Minorities in FATA lack freedom to worship, minorities’ rights activists complain

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Minorities’ rights activists complain about lack of religious freedom for minorities nestled in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). Activists hailing from minorities’ communities have whined about the fact that there is an observable lack of places of worship for the religious minorities.

Churches in FATA

Pointing to this fact, Monisha Arifa from National Minorities Network of Pakistan and coordinator of Faith Friends Welfare Organization, stated: “If you go to the tribal area in all the Frontier Regions and agencies you will find mosques everywhere, but you could hardly find a temple, gurdwara or church.”

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She further detailed that while interviewing some women from religious communities in FATA, she was informed that the religious minorities are enjoying limited freedom to practice their religion. Monisha said that Christian women told her that there was no church nearby. “Women and men gather in a house and worship. Often the neighbors object to the loud hymns singing which is an important part of our worship,” says Monisha.

Estimates are that there are about 50,000 adherents of Christianity, Hinduism and Sikh faiths, living in FATA, however they have limited places of worship. “There is no temple, gurdwara or church in many places in tribal areas. Even the dead have to be brought to the graveyard in Peshawar or other cities since there are no graveyard in tribal areas for the minorities,” says Haroon Sarbdiyal, a minorities’ rights activist.

Haroon Sarbdiyal further explained that in line with rough estimates population of different religious minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is around 300,000 while around 50,000 are settled in the tribal border region

“The government should ensure the rights of minorities in Fata in the ongoing reform process,” he said. Religious minorities do not exercise the right to purchase or sale property, and are issued B-category tribal domicile status.

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