Plight of minorities in Pak: Why it’s impossible for Imran to walk the talk

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is reported to have said: “We will ensure that minorities in Pakistan are treated as equal citizens with all rights and privileges unlike how the Muslims are being treated in India as second-class citizens.”

This is the second time that the Pakistan Prime Minister has made such a statement. This will remain a pipedream unless he betrays the political will to change the legal and constitutional framework which is highly biased against minorities. The hatred and oppression of minorities are at the core of the idea of Pakistan.

Demographic growth is the best indicator of how a nation treats its minorities. The population of Hindus in Pakistan was on the decline ever since August 1947. In 1951, Hindus constituted 12.9% of the total population of Pakistan. According to the 1998 Pakistan Census, the Hindu population has come down to 1.6 per cent. The Hindu population has not grown ever since. Dalits are not counted as Hindus and their condition is even worse. It is estimated that on an average 5000 Hindus migrate to India annually to escape discrimination and persecution.

Compare this with India’s situation. By next census, many districts in South and East India will become Muslim-dominated. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims constitute 14.23 per cent of the total population and is growing at the rate of 24.6 per cent, much higher than that of the Hindus.

The hatred for minorities is institutionalized in Pakistan. The blasphemy, for instance, is one of the institutionalized forms of discrimination. Human Rights activist Rabia Mahmood says, “Oppression is institutionalised. It is Constitutional, in Pakistan. For example, every time one talks to police men or law enforcement –as I did for the research on Religious Minorities for the Jinnah Institute – and I ask for example, “why did you demolish the minarets of an Ahmadi Mosque in Pakistan (We are not supposed, under the law which is Constitutionally valid, to call our place of worship a mosque in Pakistan), the answer is that the law itself is the problem…..”

According to the Constitution of Pakistan, Islam is the official religion and the country’s sovereignty belongs to Allah. This means that the law will be interpreted on the basis of Sharia, which is always biased against infidels (non-Muslims and some Muslim sects). Provisions of the Constitution, including Articles 227, 228, and 229, require that all laws “shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.”

Minorities – Hindus, Christians, Ahmedis, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews — are politically, socially, and economically disenfranchised. They are subjected to violence, atrocities, abductions and forced conversions. Their places of worship are destroyed and desecrated. Non-Muslim girls are abducted and forced into marriage and sometimes pushed into flesh trade. Their legal rights are tenuous at best. The entire system works against the minorities. Forceful or otherwise conversion of Hindus is considered a pious religious work. Many a time the police refuse to intervene or investigate complaints on forceful conversions. Adolescent girls are threatened to give statements against their parents in courts in cases of abductions. High positions in the government are reserved only for Muslims. In urban areas, women from religious minorities can only find work as scavengers or in sanitation and receive unlivable wages — less than $12 USD per month. Illiteracy among Scheduled Caste Hindu women is less than 20 per cent. Land mafia often grab temples and properties of Hindus.

This case will illustrate the plight of Hindus in areas where Muslims are in a brute majority. A Muslim cleric grabbed the ancient Shiv Mandir in Baghdadi area in Karachi and converted it into a slaughterhouse where cows are butchered routinely. Worshipers are forced to a small room adjacent to the main structure. No more than 2 worshipers are allowed into the temple at a time. According to a report, several Hindu girls have been forcibly converted to reduce the population of Hindus in the area.


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