No burial place for minorities in tribal districts

Abdul Qayum Afridi

Jameel Masih was quite worried and sad with his voice showing signs of sadness and it seemed he was in a lot of difficulty. What happened to him was that his newborn child died two months ago. He said his grief over the death of his child increased manifold when the child was buried in a Christian cemetery in Nowshera, several miles from his home town of Bajaur. The body had to be taken for burial while his wife was undergoing treatment in the hospital.

There was also a shortage of money, while there was no close relative to take care of his wife, there was a strange raisin and a difficult phase. He said that” I did not understand with whose support to leave my wife and where to manage the money? “۔ The money was arranged and he hired a flying coach to bury the child by leaving his wife in the hospital with the help of Allah، When he reached Nowshera after taking some colleagues of the community along with him, some relatives present here had prepared the grave and thus the child was buried, but even at the time of the child’s burial, the wife was worried. How will she be in the hospital. When the darkness fell while burying, he had to spend the night in Nowshera۔ This increased costs and cost more than Rs 100,000, Jameel Masih added, adding that the problem was faced by all Christians living in Bajaur and that whenever there was a death in the community, they were not buried here. The deceased has to be taken for burial in another district hundreds of miles away، Bajaur, which is a former FATA region, is now located one and a half hundred kilometers north of Peshawar, the provincial capital, in the extreme north of the tribal belt of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa، Parvez Masih, the 60-year-old leader of the Christian community in Bajour said that we had demanded only two kanals of land, but despite the promises of political parties and the district administration, no positive progress has been made yet. The problem of burying the dead is not only Bajaur but also that of the Christian community living in other 7 tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai ،Karam, the tribal districts of South and North Waziristan are included, according to the 2017 census, out of five million population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there are 31 hundred Christian population in the tribal districts، Arshad Masih of the Christian community in Khyber district said that the land in the Christian cemetery in Lindi Kotal tehsil of Khyber district was reduced, while in Jamrud tehsil a place was allocated for the cemetery during the British period, in which many Christians were buried. But the local people have occupied the

Land of the cemetery and when the death occurs, we have many dead bodies they are forced to be buried in the Christian cemetery of Peshawar or Nowshera, hundreds miles away. According to Michael, a resident of Jamrud Tehsil of Khyber district, a tribal district located in the west of Peshawar, the British government had allocated sixteen acres of land as a Christian cemetery in 1909, but there were about 150. There are graves because there are constructions of local people on the rest of the land while a bypass was built on some land، He further said that a case has been filed in the District Sessions Judge’s court to transfer ownership of the land۔
There are 70 Christian families living in the tribal district of Mohmand and due to lack of proper facilities they have to take the dead bodies to Peshawar’s Gora Cemetery or Wazir Bagh, 200 kilometers away. Malik Shehryar Masri, a local leader of the Christian community in Mohmand district, said that two years ago the district authorities had allocated eight kanals of land at the foot of the mountain near the Ghalnai headquarters for the cemetery of the Christian community and formal documents were also provided for it, but there was no wall. Due to the lack of people, people do not want to bury their dead body’s there، He said that he demanded many times from the district administration in this regard, but no progress has been made yet and he is forced to take the dead body to the Christian cemetery of Peshawar۔

The Christian community in Wana area of South Waziristan located in the extreme south of Peshawar had settled there before the partition of India, which serves as sanitary workers in most government institutions. Akash Masih of South Waziristan, a local political leader, said that I have Christian cemeteries in the middle near Bypass Road and Airport where there are already four hundred There are nearby graves, but some time ago when the wall was built, the graves were damaged due to the use of heavy machinery. Because of this, they have difficulties in burying the dead there۔
Dayal Singh, who belongs to the tribal district of Khyber, was shot dead by unknown persons in his shop in Peshawar a few months ago. His brother Suchan Singh said that he also faced difficulties in performing the last rites of Dayal Singh. He said that there is no crematorium anywhere in Peshawar including Khyber district, so his brother’s last rites He had to take his brother’s dead body to Attock, on which more than 80 thousand rupees were spent. He said that his brother’s financial conditions were bad, but the Sikh community collected funds and performed the last rites of his brother، Gurpal Singh, 35, of the Peshawar-based Sikh community who is a political and social activist, said that a large number of the Sikh community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were living in the merged tribal districts, with Gurpal Singh claiming that more than 15,000 Sikh communities in the tribal districts had been living for a century, the most tribal district being Khyber.

It was in Karam and Orakzai where people established crematoriums under their own help, but due to terrorism there, most of the Sikhs have left their area and moved to Peshawar, Hasan Abdal and other cities. It was announced to build a crematorium for these people but it could not be implemented، Gurpal Singh said that he has filed a writ in the Peshawar High Court for the delay in building the crematorium, on which no decision has been taken yet۔He further said that before the partition of the subcontinent, apart from the tribal areas, about ten crematoriums were established in Peshawar, but now there is not a single one in the provincial capital، The Sikh community of the tribal districts is a distant thing. The 10,000-year-old community living in Peshawar also takes the deceased to perform the last rites in Attock, a border area adjacent to Punjab in Nowshera district, 100 km away، He further said that 2 Sikh families have bought land on the banks of the river with their help to this crematorium, the expenses of which are met by taking annual donations from the community، He said that it is very difficult for every family, including the tribal districts where the Sikh community lives, to take away the dead bodies of their loved ones, at least up to Rs 80,000 for the rent of vehicles from Peshawar to Attock.

