Pakistan continues to pursue anti-minority policy, in letter and spirit

Under the circumstances, the minority is unable to get integrated into the social mainstream, despite genuine attempts to do so.

 |  5-minute read |   05-01-2017
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Minorities the world over are witnessing atrocities: The Rohingyas in Myanmar, the Hindus in Bangladesh, the Shias in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the Coptic Christians in Egypt have all faced brutal attacks.

However, Pakistan is the only country where atrocities committed on the Hindus, the Christians, the Ahmediyas and even the Balochis have been inhuman, largely state sponsored, carried out by terrorist mercenaries and unprovoked.

The excesses perpetrated on the weaker sections by Pakistanis have no parallel in the world - appalling international human rights groups.

On January 4, 2011, former Punjab governor, Salman Taseer was gunned down by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri in broad daylight. His only "crime" was his appeal for pardon to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who had been sentenced to death under blasphemy laws for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad.

Six long years have gone by since Taseer was murdered with such impunity. Yet, his family continues to incur the wrath of the zealots. It's worth recalling that his son Shahbaz was abducted by the Taliban and released after four-and-a-half years of captivity.

Intense negotiations prevailed after the "give and take". Pakistan's state machinery was indeed complicit. The atrocities do not end here. Salman Taseer's other son Shan is now being targeted for posting a video message on Facebook, praying for the wellbeing of Asia Bibi and Nabeel Masih (co-accused in the fabricated blasphemy case).

Shan has appealed to all Pakistanis to pray for the victims of this draconian law. Kudos to him for such courage.

This humane act on the part of a secular and progressive Pakistani, of nurturing sympathy for the Christian minority, has not augured well with the country's establishment. Shan has been receiving life-threatening messages from hostile religious fundamentalist outfit Sunni Tehreek, which openly propagates hate speech - and its tenors are menacing.

In the case under reference, each threatening message is accompanied by a photo of killer Mumtaz Qadri stating rather categorically that several Qadris are waiting to take on Shan.

So the threat is direct, pointed and does not look veiled. It's hard to imagine such a development without the government's tacit endorsement. This is a distinctive trait of Pakistan branding itself as a rogue state, always trying to silence a humane voice supporting the minority community.

It may be underlined once again that Qadri was the bodyguard of Salman Taseer who killed his protectee without batting an eyelid. He is given a martyr's status by Islamic extremists.

Meanwhile, under pressure from the Sunni Tehreek and its hardcore affiliates, a case of alleged blasphemy under section 295 A of the Pakistan Penal Code has been registered against Shan at police station Islampura, Lahore. More disturbingly, Sunni Tehreek is drumming up support from like-minded anti-minority regressive forces to stage street protest demonstrations for the arrest of Shan Taseer. There is umbrage against Shan also because he wished the Christians on Christmas. This is height of intolerance and speaks poorly of a country boasting of culture.

Alarmed by the developments, Asian Human Rights Centre has vehemently condemned the government's silence on the ongoing unsettling developments and called for action against all hostile and belligerent quarters stifling the progressive and secular forces.

pak_010717025928.jpg Photo: Indiatoday.in

In a separate but related development of unending human rights abuses, human rights activists have petitioned (on January 3) British Prime Minister Theresa May, drawing her attention and use of good offices not to allow the Pakistan government to reverse the proposed amendment called Sindh Criminal Law (protection of minorities).

The bill, already passed unanimously in 2015, makes forced religious conversion a punishable offence. However, the federal government, in concert with vested quarters including extremist groups, is desperately trying to reverse the law, apparently to encourage conversion. These are all signs of a sick and perverse society which Pakistan is currently afflicted with.

Emboldened by the anti-minority mood in Pakistan, there has been a marked spurt in cases of kidnapping of minority girls and women, eventually leading to forced conversion. Under the circumstances, the minority is unable to get integrated into the social mainstream, despite genuine attempts to do so.

Meanwhile, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organisation monitoring excesses on Balochs aspiring for independence, has brought to the notice of various international human rights groups that in 2016 alone, there were 667 cases of disappearance and recovery of 116 mutilated bodies of Balochis.

VBMP reckons that the Supreme Court of Pakistan, local human rights groups, civil society groups and the country's media are less sensitive to Baloch oppression, compelling them to seek justice from international quarters.

It's now amply clear with the illustrations, supported by empirical data, that the Balochs, Christian and Hindu minorities and other forward thinking voices are gradually being pushed into oblivion by rabid communal forces in Pakistan, with backing from various arms of the establishment - thus diminishing any hope for the marginalised and underprivileged to live with dignity and honour.

Such a blatant and discriminatory act is the hallmark of Pakistan, under condemnation by one and all. One hopes that in the new year, such indifference will not take Pakistan further away into the pre-medieval ages. 

Perhaps, the people of Pakistan will step in to stem the rot.

Also read - Russia's tilt towards Pakistan will be a body blow for India's security

Writer

Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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