December 16, 2008 / 2:25 PM / in 10 years

Pakistani Hindus rally to support Islamic charity

HYDERABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - About 200 Hindu women protested in Pakistan on Tuesday against restrictions on an Islamic charity that India says is a front for a militant group it blames for attacks in Mumbai last month.

Pakistani non-Muslim minority supporters of Islamist charity organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa protest in Hyderabad December 16, 2008. About 200 Hindu women protested in Pakistan on Tuesday against restrictions on an Islamic charity that India says is a front for a militant group it blames for attacks in Mumbai last month. REUTERS/Akram Shahid

Muslim Pakistan has a Hindu minority, many of whom are impoverished agricultural workers, but the women in the southern city of Hyderabad rejected what they called pressure by mostly Hindu India to ban the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity.

“How can an organisation be terrorist if it’s been providing food and water to us despite knowing that we’re not Muslims?” said Biga Ram, a 40-year protester.

“They’re friends of humanity. We condemn the ban. It’s unjust,” she said.

The protesters gathered outside the Hyderabad press club chanting slogans in support of the charity and holding banners with messages such as: “Jamaat-ud-Dawa is not terrorist” and “We condemn the banning of Jamaat-ud-Dawa under Indian pressure”.

Pakistan has not yet formally banned the charity but has rounded up dozens of its activists, detained some of its leaders, shut its offices and frozen its bank accounts as part of a crackdown on suspected Islamists since the Mumbai attacks.

India says the charity is a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, which it says was set up by Pakistan to fight Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region.

India says the 10 gunmen who attacked Mumbai, killing 179 people, trained with the LeT in Pakistan.

A committee of the U.N. Security Council last week added the Jamaat-ud-Dawa to a list of people and groups facing sanctions for ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban.

The charity played a major role in providing help to victims of an earthquake that killed 73,000 people in northern Pakistan in 2005.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday authorities would take control of the charity’s projects and ensure they are continued for the benefit of the people.

Most Hindus living in what is now Pakistan migrated east to India at the time of the partition of the sub-continent at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

But several million remain and rights groups say they, like other religious minorities, often face discrimination directed against non-Muslims.

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