The History and Disappearance of the Jewish Presence in Pakistan

Pakistan was never traditionally anti-Semitic. In fact, it may come as a surprise that Pakistan hosted small, yet thriving, Jewish communities from the 19th century until the end of the 1960s.

By Shalva Weil for ISN Insights

In November 2008, Lashkar e Taiba (LET), a radical Islamist group from Pakistan, specifically targeted “Nariman House” in Bombay (Mumbai) for a terrorist attack, along with other tourist locations, such as the Taj Mahal hotel. Nariman House was a ‘Chabad house’ of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Hasidic Judaism – a Jewish outreach center that included an educational center, synagogue and hostel. It was run by Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka. When the building was attacked, six occupants, including the Rabbi and his pregnant wife, were killed. A total of 164 people were killed in the Mumbai attacks. David Coleman Headley, who testified in the United States at the end of May 2011 in the trial of his friend, Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, confessed that he had planned the Mumbai attacks in conjunction with an officer of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, a man whom he called “Major Iqbal”. The officer was reportedly delighted that the Jews were targeted.

The Jews of Pakistan

Pakistan was never traditionally anti-Semitic. In fact, it may come as a surprise that Pakistan hosted small, yet thriving, Jewish communities from the 19th century until the end of the 1960s. Recently, Yoel Reuben, a Pakistani Jew living in the town of Lod in Israel, whose family originated in Lahore, documented some of the history of the Jewish communities with photographs of original documents. When India and Pakistan were one country, before the partition in 1947, the Jews were treated with tolerance and equality. In the first half of the 20th century, there were nearly 1,000 Jewish residents in Pakistan living in different cities: Karachi, Peshwar, Quetta and Lahore. The largest Jewish community lived in Karachi, where there was a large synagogue and a smaller prayer hall. There were two synagogues in Peshawar, one small prayer hall in Lahore belonging to the Afghan Jewish community, and one prayer hall in Quetta. Even today, according to unofficial sources, there are rumors that some Jews remain in Pakistan, including doctors and members of the free professions, who converted or pass themselves off as members of other religions.

The Jews of Pakistan were of various origins, but most were from the Bene Israel community of India, and came to Pakistan in the employ of the British. Yifah, a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, relates that her great-great-grandfather Samuell Reuben Bhonkar, who was a Bene Israel, came to Karachi in British India to work as a jailer, and died there in 1928. The Bene Israel originated in the Konkan villages, but many moved to Bombay from the end of the 18th century on. In Pakistan, they spoke Marathi, their mother-tongue from Maharashtra; Urdu and most spoke English. Prayers were conducted in Hebrew.

In 1893, a Bene Israel from Bombay, Solomon David Umerdekar, inaugurated the Karachi Magen Shalom Synagogue on the corner of Jamila Street and Nishtar Road, which officially opened in 1912. During these years, the Jewish community thrived. In 1903, the community set up the Young Man’s Jewish Association, and the Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund was established to support poor Jews. In 1918, the Karachi Jewish Syndicate was formed to provide housing at reasonable rents, and the All India Israelite League, which represented 650 Bene Israel living in the province of Sindh (including Hyderabad, Larkano, Mirpur-Khas and Sukkur, as well as Karachi), was first convened – founded by two prominent Bene Israel, Jacob Bapuji Israel and David S Erulkar. Karachi became a fulcrum for the Bene Israel in India, the place where they congregated for High Holiday prayers. There was also a prayer hall, which served the Afghan Jews residing in the city. A 1941 government census recorded 1,199 Pakistani Jews: 513 men and 538 women. So accepted were the Jews of Karachi in these years that Abraham Reuben, a leader in the Jewish community, became the first Jewish councilor on the Karachi Municipal Corporation.

Continue reading The History and Disappearance of the Jewish Presence in Pakistan

Pakistan’s disappearing Hindus

By: Maitreya Buddha

The political system works against minorities in Pakistan, dovetailing wealth, power, and sectarianism. While Pakistan’s Hindus feel the effects keenly, the elites have adjusted to the political apparatus rather than challenging it.

