Plight of minorities in Pakistan

Harsha Kakar

During the past few months, India has been fighting a digitalbattle across every media network, initiated by Pakistan, backed by its paid journalists in the west and supported by an anti-Government lobby within the country. Pakistan’s aim has been to project India as Islamophobic, where the government seeks to convert Muslims into non-residents by its Citizen Amendment Act linked to the National Register for Citizens.
Its strategy involves targeting the Indian leadership claiming it to be a Hindutva Government which has no concern for minorities, mainly Muslim. It has sought to project India as a nation suppressing residents of the valley solely on religious grounds.
To provide credence to its campaign, Pakistan, apart from publishing articles in the western press and spreading fake information in global social media, also involves its civilian leadership to comment daily on the same subjects, which are then spread by their paid social media warriors endorsing these comments. This is evident as the endorsement is in thousands in minutes. These comments are backed by articles in global press by some Indian journalists supporting the Pak ideology or against the current central regime. In cases, Pak leaders exploited comments by Indian writers.
These actions by Pak are aimed to hide reality within their own country. Pakistan internally suffers from Minority Phobia. Even after seventy years the country has failed to create its own identity, though desperate to break from its historic links to India. Pakistanis call themselves Arabs, but the same is unacceptable to Arab nations. They term themselves as Turks but are rejected by Turkey. The reason is that they are afraid to accept their Indian lineage,which is reality. This frustration is taken out on their minorities.
Its minorities including Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians are the worst sufferers. They are beaten, subdued, prosecuted, killed and their places of worship destroyed at whim. Everyday there are press reports on targeting of minorities.
A study by ‘Movement for Solidarity and Peace’ states that yearly over a thousand Hindu and Christian, girls and women, are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted. No reports can be filed in police stations and no action is taken,even if reports are filed,as conversion to Islam is justified by Pakistan’s law. Most of those abducted are underaged and vulnerable.
Those converted are threatened with death if they seek to protest. They can never return to their own religion. In a case this year, a Hindu girl, Mehak Kumari, who was kidnapped and forcibly converted wanted to reconvert back to Hinduism and return home. She is facing threats of beheading by Islamic clerics for even contemplating to renounce Islam after converting. She has since been locked in a destitute home with no access to her parents as pressure by the state on her to renounce her desire continues.
Many Christian women are sold to Chinese in forced marriages. Pakistani Christian activists have claimed that in the last two years over 630 girls and women were sold to the Chinese and taken across the border. Very few cases are even investigated.
Rations and aid in the current pandemic have been denied to minorities in Pakistan unless they convert to Islam. Ahmadis who attempted to support the crisis by donating rations to those in need were compelled to take it back as they are considered outcasts by Pakistanis.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in a report released in Apr this year, stated, ‘ it is troubled by the reports of food aid being denied to Hindus and Christians amid the spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan.’ It added, ‘These actions are simply reprehensible.’ In its 2019 report it stated, ‘Hindus and Christians in Pakistan face continued threats to their security and are subject to various forms of harassment and social exclusion.’
In no other country are places of religious worship of minorities destroyed at the speed at which they are in Pakistan. A report in the Kashmir Mirror dated 11 Feb 2019 states, ‘As per the 2014 survey report of All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM), out of the total 428 minority places of worship in the country, 408 are converted into toy stores, restaurants, government offices and schools after 1990 and only 20 Hindu temples are remaining.’
A report by Deutsche Welle, an independent German Broadcaster stated, ‘Rights activists say that places of worship for minorities in Pakistan are either rapidly disappearing or are subject to negligence by the state.’ The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was only aimed at winning support of Khalistan activists, which too has failed as they saw through the Pak game.
Shias and Ahmadis are similar targets of the majority Sunnis in Pakistan.Saleem-ud-Din, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan, stated in Jun last year that’about 400 Ahmadis had been killed since the introduction of the anti-Ahmadiyya laws.’ He added, ‘For many years now, the basic human rights of Ahmadis in Pakistan have been denied and this discrimination continues.’ Many have migrated to Nepal.
Jaffer A Mirza wrote in The Diplomat on 16 Mar 2020, ‘The Shias have been witnessing what the former chief justice of Pakistan, Saqib Nisar, termed as “tantamount to wiping out an entire generation”.’ Quoting the Centre for Research and Security Studies’ Annual Security Report 2019, he states, ‘in 2018 alone 28 Shias and two Ahmadis were killed in targeted attacks due to their faith. Five attacks on Ahmadiyya places of worship since August 2018 have occurred and 13 blasphemy cases filed against Ahmadis, nine against Christians, two against Hindus, and one against a Shia in the same period.’
The Pak blasphemy law has been misused to target minorities across the country. The case which received global attention was of Asia Bibi, a Christian who was falsely accused of blasphemy and spent eight years on death row. There are similar such cases currently on in Pakistan. Many accused of blasphemy are never even arrested. They are killed by frenzied mobs.
The Pak Government recently formed a Minorities commission, which excluded Ahmadis. On this aspect, the Human Rights Watch stated, ‘The Ahmadis are among the most persecuted communities in Pakistan and to exclude them from a minority rights commission is absurd.’
Naya Daur Media of Pak in an article on 07 May, quotedDr Yaqoob Khan Bangash’stweet which stated’the Govt has reneged on its commitment to create a statutory National Commission on Minorities and notified yet another sham commission. The media should take note and report.’ It also quoted legal expert Reema Omer who stated’PTI’s manifesto promises a “legally empowered” commission on minorities, but the same toothless commission is again being reconstituted.’ The commission in its first meeting discussed minorities in India rather than in Pakistan, a paradox only proving that the commission is fake and toothless.
Enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings of Baluch and Pashtuns is globally known. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated in its report in end Apr this year, ‘since the inception of the commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), of which South Waziristan is a part, has topped the list in the numbers of missing persons. Last year at least 2,472 persons were registered as missing in KP.’
Amnesty International in a report dated 27 Mar 2019 stated, ‘groups and individuals targeted in enforced disappearances in Pakistan include people from Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun ethnicities, the Shia community, political activists, human rights defenders, members and supporters of religious and nationalist groups, suspected members of armed groups, and proscribed religious and political organisations in Pakistan.’ It added, ‘Families of the disappeared are often threatened, harassed and intimidated, especially those who have been more public with their protests and have campaigned openly for justice for their loved ones.’
This is the true face of Pakistan. A military run country with a sham civilian government which refuses to treat minorities as humans, subjects them to inhuman treatment and brutalizes them,while on the contrary seeks to accuse democratic nations of Islamophobia. Pak is aware that its history is linked to India and remains desperate to create a new identity for itself. This identity crisis leads the nation into a Minority Phobia and it ends up visualizing India as it visualizesits own minorities, with hatred. It is time the reality of Pak is exposed globally.
The author is Major General (Retd)


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