forehead as part of a ritual during a mass wedding involving 80 Hindu couples at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Brides and grooms are dressed up in different traditional attires during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Brides and grooms are dressed up in different traditional attires during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Brides and grooms are dressed up in different traditional attires during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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A couple is seen here participating in rituals during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Rituals are performed during a mass wedding of 80 Hindu couples at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Rituals are performed during a mass wedding of 80 Hindu couples at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)
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Updated 28 January 2020

80 Hindu couples tie the knot at mass wedding in Karachi

  • Eighty Hindu couples get married in a joint ceremony with financial aid provided for all
  • Organizers say such events play a vital role in projecting a positive image of the country internationally 

KARACHI: Dressed in colorful apparel, 80 Hindu couples, from across Pakistan’s Sindh province, vowed to honor their partners for life at a mass wedding in Karachi on Sunday.

Faisal Edhi, son of late Pakistani philanthropist, Abdul Sattar Edhi, took part in the rituals while a Hindu priest, Maharaj Jay Kumar, recited a few verses to solemnize the weddings.

“Edhi Sb, when he was alive, would regularly attend our grand weddings. Today, his son, Faisal is among us, giving a message of interfaith harmony to the world, a message that we Pakistanis live together, mourn together and laugh together,” Ramesh Vankwani, president of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), a non-governmental organization, which has been organizing mass weddings for the past 12 years, told Arab News.




Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

The first event, which was held in 2008, saw 35 couples get married at the time. That number has since grown to 100 over the years.

“This year, 80 couples were chosen out of those who had applied and were scrutinized, bringing the total to more than 1,200 who have been married thus far,” Vinod Premlani, an organizer, told Arab News.




Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

The process itself, he added, is very tedious.
For the purpose, applications are sought from community members through the PHC’s district units at least three months prior to the event.

The PHC’s committee then scrutinizes the applications, shortlisting the most deserving candidates.

Those selected are then required to provide their National Identity Card and other documents for the purpose.

Unique to Karachi, the mass weddings cost Rs8 million to arrange – funds that are sourced from the community or sponsored by banks and other entities.

On any given day, mass weddings take nearly two hours to complete.

For Sunday’s event, which was held at the Railway Ground along I.I. Chundrigar Road, the couples traveled from different parts of interior Sindh to participate in the rituals.




Eighty couples got married during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

After a brief announcement by Vankwani, Maharaj Kumar continued with the rituals which required all the brides and grooms to take individual vows for their partners.

Vankwani said such events are necessary for any society as they promote “strong social bonds.”

“Strong social bonds are developed among the participants as they celebrate their big day in a joint gathering. We also provide financial support – amounting to more than Rs100,000 ($647) – to the couples so that they can start their life with honor and dignity,” Vankwani said, adding that it also projects a positive image of Pakistan on the international stage.

“We want to show the international community that non-Muslims enjoy complete freedom to organize and participate in socio-religious ceremonies, too,” he said.

It’s a thought, Edhi says, which is unique to the idea of Pakistan. “Today, I am very happy that deserving couples were married with such dignity. These are the sons of the Sindh soil and have been living here for thousands of years. We believe in humanity and are here to show that we are together,” he said.

Edhi wasn’t the only Muslim to participate in the event. “I come here every year. It’s a brilliant cultural event where the poor are given a lot of respect,” Dr. Karamat Ali, a social activist and executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research told Arab News. 

Abdul Rasheed, a 50-year-old resident of Sangar who was accompanying a Hindu couple, said he was at the event because his friends were like a family to him.




A bride, Asha Das, is seen here placing a garland on her groom Sanjay Pradeep Kumar, during a mass wedding at the Railway Ground in Karachi on January 26, 2020. (AN Photo by S.A. Babar)

While organizers said that the mass wedding encouraged charity too; for a majority of couples participating in the event, it was a dream come true.

Jhaman Alam, a 50-year-old laborer from Umerkot, said giving his daughter away in marriage was not an easy task. “With this price hike, it’s hard for me to earn a living for my family. I am happy that my daughter has gotten married with dignity,” Alam told Arab News, as he poured some ghee [clarified butter] into the fire as part of the ritual for his daughter Dhhai Alam and son-in-law, Atam Parkash.

“My father, Parkash Das, was working at a marriage hall before he fell sick two years ago. Witnessing a wedding almost every second day, he would think of a lovely wedding ceremony for me,” Asha Das said, adding that Prakash had given up hope of ever seeing her married.

“This is wonderful. It is more than what my father had dreamed of for me.”


Officials say Sindhi and Baloch ‘separatists’ forming nexus in Sindh but experts skeptical

Updated 12 July 2020

Officials say Sindhi and Baloch ‘separatists’ forming nexus in Sindh but experts skeptical

  • The little-known Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army has carried out a spate of small attacks in Sindh province in recent weeks
  • Sindh Rangers chief says series of recent assaults have proved “hostile” agencies were working to bring Sindhi and Balochi insurgents closer together

KARACHI: Security officials in Pakistan say investigations into a spate of recent attacks in the southern Sindh province have led them to believe there is growing closeness between Sindhi separatists and militant groups from the insurgency racked Balochistan province, but experts warn that it might be too early to assume a “nexus”. 

Late last month, gunmen attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in the city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, killing two guards and a policeman before security forces killed all four attackers. Counterterrorism officials said the attack had been claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist group from the southwestern province of Balochistan which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Just weeks earlier, three consecutive explosions killed four people including two soldiers in Sindh. A shadowy secessionist organization, the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA), that wants the province to break from the Pakistani federation, claimed responsibility for the attacks. This week, SRA also claimed a grenade attack on a Karachi bakery in which a retired paramilitary Rangers official was killed.

