Persecution Of Minorities In Pakistan Continues

The Pakistani minorities are facing the wrath of the country’s discriminatory policy at the hands of the government as well as prejudice and victimization at the hand of people at large, especially the right-wing extremists. For the Hindus, Christians and Sikhs who number around 3 million in Pakistan’s total population, sometimes practicing their faith can be a dangerous business. One of the tools used to discriminate is the notorious blasphemy law under which minorities are booked for insulting the tenets or teachings of Islam.

The latest case is of a doctor belonging to a minority community from Sindh Province booked for blasphemy on the pretext that he had desecrated a scripture. A few weeks before, a couple also from a minority religious community in Punjab province was arrested for sending an inappropriate text to a man and booked under blasphemy. Adding to the existing fear of the minorities in Pakistan is another disturbing event, the demolition of the Sikh pilgrimage site called ‘Guru Nanak Palace’at Narowalin the periphery of Lahore.

These are not isolated incidents but a continuation of the violation of rights of the minorities. A large number of minorities have been booked or persecuted under the blasphemy law. AasiaBibi’s case is the most prominent one that churned a debate on the rights of minorities in Pakistan. Even after so much criticism, Pakistan continues to book minorities under this heinous law.

The doctor was taken into custody after a complaint was filed by the head cleric of the local mosque. The allegations labeled on him of desecration and is strictly punishable under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The unsaid rules of this law are enshrined in the minds of the Pakistani citizens; who in turn form mobs which sometimes becomes a lynching crowd. The burning of shops belonging to a particular community after the arrest of the doctor, in Sindh is a result of this mentality.  Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are loose, vague and coercive. They have disproportionately targeted the religious minorities.Many false cases have been thrust on innocent people belonging to minority communitiesto pursue personal vendettas.

Minorities in Pakistan are not even guaranteed protection of their religious sites.These historical and important cultural sites have been the target of Pakistan’s right-wing extremists for long. The destruction of the Guru Nanak Palace in Narowal is the latest addition to the long list. The fact that the demolitions were carried out this time by influential locals, affiliated to the right-wing reflects the sorry state of the minorities.No one raises any questions over such brazen acts. It has also been reported that the precious and historic windows, doors and other important items of the 15th-century Gurudwara were stolen and sold in the market for a certain price. The authorities when questioned have maintained a deadly silence on the issue. This is certain to hurt the sentiments of the entire Sikh community and will be a big blow to the Kartarpur corridor initiative between India and Pakistan. The locals are demanding action against the destruction of this heritage site but the question is that has any action been taken for such crimes in the past?

Anyone who is not a Muslim is labeled as ‘Kafir’(non-believer) in Pakistan and the problem is that the Constitution of Pakistan and other State structures support this theological doctrine. There is no proper representation of the minorities in the national apparatus, although 5% seats are reserved for them in the Parliament. There is no security for the minorities and their religious sites, like temples, gurudwaras and churches. There is no provision in Pakistan to bring the culprits who persecute minorities under blasphemy laws or demolish minority religious sites. This gives impetus to heinous human rights violations against minorities in Pakistan, including the Shia Hazaras and Ahmadis.

 

Script: Dr. Zainab Akhter,Research Analyst, ​​South Asia Centre (Idsa)