Sufi Ghulam Hussain
In Pakistan, ‘minority’ as a term is implied to mean religious minorities, or non-Muslims. Constitutionally, ‘minority affairs’ is a provincial subject. Since, the problem of caste is denied, there is no specific budget allocated for Scheduled Castes or Dalits in Pakistan. The State of Pakistan gives primacy to the category of ‘minority’ to subsume Scheduled Castes under it without allocating any specific budget for it.
Minority Affairs department was established in 1995, after separating it from the Religions Affairs department to facilitate the formulation of overall policy of the minorities. It aimed at providing financial assistance, scholarship, and medical treatment, marriage dowry for the deserving, repair and maintenance of religious places of Minority Communities in the Province of Sindh1.
In the financial year 2017-18, 711.6 million rupees were allocated for the minorities by the government of Sindh2. From June, 2017 to June 2018, it planned to spend 499.05 million rupees on the repair and construction of Hindu temples and dharamshalas and satsang halls near temples and dharamshalas. Except for the 7 million amount allocated but unapproved for the construction of the Monument of Dalit hero Rooplo Kolhi, and construction of shed, washrooms and flooring of the yard at Nagarparkar, the budget did not show any amount specifically allocated for Dalits in Sindh.
Most of these funds were spent on the maintenance of Hindu temples instead of on the development of Dalit communities. In 2017, under ‘Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto Scholarship for Students of Minority Community’ Rs 35 million worth cheques were distributed among 2400 minority students3, which also benefited some needy Dalit students as well, as that program was managed by a Dalit leader Dr. Khatumal Jeevan, the Special Assistant to Sindh Chief Minister for Minority Affairs.
But, after that, no substantive development fund has been allocated that could even indirectly add to the development and the uplift of Dalits. Dr. Khatumal and the Dalit leadership, however, often fails to break away from dominant upper caste Hindu’s hold on ‘minority’ politics in Sindh.
Contrary to Dalit leadership’s haplessness, Pakistan Hindu Council, the leading upper caste Hindu organization, procures funds not only from non-governmental donors and from upper caste Hindu diaspora but also influences government to spend money on the maintenance of Hindu temples or erecting new ones4 or on sham annual mass marriages5.
711 million is the huge budget that could be spent sagaciously for the uplift of the most oppressed sections of the Dalit majority, among minorities, in Sindh. But, unfortunately, ‘upper caste’ Hindus use their sources and dominant political position to divert allocation of funding to the maintenance of Hindu temples. The same is true of Punjab where ‘upper caste’ Christian elite diverts funding towards the maintenance of churches and religious places and Hindu and Sikh temples instead of spending on development. The allocation of the budget and the way it is spent clearly shows that the uplift of Dalits is not at all the priority of minority leaders nor that of the government in general.
1. Source: Minority AffairsDepartment, Government of Sindh, URL: http://www.sindh.gov.pk/dpt/MinorityAffairs/index.htm.
2. Source: Annual Development Program, Government of Sindh. URL: http://www.sindhpnd.gov.pk/ADP/2017-18/31-Minorities%20Affairs.pdf
3. See: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/05/31/govt-launches-scholarship-programme-for-minority-students/
4. See: http://pakistanhinducouncil.org.pk/?page_id=1209
5. See: http://pakistanhinducouncil.org.pk/?page_id=2820