Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province observed a public holiday for the first time to mark Holi on Thursday, but contradictory announcements from authorities dampened the celebrations.
The government officially recognised the festival of colours days after the parliament passed a non-binding resolution this month, calling for the country to observe Hindu and Christian holidays.
The Sindh chief minister declared Holi a public holiday throughout the region in a notification this week. Hindus, who constitute about 2% of Pakistan’s 200 million people, mostly live in this province.
Bilawal Bhutto, chairperson of the area’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, announced that he would celebrate Holi in Umerkot, the country’s only Hindu-majority town.
But, on Wednesday evening, the labour department issued a notification that the holiday would “only apply to Hindu employees”. This triggered confusion as all provincial government departments, including schools, universities and even factories, were slated to stay shut.
The move angered the chief minister who instructed the chief secretary to take action against the department for violating his orders. Following the intervention, the province celebrated Holi according to the original plan.
“We are grateful to the government for its timely action,” said Amarnath Motumal, a member of the Pakistan Hindu Council.