Hindus across Pakistan celebrated the religious festival of colours on Thursday that is now officially marked in the Muslim-majority country as a public holiday.
Holi, which is celebrated with the onset of spring and is widely recognised for the throwing and applying of coloured powders on friends and family, kicked off on Wednesday.
This month the government accepted a resolution for public holidays on the annual festivals of minority communities, which was presented by a ruling-party politician in the National Assembly – Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.
“This year it was not just Hindus celebrating Holi. We had people from different backgrounds and religion celebrating with us, throwing coloured powders and distributing sweets,” Aroon Kumar Kundnani, coordinator of the Pakistan-Hindu Council, told Al Jazeera.
“The government of Pakistan provided security this year, which never happened before.”
In Karachi, more than 500 Hindus gathered in the Swami Narayan Mandir to celebrate.
“Changes are slow but they are happening. Whether they were Muslim or Christian, people from all over were celebrating with us,” Amar Nath Rangwa told Al Jazeera. “At least today it seemed like we were one.”
Holi is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and countries with large Hindu populations.
Hindus in Pakistan make up only about 3 percent of the 190 million population and mostly live in southern Sindh province. Christians represent about 1.6 percent of the population.
The Christian community in Pakistan has long been the target of attacks, hate crimes, and blasphemy cases.
In 2014, a young Christian couple was beaten and then burned to death by a mob in a small Pakistani village in Punjab province after being accused of desecrating the Muslim religious book, the Quran.
On Tuesday, at least 40 people, mostly from the Hindu minority community, died after drinking contaminated illegally-made alcohol during Holi celebrations. Dozen were still in critical condition.
Locals often brew alcohol at home that sometimes results in deaths. In Pakistan, it is illegal for Muslims to buy or consume alcohol. Minorities need permits to buy it.
|Hindus celebrate Spring with festival of colours|