Situation of minorities in Pakistan

Dr Ravinder Singh Rana
Pakistan as a state has a long history of constitutional development. The religious minorities within the boundaries of Pakistan have always been promised protection along with a guarantee of equal fundamental rights- be it the Objectives Resolution (1949) or the three subsequent constitutions (1956, 1962 and 1973). According to Article 25 of Pakistan’s Constitution (1973) ‘all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law’. According to article 26 (1) there ‘shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence etc. in respect of their access to places of public entertainment or resort’. Similarly article 27 (1) gives ‘protection against discrimination on basis of religion etc. on appointment in service of Pakistan if he/she is qualified otherwise’. Article 36 of the constitution provides for the protection of minorities and states that the ‘State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interest of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services’. Article 36 is part of Constitution’s second chapter ‘Principles of Policy’ which is a non-operative part of the constitution as the observance of these principles .  Despite the aforesaid constitutional safeguards, the Pakistani state  failed to guarantee the equal rights and equal opportunities to its Muslim and non  Muslim citizens, there it somehow allowed the obscurantist forces to operate against the religious minorities.
Pakistan and the International Treaties
Pakistan became the member of United Nations Organization in 1948. Being a member state it has a responsibility towards carrying out the mission of UN. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly (in 1948) provides in its article 1 that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (UDHR, 1948). The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been ratified by Pakistan in June 2010, provides in its article 27 that “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language” (ICCPR, 1966).
The issue of Ahmadis or Qaddianis is not a new one in Pakistan. The religion of Ahmadis is almost an hundred years old belief system originating in undivided India’s Qadian area (birth place of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who professed to be the founder of this religion). The problem of Ahmadis as a separate community soon began to surface in Pakistan right after its creation in 1947. The first riots against Ahmadis were propelled by Jamat-e-Islami’s then Emir Maulana Maudoodi which led to huge protests and violence against them in 1940’s and early 1950’s. This led to the First ever martial law declared in the history of Pakistan with G.O.C of Lahore General Azam Khan declaring Martial law in Lahore in 1954.
Later on, Zia-ul-Haq’s government further marginalized them by introducing 295-C i.e. the Blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Today, the problem with blasphemy laws is not its content but its implementation. The problem with Blasphemy laws is that they are often misused by mainstream Muslims to settle personal feuds or political issues between traditional Muslims and Ahmiddya community. This has again and again led to various events all resulting in the death and destruction of the life, property and persons of the Ahmidiiya community. The Criminal Procedure code has ostracized the Ahmaddiya community to such an extent that any Muslim can go to a court or ‘thana’ and can register an F.I.R against any Ahmiddya by claiming that such and such Ahmaddi was heard saying the Islamic greeting “Assalam o alaikum”.
Hindus in Pakistan makes the largest non-Muslim religious minority and constitutes almost 1.8 percent of the country’s total population (Population Census Organization, 1998). Majority of the Hindu population is concentrated in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh and in the south-western province of Balochistan (US Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2012). Acts of violence against religious minorities are reportedly on the rise and hate speech against this particular community is reported to be tolerated with impunity (Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012). In Balochistan and Sindh provinces, for example, it is reported that Hindus from the Brahmin and higher castes are increasingly at risk of violence and abduction for ransom, and the authorities are allegedly unable or unwilling to provide effective protection (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 2011).
Due to security threats about 150 Hindu families have migrated to India in 2011. Their lives, property and temples have also come under attack or been subject to unlawful expropriation by the local Muslim community. The authorities have been unsuccessful in taking adequate measures to protect this community from acts of violence and to bring the perpetrators of law to justice. Moreover, the blasphemy laws have been used against the religious and sectarian minorities. The allegations on basis of blasphemy are often motivated by personal vendettas and have often resulted in the lengthy detention of, and occasional violence against Hindus (UNHCR, 2012).
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, while addressing the First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan said: “ … You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State … But in the present era the narration of this statement is totally baseless as  Hindus  percentage of population declined from 25% in 1947 to 1.8% today, thousands of hindus migrate every year (5000) for asylum  in India, their property  has been damaged ,every month thousands of young girls of Hindus  kidnapped to convert then religion after forceful  are marriages and also  large number of temples have been converted to madrassas. Its high time for the international community to look after the situation of minorities in Pakistan otherwise they will extinct from their motherhood country.
(The author teaches at GDC Doda)


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