This is why very few people of the community participate in the last rites of a person’s dead body Gurpal Singh said that the Sikh community at a distance of five kilometers in Tehsil Bara of Khyber tribal district adjacent to Peshawar has already built a crematorium under their own help, but due to lack of facilities and security situation, the Sikh community The community cannot perform the last rites of the dead bodies of their loved ones here، He further said that if facilities are available in the crematorium of Bara and the law and order situation in the area improves, it will be easy for the people of the Sikh community living in Peshawar to perform the last rites of their deceased and organize religious ceremonies there. Will be able to۔
Haroon Sarb Dayal, an activist for the rights of religious minorities, said that in the second government of Tehreek-e-Insaf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5 billion 20 crore rupees were kept for the welfare of religious minorities, of which one billion was allocated for 1 crore crematoriums and Christian cemeteries,But the committee formed for the construction of crematoriums included people on political grounds was done, he added that the places identified were not suitable for the crematorium, so according to the minority belief, the crematorium should be away from the population and on the river bank and when a place has been set for it. So it cannot be changed۔
Haroon Sarb Dayal said that there are currently 9 crematoriums in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in which only one crematorium is in accordance with religious principles, while others lack necessary facilities.

Former Member of Provincial Assembly Wilson Wazir, who was elected on the only minority seat in the merged tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said about the absence of facilities in the crematorium of Bara Tehsil of Khyber District in the government of Tehreek-e-Insaf for the second time in Ybar Pakhtunkhwa that the district administration was not able to prepare PC1 on time and the annual development fund was cancelled.

Hakam Das, the leader of the Hindu community living in Hasan Abdal after migrating from the tribal district of Karam, said that 650 families of his community in Kurram district left the area in 2006 due to the threat of Shia-Sunni riots and moved to Kohat, Peshawar and Hasan Abdal. He said that the lands left by him are being occupied in the native areas، Among them is the Hindu Buri cemetery in Akalkot area of Karam where he used to bury the children, he has informed the administration and security agencies about the attempts of the local people to take over but no action has been taken so far. It didn’t happens
Wilson, a former member of the Provincial Assembly belonging to the tribal district of Khyber, was elected as a member of the Provincial Assembly in July 2019 on the only minority seat in the tribal districts merged with the Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa۔ He says that in order to know the problems of the minority community of these districts, he made several visits from Bajour to Waziristan and tried to solve the problems, but the Christian community constantly complains about the lack of basic facilities. Due to which many of their problems are very special and unique, one of which is the dead It is a very sensitive matter for every community۔

Gora Cemeterynear Pakistan Market of Miran Shah Bazar in the tribal district of North Waziristan, which is located south-north of the provincial capital Peshawar, was reserved for Christians, but due to unrest in the area, the burial ground stopped here after 1999. Four canals of land were allocated as cemeteries within the cantonment، North Waziristan’s Khalid Masih, who is also a local social activist, said that more than two hundred families live in North Waziristan, the Paranagura cemetery was large, but local people occupied it in 2017 and built markets where there were already 80 There are graves of Christians and Hindus, apart from this, not even an inch of land is left، He said that many requests have been made to the district authorities in this regard that the sanctity of the graves of their loved ones is being violated and they should not only be protected but also given us a place in another place in exchange for the occupied land of the cemetery.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Deputy Secretary of Endowments and Religious Affairs Rizwana Dar Khan said regarding the issue of Christian cemeteries and cremation grounds in tribal districts that in May 2018, when the former FATA was merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, since then the affairs of the Religious minorities in tribal areas have been affected. The responsibility of the Provincial Department of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, she said that so far they have not received a single request from these districts that mentions the issue of graveyard or crematorium while other projects like scholarship, talent, the youth of these districts approach for obtaining loans for business etc. Regarding on the same issue to record the version we contacted Minister to Religious Affairs Adnan Qadri Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public relations officer Riaz Ghafoor said that just as the provincial government has taken measures for the religious minority in the administrative districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, so also for the religious minority living in the integrated tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They will work in every sector.
Mr ghafoor stated that Fata was previously under the administration of the federal government and now it is a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the government is aware of the issues of the Christian cemetery and the cremation ground and the relevant statistics are being collected.
He also said that the provincial minister for religious affairs has recently All the religious minorities living in Pakistan are a part of this country and are playing their role in its development, so an effort was made to solve not only the problems of burial, but also other problems including housing, education, scholarships. A comprehensive program will also be prepared for the solution.

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