In Solidarity with Pakistan’s Minorities’
On the global day of minorities, Pakistan’s religious minorities too are observing the day. In a largely Muslim population of nearly 200 million, minorities are estimated to be about three percent. According to the last census conducted in 1998, the population of Christians stood at 2.5 Million followed by Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis. Moreover, Shia and Ismaili Muslims, which may be some 20 percent of the total population, are often referred to as minorities, particularly by radical extremist Sunni sects.
The International Day reminds Pakistanis of the commitment that the founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had made on 11th August, 1947 in his speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan: “You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State … Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State,” Jinnah had said while outlining his vision on the rights of minorities in new Pakistan as equal citizens.
Unfortunately, contrary to the Quaid’s vision, the current state of minorities in Pakistan is far from what the founding father had envisioned. Between 2012- 2016, for instance, the minorities have remained victims of blasphemy accusations, sexual assaults, forced conversions, forced marriages. In the first half of 2016, for example, four incidents of violence against minorities were reported from the northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and eight from the southern Sindh.
In one instance, a policeman stormed into the Church and beat up the pastor in Lahore on June 12, 2016. Similarly, an 80 year old Hindu man was beaten up and tortured by a police constable in Pakistan for allegedly eating and selling food before iftaar (during the month of Ramadhan. In another incident in the same month of fasting, a Christian was abused and beaten up for selling ice-cream to Muslim women and children; 42-year-old, Khaleel Masih was bashed by a mob in a village in District Kasur for selling ice-creams.“Christians are untouchables,” the mob chanted while beating him therefore they should not be allowed to sell edibles to Muslims. In a most recent incident, two Hindu teen age boys were brutally killed over the allegation of blasphemy law in Mirpur Mathelo District of Sindh.
As part of its commitment to fundamental rights and to the ideals of equal citizenry, the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), expresses its solidarity with Pakistan’s minorities. One of CRSS endeavors on rights and advocacy for women and minorities is the Pakistan Center of Excellence (PACE) project. The initiative is aimed at triggering critical thinking through a discourse anchored in fundamental global values such as socio-political diversity, tolerance in society, respect for other’s belief, the rule of law and equal citizenry.
PACE aims to create a critical mass of young leaders equipped with analytical skills to understand, highlight, resolve and practice these important issues, look at others as equal citizens, correct misperceptions about non-Muslims, and ask questions about their perceived ideas. PACE is thus an effort to empower civil society leaders and young professionals such as university teachers, media persons including reporters, journalists, and anchor persons with the intellectual tools to counter intolerance and propagate peaceful conflict resolution in their respective social/ professional spheres. CRSS stands by all Pakistani citizens, including religious minorities and resolves to continue working for religious harmony, tolerance and the rule of law.
Written by Farhana Kanwal and Anam Fatima, Research Fellows at the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).