Islamabad, Sept. 2: Justice Rana Bhagwandas today became the first Hindu to take over as the acting chief justice of Pakistanís Supreme Court.
The seniormost judge of the court will act as the chief justice in the absence of the incumbent, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Chaudhry, who became the chief justice last June, is visiting China.
Justice Saiyed Saeed Ashad ministered the oath to Bhagwandas, who holds a masters degree in Islamic studies and law.
Attended by senior judges of Sindh High Court and officials of the provincial government, the oath-taking ceremony was held at the Sindh branch of the Supreme Court in Karachi, the hometown of Bhagwandas, who was born in December 1942 and became lawyer in 1967.
Bhagwandas, who became a judge of Sindh High Court in 1994, was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2000.
According to Pakistanís constitution, a Supreme Court judge can hold the office until attaining the age of 65.
Bhagwandas, who may retire after two years on completion of his service, is a soft-spoken person, known for his authority on judicial matters.
India has recently had a Muslim chief justice in A.M. Ahmadi.
Bhagwandas rising to occupy the post is significant as the Hindu population in Pakistan is only 1.6 per cent of the total, according to the last published head-count in 1991. In 1948, there were 17 per cent Hindus. Most Hindus live in Sindh.
Since the majority religion is Islam, Hindus and Christians usually do not occupy top civil and military posts.
They play for the national cricket team, though. Danish Kaneria is Pakistanís top spinner.
Hindus in Pakistan have been poorly organised politically, but have representation in the federal and provincial legislatures, getting elected under minority quotas.
Some Hindu legislators, like Rana Chandar and Kishan Bheel, have served as ministers in former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifís government.