Situation of Minorities in Pakistan. By: Junaid Qaiser
25 Feb 2003
After the tragic events of 9/11, Pakistani establishment finally had to set aside its' traditional ideological hangovers and raise a different slogan, "First of all Pakistan." It was a matter of coercion or choice one can't say with a degree of confi
Within the category of hope one can enlist the reversion to the system of joint electorates during Election-2002 whereas the list of new fears is pretty long. At least two churches, one missionary hospital and a school became the new targets of the disposed Jihadis (holy warriors). The unprecedented electoral gains of religious right on the platform of Muttahida Majlis-I-Amal (United Action Council) also add to such fears.
The slogan "first of all Pakistan" employs that all the people living in the country are Pakistanis without any consideration of color, race or religion and that all of them have equal human rights and are entitled to substantive citizenship as per the vision of country's founding fathers. Therefore it is now expected that all Pakistanis would emerge as the moderate souls and would contribute to develop the nation to meet the challenges of new realities and requirements by rearranging their political, social, intellectual, literary and scientific values.
During the last 55 years the situation of minorities in Pakistan like the general conditions in various fields has remained a matter of serious concern. Professor Marvin G. Vonbom, of University of Illinois, USA describes this situation in her article, Civil society and democracy in Pakistan that "Pakistan is a state owned by the Muslims but from their behavior it seems as if they are a minority surrounded by hostile threats. In this way they have developed a defensive mechanism that has no rationale. These people think that strengthening of minorities would be a threat to Pakistan and Islam. The reality is completely opposite. Though the Muslim rulers in the past had provided protection to the minorities yet it is a historical fact that the minorities were not given equal political status and equal political rights."
In political terms Pakistan experienced leadership from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Zia-ul-Haq and from Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif all with different ideological orientations. This leadership could be called personality or interest based. One group used secularism and liberal views as their slogan but practically they continued to behave like feudal lords. The other did the same but with the slogan of Islam to perpetuate their narrow self-interest. .
However the military regime headed by General Pervez Musharraf reached a crossroad after the 9/11 tragedies in the United States of America and had to break its nexus with the retrogressive regime of Taliban in Afghanistan. So it became a defining moment and Pakistan quite prudently decided to stand with the international community on the issues of global terrorism and human values. Traditionally Pakistani establishment had been promoting religion colored nationalism that caused a lot of damage to Pakistan and made life of the minorities pretty difficult. Nonetheless the enlightened citizens and their civic organizations continued to raise voice against that mindset.
Separating the minorities:
Luckily now it is a history, but until 2001 the issue of separate electorate system remained a key political concern for the minorities in Pakistan. Historically it is true that Pakistan came into being on the basis of separate electorate as demanded by the Muslim minority in the united Sub-continent. After Pakistan's creation the two-nation theory should automatically have ceased to exist as there was only one nation living in Pakistan. But the right wing political parties continued to consider the separate electorate as a base of the ideology of Pakistan.
The idea of separate electorate was aimed at the partition of India. Where as the minorities living in Pakistan today do not want any kind of further partition of their homeland. Similarly Quaid-i-Azam had dreamt of a developed, moderate, democratic state which is evident from his 11th August 1947 speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. One hardly finds any discussions on formation of a theocratic state in the pre-partition meetings of the Muslim League. The religious parties started such debate after the creation of Pakistan and ironically they were opposed to the very idea of Pakistan. Religious political parties have been opposing the idea of joint electorate due to the fear that the minorities will not vote for them because of their particular religious point of view.
In Quaid-i-Azam's Pakistan all the human beings were to be given equal rights and status but our non-political rulers in an attempt to remain in power and to suppress politi