Once again, the reports of exodus of religious minorities from Pakistan have come to light. This is not the first time that we are hearing about forced conversions, threats and intimidation of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan. The cases date back to the country’s inception.
In Pakistan, a country of over 175 million people, Muslims comprise approximately 95 percent of the population. The remaining belong to Pakistan’s religious minorities, such as Christians, Hindus, Zikris, the Ahmadiyya, Sikhs, the Baha’i, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, the Mehdi Foundation and Jews.
A country, which has been failing miserably in the fight against terrorism, has proved to be a disappointment as far as protecting minorities is concerned. The vast majority of members of religious minorities, especially Hindus belonging to Balochistan and Sindh provinces, face sexual assault (including rape), threats, oppression and violence.
Of late, a Pakistani TV channel showed a Hindu boy converting to Islam during a program that was broadcast live before Iftar. The worst part was that the anchor was heard hailing the conversion. What message did the channel think it was sending out to the minority communities, who feel threatened all the time? This is reprehensible manifestation of attitude towards Hindus.
Another incident, wherein a 14-year-old Hindu girl gets kidnapped, converts to Islam and gets married to a Muslim, raises not just eyebrows but gives a glimpse of how minorities’ rights are being persecuted in Pakistan.
As soon as reports emerged that 250 Hindus from Sindh and Balochistan sought to migrate on the pretext of travelling to India for a pilgrimage, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik quickly claimed that the development was a conspiracy to denigrate his country. Really? The minister needs to have a look at the number of reports submitted by world organisations, telling the tale of minorities pleading for help.
Pakistan is a country where ministers have been assassinated for holding liberal views. What can we say about the situation of the hoi polloi belonging to the minority community in Pakistan? Undoubtedly, Pakistan is ranked amongst the worst states for minorities to reside in.
The worst part is that Pakistan’s authorities have time and again failed to calm the concerns of the minority communities. Just statements won’t do. Or an almost negligible political space would not help the community raise its voice.
David Pinault in his book `Notes from the Fortune-Telling Parrot: Islam and the Struggle for Religious Pluralism in Pakistan’ deduced “systematic ideological warfare against Hindus in Pakistan”. In fact, a report in 2006 drew attention towards the Islamisation process during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime, which promoted religious bias against “backwards, superstitious” Hindus with the help of school curricula.
Ironically, on August 11, Pakistan celebrates Minorities’ Day and on the same day this year, President Asif Ali Zardari has asked authorities in Sindh province to alleviate the sense of insecurity among the minority Hindus. It underscores Pakistan’s failure in keeping its commitment to protect and promote minorities.
The President also pointed out that it was on August 11, 1947 when Pakistan’s Father of the Nation, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, laid down the `foundations of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan, where everyone would have equal rights regardless of creed, caste and gender`.
I also quote Mohammed Ali Jinnah as declaring in 1947: “You are free, free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Sounds like a joke now. The Pakistan that Jinnah had dreamt of has become a nightmare for Hindus.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)