Is Pakistan’s civil society soft-wooing India with enhanced attention to Minorities?



Amidst a near economic collapse, terrorist strikes, a flood fury that left a trail of destruction, rising prices of commodities, and the IMF loan’s hefty burden,
somewhere, the minuscule Hindu community of Pakistan, found space, albeit a photo competition. Karachi-based ‘Pakistan Hindu Council’ (PHC) initiated
an “All Pakistan Minorities Heritage Photo Contest” on January 31st this year. The PHC along with technological assistance from the Press Network
of Pakistan received an over whelming response from the Pakistani public comprising majorly its Muslim population. Just a few days back the PHC declared a list of 100 shortlisted winners of the Photo competition with a final announcement on April 18 of the top winners, at an award distribution ceremony to be held in Islamabad. PHC headed by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani MNA  (Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan), equivalent to a
Member of Parliament in India, also the Patron-in-Chief of PHC  while speaking from Karachi Pakistan, told this writer -“The event received hundreds of photographs of minority-owned heritage structures, from all over Pakistan. It was an unbelievably overwhelming response. Conditionally, these photos were essentially to be of a structure existing pre-partition i.e. before 1947.” Answering a query about the prize distribution ceremony Dr Vankwani confirmed that the photo contest’s concluding ceremony would be high profile. “The Prime Minister of Pakistan Janab Shehbaz Sharif has agreed to preside over the glittering Prize distribution ceremony to be held in Islamabad on the forthcoming 18th of April,” he stated with much buoyancy. “The winners would receive Rs 50,000; Rs 30,000, and Rs 20,000 as prize money, respectively. Besides which, special category prizes, lucky draw winners, and others will receive other accolades.” The prize distribution function venue significantly has been kept a closely guarded secret citing security reasons and would be shared ‘only’ with participants. “It will be a live telecast from the capital city of Islamabad, across countrywide Television networks, at 3 PM dot
Pakistan Time. Do come!” added the MNA nonchalantly. “Oh no Sir, I am from India!” “Oh! Okay, Okay.” Further stating-“As many as 551 monuments belonging to minorities in Pakistan prior to 1947 partition have been beautifully photographed by participants both by professionals and amateurs. We plan to catalogue and publish a book on  the 100-best shortlisted photographs of minority monuments featured in this competition.” The ‘All Minorities Nationwide Heritage Photo Contest’, a first in Pakistan’s 75 years of history, started in January this year. It was directed to include heritage structures- Hindu Temples, Churches, Gurdwaras, and Synagogues prior to the partition year. Other than shrines, it also included any enclosed or open space for worship, any place converted into a religious site, government offices, educational institutes, hospitals, homes, commercial places for instance shops or
markets, or buildings, even those not in use, like water wells, were listed as places of significant inclusion, owned by minorities. The
competition-specified sites for photography included nationwide locations of such structures in provinces of PoK (Pak Occupied Kashmir)
or what Pakistan calls – AJK, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sind, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Islamabad, and others. More than 1200 entries of Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, and other communities’ sites, were received by the organizers. The 100 shortlisted were put up on PHC’s website and shared on other social networking sites. A reader pointed out in the comment section, – “Majorly it is the majority Muslim community of Pakistan, I can see, that’s named in the list of 100-shortlisted winners”, to which, he received many laughter emoticons. He was right, this writer could count only 22 participants from minority communities in a list of 100 of the best. PHC, established in the year 2005, a non-profit organization, working for the welfare of deprived communities, and forging interfaith harmony, had broadcast on its page-“Every Pakistani citizen regardless of religious affiliation can participate and help to highlight, and value beauty and diversity of minority religious heritage, across Pakistan”.


 Pakistan Hindu Council organizes ‘Pakistan Minorities Heritage Photo Contest’

 Pak PM to grace, venue kept top secret, Live broadcast across Pakistan.