The more frequently visible minority groups residing in Pakistan are Christians 2,092,902, Hindu 2,111,271, Qadiani 286,212, Schedule Caste 332,343, Others 96,142 which includes Parsi, Buddhist and Bahais etc. (Ministry of Minority Affairs Islamabad) These minority groups are profoundly integrated in the society of Pakistan and it is difficult to recognize and separate minorities from their socio economic features and characteristics. Although there are some minor socio-economic and cultural differences between the majority and minorities but on the whole only the religion is a separating aspect of the life of the minorities. Therefore this paper briefly deals with religious minorities in Pakistan under the sociological perspectives and present socio-economic outlook of under discussion minorities.
Sociology and Social Scientists have very broad approach towards the meaning and interpretation of the concept of the minorities in social perspectives. It would be better to have brief overview of the sociological perspective of minorities in academic sense.
"A minority is social category of people singled out for unequal and inferior treatment simply because they are identified as belonging to that category. Minorities are usually defined in terms of ASCRIBED STATUS characteristics such as RACE, GENDER, and ethnic or religious background, as well as ACQUIRED STATUSES such as sexual orientation. Unlike numerical minorities, social minorities may be in the numerical majority, as blacks were in South Africa before the end of apartheid and as females still are in virtually in the every society in the world." (Dictionary of Sociology pg.196)
Briefly in social sciences the minorities are dealt as a social strata not as a numerically. They are considered an important people as the majority. At international level sometimes the human rights standards of the countries are viewed with the situation of the minorities in certain countries.
Although there are several types of the minorities but in the specific context of the Pakistani society we can see emphasis is given on religious minorities. As the important religious minority groups have been discussed above but it would be useful to have brief insight of these religious minorities focusing on their socio-economic rights, social justice and their socio-economic situation. These religious minorities are dealt as 2nd class citizens constitutionally and they cannot become head of the state or senators due to having a different religion. Besides this constitutional discrimination the minorities have to suffer social injustice and discrimination. The promises of the authorities towards the providence of social justice to the minorities are still dreams. In a small town Patoki before the cafe the board of not allowed for the non-Muslims was placed. Social injustice and discrimination are common social norms against minorities especially against Christians and Hindus. Mostly they are considered traitors and foreigners, which is totally wrong miss conception because all the minority's people are indigenous. They are living here from their several generations and they just changed their religion as most of the other people entered into Islam from the other religions like from Hinduism and Sikhism etc. Therefore to proclaim them foreigners or traitors is totally wrong charge. They are also charged to have underhand affiliation with western and sub continental countries related to their religion, which is totally ridicules because if they had any connections with them why they are still suffering the life of poverty as a weaker section of the society. They could also get properties high bureaucratic posts from the out going Hindus and English people at the time of independence but this must be understood clearly that the minorities are as loyal as the majority people to this motherland.
Although the law sometimes does not support this phenomenon of ongoing social injustice with the minorities but the authorities always act passively on the complaints of the minorities deliberately due to the socio political pressure of fundamentalists. For example in village No. 288 District Toba Tek Singh there lived fifteen Christian families. There was a well, which was the only source of drinking water. The local Muslim resident bought this land and prohibited the Christians to drink water from there. The minority people approached to the court, which decided in the favor of those poor people, but this man threw a mud in the well. The local authorities also allegedly assisted this man. (Monitor 2002 A Report on the Religious Minorities in Pakistan)
Lack of religious freedom is another problem for the minorities. They are not allowed to preach their religion properly and are always monitored by the authorities carefully. They are not given permission easily to build their religious worship places and every kind of hinders are created to stop the construction of the religious worship places. Sometimes they are also disturbed while praying in order to take personal revenge in different forms.
In short the minorities have to suffer socio-economic injustice and discrimination they are socially isolated along with having sense of insecurity. They are economically poor and educationally backward. Their income is very low and they have to suffer discrimination while finding some suitable jobs. Even during the jobs they are not given job securities and promotions due to the prejudice. Unfortunately their own religo-political leaderships have been divided and failed to play its role accordingly. They are deprived of better residence and health facilities. They are soft targets of the zealots for the socio-economic injustice, prejudice and terrorism.
