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Lower Dir: A Hub Of Interfaith Harmony In Pakistan

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LOWER DIR: Religious minorities face many serious issues in Pakistan, especially due to their faith.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), hundreds of Hindu and Christian young women are abducted and converted to Islam each year. They are then forcefully married off to Muslim men.

Many other international human rights organisations have reported that around 1,000 cases of forced conversions of religious minorities were reported in the province of Sindh only.

Conversely, there are some areas in the Pashtun belt of the country where religious minorities are living peacefully alongside their Muslim neighbours. These areas are an oasis for religious minorities as they don’t face any discrimination or racism from members of the local Muslim community.

Lower Dir is one of those regions located in the Pashtun belt where more than 40 Christian and Hindu families have been residing since the 19th century. Dir is considered as a safe zone for all religious minorities.

While talking to Naya Daur, ex-district Nazim and member of the Christian community Shahzad Khokar said, “The people of Dir are very humble and polite. They adopt a positive and moderate approach towards religious minorities in their area.”

“Ask any Christian or Hindu about their situation here and the answer would be the same,” he added.

He claimed that after the military operations started in Dir, people viewed this area as the most dangerous place in the country, especially for religious minorities. “But even in the worst of times, Dir was a safe zone for the minorities,” he added.

Further, Khokar said that the government should establish a proper church for the Christian community in Timergara city, adding that they were performing their religious rituals in small rented rooms.

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Although members from the minority groups showed satisfaction on the exemplary behaviour shown towards them by the Muslim community, they were not satisfied with measures taken by the government.

In this respect, Khokhar said that even though the constitution allowed five per cent job quota to religious minorities in the government sector, the provincial government was ignoring them as no jobs had been made available to them yet.

Easfor Nawaz Gell, the head of a small church in Dir said that they were satisfied with the security arrangements provided to them for their religious ceremonies or any other programmes.

Meanwhile, many other members from the Christian community also showed their satisfaction over the positive attitude of Muslims towards them. But they also complained that the government did not work for their welfare.

Members of Christian community also said that the local government should allocate a piece of land for a separate graveyard as they were finding it hard to take their deceased to Peshawar for burial.

The strong bond shared by residents of Dir should serve as a model for other areas of the country.

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