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Pakistan’s “Last Jew” Fishel Benkhald Recognized by the Government

Benkhald was born in Karachi in 1987 to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother

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Fishel Benkhald, the
Fishel Benkhald, the "last jew" of Pakistan.Twitter
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  • Fishel Benkhald is often referred as the “last jew” of Pakistan
  • He was originally registered as a Muslim
  • The government has finally recognized him as a Jew

Pakistan, June 30, 2017– Pakistani government has finally recognized its “last jew” when Fishel Benkhald was allowed by the interior ministry to change his religion from Islam to Judaism. It is an unprecedented move by the Muslim-majority nation.

Fishel, who is a 29-year-old outspoken activist was often referred to as the “last jew” of Pakistan, was originally registered as a Muslim.

Benkhald was born in Karachi in 1987 to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. He was registered as Faisal in his national identity documents.After the death of his parents in 1990s, Benkhald identified himself as a Jew during the ongoing census.

After going through several rounds of appeals and several months of bureaucratic paperwork, the interior ministry finally approved his application seeking “conversion/correction” of his religion. In his appeal, Benkhald had insisted that his religion be changed on his national identity card.

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Benkhald claims to be the only person of his faith in Pakistan. He is a resident of Karachi at the moment.

The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is not known for entertaining such requests commonly on the grounds that an applicant’s faith is different from the father’s. NADRA has not allowed members of the Ahmadi religious sect to proclaim themselves as Muslims so far.

Muslims have to sign an affidavit with NADRA that they are not Ahmadis or “Qadiyanis”.

Peter Jacob, who heads a faith-based organization in Lahore said, “It is a very sensitive issue where people have been killed either way.”

Benkhald thanked the interior ministry and NADRA for granting him the right to practice the religion of his choice in a telephonic conversation with The Express Tribune paper.

“I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion.” Said Benkhald. He also added that he would consider the positive development in his case as a treat from Pakistani authorities for the upcoming Passover, a spring festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.

Despite Benkhald’s claim of being the “last jew”, NADRA is saying that there are 745 registered Jewish families in the nation.

– prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram. Twitter: @NikitaTayal6 

 

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The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

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Gulyana, Pakistan

By: Wali Imran (Hindu Council of Australia)

900 years old Gulyana town of about a 50,000 people, just a few kilometers South of Gujar Khan, was raised to the ground once several centuries ago, by raiders from the West. The second time it was destroyed during the 1947 partition riots.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Before 1947, the Gulyana town center was mostly Hindu and Sikh. The Hindus and Sikh owned all the businesses in the town center and Muslims were their tenants, peasants and laborers. Muslims sold their lands to pay off their debts and also handed over their crop of wheat. The Dewan, Dutt, Mohyal Brahmin, and Singh families were always part of royal elite.

Bollywood Star Sanjay Dutt is from the same branch of warrior Brahmin Dutt and belongs to the same place.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Land owners were guaranteed protection from military’s presence in Gujar Khan from the North and a rivulet from the south. This land produced sheer gold and wealthy Sikhs and Hindus lived like kings in mansions make of stone, several storey high.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Bakshi Tek Chand, Dewan Prithvi Chand Dutt, Bakshi Moti Ram and Tara Singh were the dominant names of those times.  They built temples, dug up wells for the 30-50 kanal holdings each and distributed these lands amongst their permanent serfs. They did however, treat their serfs with respect and gave them a good share of the crop — what do you expect from absentee landlords.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The Sikh had a timber business. Logs from Kashmir valley were dumped into Jhelum River and recovered downstream near Jhelum city to be sold at Gujar Khan.

The Hindus were mostly traders, money lenders and retailers.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Muslims were mostly illiterate and poor and were destined to stay that way considering the only quality boarding school in nearby Gujar Khan had 95% non-muslim attendance.

During the 1947 riots, one Sikh Bali Singh and one Hindu Lady Banto were killed in the riots but the rest were whisked away with their gold, in the safety of Gorkha soldiers. The Muslim riot crowd burnt to the ground the several symbols of oppression and got rich in the process, during the looting.

One Hindu tehsildar had the magistrate’s powers to jail someone for 6 months.

Gulyana, Pakistan

When the British left suddenly in 1947, the carefully crafted social experiment in native subjugation came crumbling down within days.

Otherwise, one 100 years old resident of Gulyana tells me, “the Hindus and Sikh were very friendly towards the Muslims, their women played around with the boys, molvi were not trouble makers then; they cared about their serfs and neighbors’, built schools, hospitals and wells for the general public. No Muslim was allowed into their kitchen however. Balraj, Sita, Beera, Ramu Shikari, Gujrati, Peecha Singh, Mangat Singh, Jawals Singh, Raab Singh, Gurdyal, were the well-known Hindus and Labbu, Gurra, Jagdev, Santa, Paacha, Chatru were the known Sikh of the time. One Tek Chand Never left for India and embraced Islam. His wife and three sons left for India. Tek Chand married a Muslim lady and had seven children. They are all in poverty now. Several of the old mansion, one dhramsala, one temple, several bowlis (watering hole) have been lost to time.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The surrounding farms around Gulyana were refreshing. The old styled spoke wells, Sikh Samadhi, Hindu temple and 100 years old Gujarati’s mansion still survives.Gulyana, Pakistan

I went into the temple inner sanctum and saw the most beautiful frescos of mixed Hindu and Sikh religious figures like hanuman, Krishna, Sita, Baba Guru Nanak, Bala, Mardana, etc.

Gulyana, Pakistan

 

Pakistan government build a dam 5 km upstream, called the Ugahaun; it’s a lovely place to fish and boat around.

The union council in 1947 had more financial powers than it does today.

In short, all the entrepreneurs, educators, administrator, jurisprudence people, revenue people, land record people and large scale farmers left in 1947.

Gulyana, Pakistan

I am astonished how Pakistan survived with an illiterate mass of people, steeped in poverty — traumatized by exploitation and mass killings.

Other interesting places in Potohar region are:

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Bedi Mahal, Pharwala fort, Malot fort, Sangini fort, Rawat fort and Mankial Stupa. (Hindu Council of Australia)