Pakistani Hindus march, cancel major Holi celebrations to protest Delhi riots

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Members of March from Capri Cinema to Karachi Press Club to express their solidarity with Indian Muslims on March 8, 2020. (AN Photo)
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Pundit Mukesh Kumar, a Hindu community leader, speaks to Arab News during the protest march on March 8, 2020. (AN photo)
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Shanti Devi, a Hindu woman marching in solidarity with Indian Muslims, speaks to Arab News at M.A. Jinnah Road in Karachi, on March 8, 2020. (AN Photo)
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A child on a motorcycle with his father as the protest march proceeds to Karachi Press Club from M.A Jinnah road in Karachi on March 8, 2020. (AN Photo)
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Members of the protest as they march from Capri Cinema to Karachi Press Club to express their solidarity with Indian Muslims on March 8, 2020. (AN Photo)
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Members of the protest as they march from Capri Cinema to Karachi Press Club to express their solidarity with Indian Muslims on March 8, 2020. (AN Photo)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Pakistani Hindus march, cancel major Holi celebrations to protest Delhi riots

  • Community members say will celebrate this year’s Holi festival with simplicity and sobriety
  • Pakistan’s Hindu community makes up about two percent of country’s population with majority living in Sindh

KARACHI: Representatives of Pakistan’s Hindu community on Sunday marched in support of the Muslims of Delhi affected by violent riots in the Indian capital last month, and announced they would celebrate this year’s Holi festival on Monday with sobriety as a message of protest against the violence in India.
The Hindu community in Pakistan makes up about two percent of the country’s population of 210 million people and the majority lives in southern Sindh province. For this religious group, the annual festival of Holi is normally celebrated with great zeal in Karachi, as a commemoration of spring and color.
But the 2020 Delhi riots which erupted on the night of Feb. 23 and led to the deaths of 53 people, mostly Muslim, in violent ways, have dampened the joy of the impending festival, the demonstrators said.
“Our Muslim brothers were being oppressed and killed, and their property was damaged in Delhi. It has really hurt us and prompted us to march today,” Pundit Mukesh Kumar, one of the march’s organizers, told Arab News and added: “The festival of Holi, which starts on Monday evening will be celebrated but to fulfil religious obligations only-- without all the colors and merry-making.”
On Sunday, as nationwide Aurat March demonstrations garnered national attention, the Hindu marchers continued their own impassioned protest. Community members said they have suspended all major events usually associated with the festival.
“We have canceled our main events of throwing colors, playing music and showing happiness,” Kumar said
“We urge upon the UN and world community to stop Modi and his government from meting out bad treatment to religious minorities. We also urge our Hindu brothers in India to stand up for the rights of Muslims and other religious minorities,” he said.
“Our Muslim brothers have never been a hurdle to our festival, instead they’ve always protected us,” he said. “They celebrate it with us.”
Referring to India’s controversial new citizenship law which Muslims and civil libertarians in India have been protesting since the beginning of the year, Dr. Rakesh Motiani, a local leader of Pakistan People’s Party said India’s Muslims were only protesting against a bad law. 
“It’s unfortunate that the Modi government tried to stop them from protesting by resorting to the worst form of violence,” Motiani said at the Karachi Press Club.
Shanti Devi, a demonstrator and woman in her 60’s, said the Muslims of India should be considered equal citizens of their country.
“It hurts us a lot when Muslims are tortured in India. All should be considered human beings, and only then will peace prevail and society prosper,” she said. 
“We are all humans and have the right to live in our countries peacefully.”


Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

In this October 24, 2020 photo, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan, addresses a pre-orientation session for 800 Afghan students (not in photo) selected under the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pak Embassy Kabul)

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”