Pak Hindu leader wins ballot battle, falls to bullet
NAGPUR, JANUARY 31: A PROMINENT leader of the Pakistani Hindu community, Sudham Chand Chawla, who successfully fought a legal battle to ensure voting rights for Pakistani minorities, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in the Pakistani city of Jacobabad on Monday.
This was revealed by relatives of the slain leader to mediapersons here.
Pakistani newspapers such as The News and The Dawn carried the news of the killing which largely went unnoticed in India. A pall of gloom descended on the Chawla residence here when his relatives heard it on BBC Radio the same night.
According to his brother Jagdish, who resides here along with three other brothers, Chawla was scheduled to meet the Jacobabad collector in connection with the electoral rolls when he was shot dead.
The Pakistan Supreme Court had restored voting rights to minorities a fortnight ago following Chawla's sustained efforts.
"Some Muslim organisations, too, helped him in his endeavour but the fundamentalists probably didn't like it and hence killed him," he said.
Chawla, 45, was president of the Hindu General Panchayat and the Jacobabad district chief of Pakistan People's Party (PPP). He was one of the prominent Hindu leaders and was popular among Muslims too.
Thousands gathered at his residence and Jacobabad observed an impromptu bandh when the news of his death spread. Hindus staged a highway blockade which was eased after the administration promised to nab the culprits.
"Sindh traders observed a three-day bandh to protest the killing,"
Chawla's son Santosh said. Sudham Chand, who owned a rice mill, is survived by his widow, a son and a six-month-old daughter in Pakistan and three sons, Santosh, Manoj and Inder who moved to Nagpur a few years ago.
One of his brothers Kanwarlal is in Jacobabad while four brothers, Jagdish, Ashok, Kishor and Daulat, had left Pakistan 25 years ago to settle down in Nagpur. Sudham Chand was the eldest. His mother, too, is here for the past one year while his father is dead.
According to family members here, Chawla had moved the Pakistan Supreme Court three years ago seeking restoration of voting rights to minorities.
"He was helped by people such as former speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly Elahi Bukhsh Soomro," Jagdish said. ``He also valiantly fought for restoration of land which rightfully belonged to the Hindus,'' he said.
Sudham Chand was elected a corporator in Jacobabad first in 1983 and then in 1987. In 1990, he bacame president of the Jacobabad PPP and in 1994 became its district chief. In 1996, during Benazir Bhutto's reign, he was named the chief of Upper Sindh unit of the PPP, according to family members.
"His killing has created a feeling of insecurity among Pakistan Hindus and the Government of India should do something about it," Jagdish said.