Over 50 Hindu families migrate to India every month. According to Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the founder of the Karachi-based Pakistan Hindu Council, this is due to the failure of the Pakistani government to find a solution to the acute sense of discontentment among Hindus arising, in part, from increasing incidence of forced conversion, particularly in Sindh province in southern Pakistan. …

Read more » Open Democracy

http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/maitreya-buddha-samantaray/pakistan%E2%80%99s-disappearing-hindus

PPP policies have put Sindh’s integrity at stake: AT chief Ayaz Latif Palijo

THATTO, Oct 21: Awami Tehreek (AT) staged a big public meeting near Thatto Press Club on Sunday to mobilise the masses against the Sindh People’s Local Government Act, 2012. AT chief Ayaz Latif Palijo spoke at the rally which was attended by members and supporters of its different wings, including Sindhyani Tehreek and Hindu Sujaaq Tehreek, besides a large number of AT activists.

Mr Palijo told the gathering that Sindh was passing through the most crucial phase in the history of the subcontinent as it was facing dismemberment by virtue of the newly introduced law. He asked the people of Sindh to join in the peaceful struggle launched by the Sindh Bachayo Committee (SBC) in order to wage a vigorous battle to defend the province and safeguard the legitimate rights of its people.

Mr Palijo severely criticised the Pakistan People’s Party for “betraying the political forces which had always been helping it to reach the power corridors,” and observed that the party’s so called policy of reconciliation had put Sindh’s integrity at stake while the political expediency during its tenure has earned the country a bad name.

Continue reading PPP policies have put Sindh’s integrity at stake: AT chief Ayaz Latif Palijo

Betrayals from within – Analysis by Mohammad Ali Mahar

What the ruling party has achieved through the SPLG bill is not clear except for a few more days in power and the wrath of the common Sindhi

In the 14th century, Chanesar Soomro, a disgruntled elder brother of the king of Sindh, Dodo Soomro, invited Alauddin Khilji to invade Sindh in order to help him seize the throne from Dodo. The elders, despite Chanesar being older, elected Dodo as the king. The story has it that the elders went to Chanesar first and when they informed him that he was being enthroned, Chanesar making a grave error of judgment said to them, “Wait until I consult with my mother.” Sindh being a patriarchal society then as it is now, the elders, saying that one who could not make his own decisions, having to rely on his womenfolk’s wisdom, cannot be a capable king, rejected him instantaneously and crowned Dodo.

Chanesar contacted Allaudin Khilji to help him gain the throne, which he thought was his by right. In return, he is said to have offered Khilji his sister, Baghi Bai’s hand. Khilji accepted the offer and invaded Sindh. When Khilji attacked Sindh, Dodo encountered him head on and died valiantly defending his land. After Dodo, his only sister, Baghi Bai, hiding her face in a turban, led the battle and was martyred in the battlefield. To this day, Sindhis do not name their sons Chanesar. Dodo as well as Baghi Bai are still alive in the Sindhis’ hearts, while Chanesar has become a cuss word. Being called ‘Chanesar’ is one of the biggest insults to a Sindhi. Shaikh Ayaz, eulogising Dodo, wrote in his famous ballad, Dodo Soomro’s Death, “Doda tunhinjo Saah ta weendo, Dharti jo wesaah na weendo” (Dodo, by sacrificing your life, you will renew this soil’s faith in her sons).

For centuries now, hardly has there been a period when the Sindhi nation has seen one full year of solace. Right from the days when the Aryans invaded the land and drove the indigenous people out — even though Bhagwan Das Gidwani, in his magnum opus, Return of the Aryans, says that it was not an invasion but a homecoming for the Aryans, who had left the Indus land earlier — never has there been much peace in this unfortunate land. Sindh has suffered as much at the hands of foreign invaders as it has from the ingrate lot eating from its fruits and drinking from its waters, but harming it for their petty interests.

While the history of Sindh is full of epic deeds of its heroes who laid down their lives for the honour of their motherland, there has been no dearth of traitors, who either sold their motherland for power, money, or both. And, while the Sindhi nation sings the praises of its valiant sons, it never forgets its traitors.

The honourable members of the Sindh Assembly, by passing the Sindh People’s Local Government Order, 2012 (SPLGO-2012), have reminded me of a number of incidents from the history of Sindh. But I will delve into one instance, for not only does it perfectly fit the paradigm here but refreshes the memories of a time when a similar decision was imposed on the people of Sindh and how the Sindhi people reacted to it.

