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Sindh plans Rs400m project to protect temples, churches

Sindh plans Rs400m project to protect temples, churches

KARACHI: As a part of protecting religious minorities in Sindh, a Rs400 million project is set to be launched to make safe temples, churches and other places of worship across the province, it emerged here on Thursday.

Officials said the ambitious project would chiefly invest in the purchase of surveillance cameras to be installed at places of worship across Sindh.

Special assistant to the chief minister Khatumal Jeewan said the provincial government had initiated a project in which security surveillance cameras would be installed at temples, churches and gurdwaras.

The cost of the project would be Rs400 million. “This project will greatly enhance the level of security at places of worship,” said Mr Jeewan while speaking to Dawn.

He said the project involved establishment of a modern surveillance and monitoring system at each place of worship using multiple video cameras installed at strategic locations around it.

“All video cameras will be cable connected to a central room located in a back office on the premises away from the monitored areas. It will also contain video monitoring and recording equipment,” said Mr Jeewan.

Officials said the project was planned in line with a directive of Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari after attacks on temples in Larkana, Hyderabad and other districts of Sindh were reported in the past two year.

“The PPP will ensure full security for minorities’ worship places,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari had declared after several organisations representing the religious minorities criticised the government’s alleged ineptitude in protecting them.

Insufficient security personnel

After the attacks reported in the past two years against Hindu temples in different parts of Sindh, the provincial government posted security personnel on an average of less than two police guards per worship place across the province.

The Sindh police prepared a report saying that a total of 1,253 worship places belonging to the religious minorities had been documented in Sindh, which included 703 Hindu temples and 523 churches. Besides, 21 such places belonged to the Ahmadi community and the remaining six were gurdwaras.

A total of 2,310 policemen have been deputed to guard all those places.

According to district-wise break-up of the worship places given in the report, most of them – 494 to be precise – are situated in Karachi, including 387 churches and 107 temples.

Karachi East has the most churches (200) followed by 116 in Karachi West and 71 in South district. Most temples (61) are documented in Karachi South, followed by 39 in Karachi East and seven in West district.

Hyderabad has 238 worship places, including 156 temples and 72 churches while 10 belonged to the Ahmadi community. Similarly, Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas have, respectively, 50 and 112 temples, 12 and 21 churches and six and five Ahmadi establishments.

Larkana has 141 temples, seven churches and five gurdwaras while Sukkur has 137 temples, 24 churches and one gurdwara.

Officials said there were 232 policemen deputed to guard 239 churches and temples in Karachi East — fewer than one for a worship place. To bridge the gap, they added, 11 guards have been provided by various NGOs in the district.

The security cover to 116 churches and seven temples is much impressive in Karachi West, where 364 policemen have been posted while NGOs have provided 43 additional guards.

In Karachi South’s 132 temples and churches, the authorities have provided 213 policemen while NGOs have stuffed them up with 83 additional guards.

A total of 545 policemen have been deployed for 238 worship places in Hyderabad, while the breakup of deployment of policemen in other districts is: Benazirabad (88 policemen and 10 NGO guards for 68 places), Mirpurkhas (153 police for 138 places), Larkana (364 policemen for 153 worship places) and Sukkur (351 policemen and 16 NGO guards for 162 places).

The report also documented five violent attacks on worship places of religious minorities during the last 20 months — all of them against Hindus.

Officials in the provincial home department conceded that the deployment of security was generally disproportionate in districts, particularly in Karachi East where the number of policemen was smaller than the number of worship places they were supposed to guard. They added the police were stretched to the limit in terms of availability of manpower and finances.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2016

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