The main reasons for the socio-economic injustice against minorities and their present decay are different. The minorities are not united and socio economically, educationally and politically poor and un-influential. They have no any say in the routine order of the state at all level. Their members are not on high posts therefore as it was said they are an easy targets for the socio-economic injustice. In present scenario of post 9.11.2001 the sense of insecurity among minorities is rising. Whenever something happens against the Muslims in any part of the world the minorities are relatively linked with the certain incident and are attacked sometimes, socially discriminated and beaten by the fundamentalists even at community and official level. They have to suffer discrimination because they are economically and politically poor and un-influential. We can see that there are other small minority groups Parsi, Bahai and Ismailis etc. because they are economically strong having a valuable influence at economic and political level therefore the incidents of human rights violation against them are rare comparatively. Most importantly the religo-political leaderships of the under privileged minority groups have not played its role properly as it was mentioned above. This leadership also have become a part of status quo and sometimes due to their benefits they did not act accordingly in the favor of their religious community. Therefore the minorities are dispersed and unable to develop joint ventures to raise and solve their problems. Sometimes an establishment also brings forward some people as a so-called representative of the minorities in order to satisfy international community and donors. So far proper steps have not been taken either by the religo-political leaderships, institutions or by the Govt. to have proper research on the issues of the minorities. Although some Church based and other general NGOs developed the cause of the under privileged minority people but these NGOs remained still reluctant to carry out proper project of socio economic development in minority
Communities but there may be some exceptions. Which cannot be compared with overall negligence of NGOs towards the minorities.
Although this essay gives some glooming picture regarding the minorities but it is also true the minorities are doing well job in order to keep pace with the present socio economic and political scenario at national and international level playing their role in the fields of education and health etc. There are some steps and recommendations, which might be further, discussed, elaborated and implemented for the general socio economic development of the minorities for long-term purposes.
There is strong need for the minorities to be united because we see minorities are divided within the minority groups and even more in certain minority group there are further sub divisions. For example the Christian community is further divided into English and Punjabi speaking Christian especially in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi Islamabad etc. similarly Hindu minority is still divided in to the so called caste system. The majority of Hindu is not ready to accept schedule caste as a Hindu. It highlights the importance of unity among the minorities to have joint ventures for their development.
There is strong need to present the minorities positively and frequently on national media highlighting their socio economic and educational role and problems. This may be sort of awareness campaign in order to change the attitudes of the general public towards minorities.
Of course there is strong need of change in the legal system and objectionable laws, constitutional amendments must be discussed and dealt according to the demands of the minorities on the basis of the logic. First of all they must be given status of an equal citizen and secondly these certain discriminatory laws must be remove.
The religo political leadership and institutions of the minorities should also review their own situation and their religious institutions must be more organized and democratic.
The projects of social research about the socio economic conditions and problems of the minorities must be initiated by the Govt. NGOs and especially by their vary own religious institutions of the minorities to deal minority issues properly and scientifically.
There must be full religious freedom. In routine work of the state favoritism on the basis of the religion must be finished.
Govt. should make sure the full participation of the minorities in all spheres of the social life. The Govt. must denounce religious apartheid by the programs of awareness and legislation.
In order to maintain the economic rehabilitation of the religious minorities they must be given full opportunities in all kind of jobs. In this present time there are very few minority persons in public, civil and military bureaucracy. They must be inducted instead of nepotism and favoritism on the basis of religion. Especially the Hindus are not considered reliable for the armed services; there must be fair treatment of the Govt. towards them based on merit.
The quota system in jobs for the minorities should be reviewed, increased and strengthens.
Due to socio economic and political discrimination the minorities are mostly considered suitable as a sanitary worker. The majority of them are engage with this profession. They must be given proper economic facilities and job securities, their wages must be improved and safety equipment should be given to them according to need of their health safety.
Last but not least the National commission for the Rights of the indigenous and religious and all forms of minorities should be established. This should be high power administrative statute of the Govt. to overview the overall situation of the minorities and an implementation of official policies and fiscal schemes introduce the minorities. This is strong demand of the minorities, which must be fulfilled immediately. This commission should be consisted of sociologists, social workers, religious, economic and legal experts having full independence at federal and provincial level in order to cover all aspects of the minority's issues comprehensively.