Islamabad: A Hindu rights group has demanded immediate removal of the district coordination officer (DCO) of Chakwal in Pakistan`s Punjab province, after he allegedly refused to provide security for the Shivaratri festival on March 2-4.
The chairman of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Association (APHRA), Haroon Dayal, speaking to a TV channel on Sunday, said, "The DCO has not responded positively to our repeated pleas and has flatly refused to provide security for the festival."
"Thousands of devotees are scheduled to attend the festival in Chakwal and the law and order situation in the country would put their lives at risk if proper security arrangements are not made", Dayal said.
"We visited the DCO to apprise him of the situation but to no avail", he said, adding that, "this was tantamount to violating the religious freedom of the minorities". "We will protest against this injustice", he warned.
"The DCO wants us to make security arrangements on our own which is not possible for such a huge gathering", Dayal said.
"From the forum of APHRA, we demand the government immediately replace DCO Chakwal and take necessary measures for security and other arrangements during the festival", he said.
Chakwal DCO Tariq Bakhshi was not available for comments despite repeated attempts by IANS. His office staff, however, responding to the query about the allegations of APHRA president, said that the concerns were baseless and all necessary arrangements will be made for the festival.
A large number of Hindus and Sikhs reside in Chakwal and adjoining areas where several historical temples exist. Gah village, the birthplace of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is also located in Chakwal district.
The Shivaratri festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha in the Hindu Calendar. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil.