02/07/2011, 00.00
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Balochistan: Hindu families victim of abductions and targeted killings

by Jibran Khan
A group of armed men kill a merchant during a botched kidnapping attempt. An 85-year-old Hindu religious leader has been missing for more than month. In the Pakistani province, more than 100 groups are involved in kidnappings. Last year, 86 kidnappings took place.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Armed men killed a Hindu merchant during an attempted abduction. The incident, which occurred in Quetta, capital of Balochistan in south-west Pakistan, highlights the growing problem of attacks (abductions and targeted killings) against the province’s Hindu minority.

Provincial authorities in Balochistan and Sindh have pledged greater security for minority Hindus but have failed to stop the violence. In fact, abductions have doubled in the past year.

In Quetta, three merchants have been murdered, and mystery still shrouds the kidnapping of a local Hindu leader more than a month ago.

A few days ago, Eam Singh Sodho, a Hindu member of the Sindh legislature for the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), resigned and fled to India where he applied for refugee status, after receiving death threats.

A merchant was killed in Quetta yesterday during an attempted kidnapping, an all too common event in the area that has forced entire families to flee.

The abduction of 85-year-old Hindu priest Maharaj Sain Lakmee Geer, who had held his religious office since 1946 in Balochistan, has raised fears among Pakistani Hindus, leaving many with no option but to migrate to India.

"As many as 27 Hindu families from Balochistan have sent applications to the Indian embassy for asylum," disclosed the regional director for the federal Ministry of Human Rights, Saeed Ahmed Khan.

Over 100 groups involved in kidnappings Hindus for ransom are operating in Balochistan. As many as 86 cases of abductions were registered in 2010 compared to 43 in 2009.

Members of the Balochi Hindu community have been compelled to lodge strong protest. Many protested, shouting slogans like "Provide us protection or allow us to migrate".

Balochistan is home to more than 100,000 Hindus who have lived there for centuries. Now, they are increasingly feeling insecure.

When Pakistan was founded, many Hindus chose to move to India. Tens of thousands decided instead to stay in their native land.

Now, with rising religious fanaticism and widespread poverty, many of those who stayed behind complain about the lack of security and want to leave.

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