SRA and two other Sindhi groups were banned by the government in May this year.

Speaking to media after the attack on the stock exchange building, Sindh Rangers chief, Major General Omer Ahmed Bukhari, said the string of attacks had proved that “hostile intelligence agencies” were working to forge a “nexus” between Sindhi and Balochi insurgent groups, adding that he believed ongoing investigations would establish this beyond a doubt.

In a statement emailed to the media after the stock exchange attack, the BLA admitted it had “complete support” from Sindhi groups.

“Today both the nations [Baloch and Sindhi] are fighting for the independence of their homelands against Pakistan,” the BLA statement said. “We had the complete support of Sindhi nation in today’s attack and it shows a strong brotherly bond between both the nations.”

Separatists have been fighting security forces for years in Balochistan over what they see as the unfair exploitation of the province’s vast mineral wealth. They also claim security forces have pushed them to take up arms because of a long history of human rights abuses against the Baloch people, which security forces and subsequent governments in Balochistan have vehemently denied. Insurgents are also opposed to, and attack, projects linked to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in the resource-rich province.

Pakistan has regularly blamed India for supporting Baloch separatists, a charge Delhi denies.

Last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told parliament he had no doubt India was behind the attack on the stock exchange building, which India promptly denied. Khan offered no evidence for his allegation, but he said there had been intelligence reports warning of attacks in Pakistan and he had informed his cabinet about the threats.

Sindhi separatists like the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army have carried out low-intensity attacks in the past, including blowing up train tracks, but their fight has been less violent than that of neighboring Balochistan where separatists have attacked a Chinese consulate, a major hotel chain and on many occasions killed security officials patrolling a coastal highway.

Now, officials fear Sindhi groups might be able to enhance their capacity to carry our deadlier attacks with help from Baloch militants and other hostile groups.

“It can be a source of lawlessness in the future if this nexus is not broken,” said a police officer involved in investigating a “possible nexus between Sindhi and Baloch insurgent groups, backed by India.” He requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the issue.

The police official said Baloch groups already had “some capability” to launch damaging attacks “but once there is a nexus, it can also be helpful for Sindhi nationalists, and that’s worrisome.”

A senior intelligence officer, who also declined to be named, said there was a noticeable increase in the frequency of attacks by Sindhi groups, which pointed to the fact that they might have more experienced helpers.

“Increase in capability [through a nexus with Baloch groups] will only be proved if they launch more sophisticated attacks,” he said. “Law enforcement agencies are absolutely aware and alert to the dangers posed by the growing of this nexus.”

Raja Umar Khattab, a senior counter terrorism officer in Karachi, said while teaming up with other groups might enhance the capacity of Sindhi nationalists, he did not see the nexus posing a major threat in the near future.

“The nexus can supplement the capacity of Sindhi sub-nationalists,” Khattab said, “but they will not be able create any big law and order situation due to the preparedness of the law enforcement agencies.”

Sindh’s chief of Rangers has also said Baloch and Sindh separatists were also cosying up to the London faction of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a Pakistani political party whose leader Altaf Hussain lives in exile in London.

“Hostile intelligence agencies strive to make a nexus of the cells, sleeper cells and facilitators of the remnant terrorists organizations [separatists], which include the remnants of the MQM,” Bukhari said during his press talk after the stock exchange attack.

The MQM, one of Pakistan’s biggest political parties, mostly comprises descendants of Muslim Urdu-speaking people who migrated to Pakistan around the time of the partition of India in 1947.

Once able to control Sindh province with an iron grip, the party’s fortunes have waned in recent years, particularly since 2013 when the military launched a crackdown against criminal groups and militants as murder rates soared and mutilated bodies were dumped in alleyways daily. Many saw the operation, centered in Karachi, as a pretext to wrest control of the teeming port city from the MQM, an accusation security forces deny.

While Karachi crime rates have dropped sharply and many local businesses have welcomed the operation, allegations of brutal and illegal methods have remained.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has in the past referred dozens of cases of illegal abductions of MQM workers to the Pakistan government, concluding a “pattern of specific targeting” of the MQM by Rangers, which the paramilitary force denies.

Before the 2013 operation, law enforcement agencies and many Karachi residents accused the MQM of racketeering, the abduction, torture and murder of opponents and holding the city to ransom by calling mass strikes at will.

On Wednesday, the MQM’s Qasim Ali Raza denied the party had any links to separatists or attacks in Sindh and urged the state to stop the “blind and fraudulent” process of blaming the party.

Karachi-based political analyst Mazhar Abbas said a nexus between the MQM and separatist groups, if it existed, would not work.

“The workers of MQM neither accepted the alliance with Sindhi nationalists [in the past],” he said, “nor will they subscribe to the current idea of a friendship.”

Other analysts said there was as yet no “sold” evidence to claim the nexus existed.

“Politically, there has been some closeness between Sindhi and Baloch nationalists, but speaking about a military nexus, one needs to have solid evidence at hand,” Sohail Sangi, a Karachi-based analyst who closely observes separatist groups, said.

Anwar Sajjadi, a Quetta-based security analyst, however, said he believed a growing nexus was a possibility, saying it was no coincidence that Sindhi groups too had recently started voicing opposition to Chinese projects being built under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) umbrella, which Baloch groups have long opposed.

“We have seen uniformity in their stances,” Sajjadi said. “Same stance on CPEC and other [rights] issues is bringing all these groups closer.”