On September 11, 1954, Muhammad Ayub Khuhro, the uncle of the current speaker of the Sindh Assembly, Honourable Nisar Khuhro, facilitated the passage of the One Unit bill in the Sindh Assembly. Previously, Chief Minister Abdul Satter Pirzada’s government had been dismissed when he, considering the scheme to be detrimental to Sindh’s interests, had refused to get the bill passed through the assembly. An unelected Ayub Khuhro, who had been unceremoniously dismissed on the charges of corruption and maladministration previously, had to be reinstalled as the chief minister of the province when he agreed to toe the line of the central government and get the bill passed. The One Unit bill did pass even though the Khuhro government had to abduct the speaker of the house, Mir Ghulam Ali Khan Talpur, who had refused to get the bill admitted and passed by the assembly. How Ayub Khuhro is remembered in Sindh to this day is no secret and the fact was acknowledged not very long ago by the honourable speaker, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro himself.

What the ruling party has achieved through the SPLG bill is not clear except for a few more days in power and the wrath of the common Sindhi. What is certain, however, is that they have lost all the credibility their party enjoyed in the eyes of the Sindhi people, which had taken Mr Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto decades to build, forever. Sindhi people feel that with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto gone; this party does not represent Sindh’s people and has failed to protect the interests of Sindh.

If there is one person who has come out to be the real hero through this whole game, it is Pir Sahab Pagaro. Sindhis feel that they owe him not only their respect but their votes in the coming elections. Sindhis hardly forget their true sons and never forgive those who betray them. The elections of 1988 proved that. The next elections are not far and the results will demonstrate the fact.

The Sindhi nation also bows its head in gratitude, offering respects to the two honourable lady representatives of Sindhis, Marvi Rashdi and Nusrat Seher Abbasi who opposed the bill. They have become legends. The entire Sindhi nation feels proud of them. They will be sung for centuries in the Sindhi folk poetry.

After the passage of the hated SPLGO 2012, it remains to be seen whether the Sindhi PPP representative will ever be able to read Shah again with the same pride as they recited the poetry in their election speeches before.

Continue reading Betrayals from within – Analysis by Mohammad Ali Mahar

International Organizing Committee – Asia Europe People’s Forum

Press release – Vientiane, Laos, October 2012 – Asia-Europe People’s Forum gathered 1000 citizens in Vientiane (Laos): “We demand a people-centered world not a system based around deregulation of markets and increasing power of multinational corporations”

At the 9th Asia Europe People’s Forum we focused on developing strategies and demands to the governments which meet at the 9th ASEM meeting in Laos in November.

Over 1000 citizens from Asia and Europe joined together from 16th to 19th October 2012 in Vientiane at the 9th Asia Europe People’s Forum. The AEPF9 tackled four

major themes, Universal Social Protection and Access to Essential Services; Food Sovereignty and Sustainable Land and Natural Resource Management; Sustainable Energy Production and Use; and Just Work and Sustainable Livelihoods.

Preceding the 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum we held three preparatory workshops in South and South-East Asia. In Laos, 16 Provincial level consultations. These brought together the reflections, aspirations and visions of the Lao people from a wide range of civil society organisations.

The AEPF brought into sharp focus the drastic inequalities, injustices and poverty experienced by people across Asia and Europe. What is often presented as a ‘financial crisis’ is in reality part of a series of interlinked crises – food, energy, climate, human security and environmental degradation – that are already devastating the lives, and compounding the poverty and exclusion faced on a daily basis by millions across Asia and increasingly across Europe.

Continue reading International Organizing Committee – Asia Europe People’s Forum

Reepika Maseeh abducted & forcibly converted to Islam

Mian Mithoo & Mian Aslam’s new conquest, Reepika Maseeh, coming out of court. Reepika Maseeh is a Christian nurse from Sukkur, Pakistan. According to her father, she was abducted, forcibly converted to Islam & married away to a disciple of Mian Mithoo/Mian Aslam.

Read the story in Sindhi daily Awami Awaz: CLICK HERE

http://www.awamiawaz.net/%D8%B1%D9%BE%DA%AA%D8%A7-%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%AD-%D8%B3%D8%AE%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D9%BB%D8%A7%D8%A1%D9%8E-%DB%BE-%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA-%D9%BE%D9%8A%D8%B4%D8%8C-%DA%AA%D9%86%D9%87%D9%86-%D8%A8%D9%87

via – adopted from facebook