Rights of Minorities in Pakistan. By Ifrah Siddique


“We live in such an ideologically, insecure country hell-bent on maintaining our brand as Islamic Republic that we undercount and under-report the percentage of Minorities in our census. There is a barrier, the size of the Great Wall of China that prevents Minorities from becoming successful citizens in Pakistan.”
Good Afternoon Ladies and gentlemen! I am Ifrah Siddique. Iam the student of O levels in St. Anthony’s High School. Today I am here in this Youth Festival to deliver a debate on the topic “RIGHTS OF MINORITIES IN PAKISTAN”.
All people who are sitting here are well-educated and I hope you’ll understand me as a well-educated person can bring improvements in the society. I hope you’ll listen to me patiencely.
Minorities or more specifically Christian community has played a vital role in the creation of Pakistan. But from the history of Pakistan we come to know that Christians are always deprived off their rights.
From 1947 to the mid 1990’s the governments of Pakistan were largely secular in policy and judgment .However with Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation and forced implementation of Islamic Shariah law in Pakistan marginalized the Christian minorities and caused intense persecutions. With the governments of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul-Haq more stringently Islamic laws transformed Pakistan. In 1971 East Pakistan became independent as Bangladesh and a large chunk of Pakistan’s Hindus and Christians were de-linked from Pakistan. Pakistan became a culturally monolithic, increasingly Islamic state with smaller religion minorities than ever!!
Quaid-e-Azam in his address to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th August 1947, he said: “You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques and to any other place. “With the passage of the Objective Resolution the fate of minorities in this country was sealed forever and the dream of the state envisaged in Quaid-e-Azam 11th August 1947 speech has died!
The fact is that there are no minority rights in Pakistan! From Shantinaghar to Gojra the history of this land is full of the murders of the minorities at the heads of the self-proclaimed righteous guardians of religious boundaries. In a country where sectarian terrorism consumed thousands of lives and minorities have been forced to live in fear, Article 20 is nothing but hollow words.
Minorities have been increasingly victimized since the creation of Pakistan up till now!
In the 1990’s some Christians were arrested on charges of blasphemy and for protesting that appeared to insult Islam. John Joseph a bishop in Faisalabad committed suicide to protest the execution of a Christian man on blasphemy charges.
On 9th August, 2002 Muslim gun men threw grenades into a Chapel on the grounds of Taxila Christians Hospital.
On 25th September, 2002 an unidentified Muslim gun man shot dead six people at a Christian charity in Karachi’s central business district.
On 25th December, 2002 Muslims gun men tossed a grenade into a Presbyterian Church during a Christian sermon in Chainwala.
In November 2005, 3000 militant Islamists attacked Christian in Sangla Hills in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic Church, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian Churches.
On 5th June 2006, a Church and Christian’s homes were attacked in a village. Three Christians were seriously injured.35 Muslims burnt buildings and desecrated Holy Bibles.
In July, 2008 a Muslim mob stormed a Protestant Church during a prayer service.
The 2009 Gojra riots were a series of violent programs against Christian minorities by Muslims. These resulted in the death of eight Christians including four women and one child.
Amidst the outrage over the sentencing to death of Aasia Bibi, a 45 year old mother of five, over charges of blasphemy that seem difficult to prove and have triggered a debate on the blasphemy law itself! What has been conveniently ignored is the fact that the said incident occurred after some people refused to drink water brought by Aasia Bibi, considering it to be impure. Ironically it is socially acceptable that people belonging to the poor Christians community are treated despicably, considered unhygienic, and called names such as “CHOORA” regardless of their actual profession.
A few years ago, the Capital Development Authority had put up a banner on the Islamabad Expressway invitation the Christian community to apply for janitorial jobs vacant at CDA. Historically Christians from poor background have served as janitors and cleaners and many continue to do so whilst fighting social Injustice. But for a government department to declare the janitorial jobs solely reserved for Christians is disgusting! Our society tolerates, accepts and practices shameful abominable and repulsive behavior every day, all in the name of Religion! My head hangs in shame!
On 4th January, 2011 one of governor Punjab Salman Taseer bodyguard’s Malik Mumtaz Qadri shot him 27 times with a gun. Qadri reportedly said that he killed Taseer due to latter’s vocal opposition to the blasphemy law in Pakistan. Taseer was against the blasphemy law and termed it as BLACK LAW! Notably Taseer made headlines when he favored the Christian Pakistani woman Aasia Bibi. It is suspected that this was the main reason for his assassination.
My words fail to express the feeling of horror and grief when minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed. He as well favored Aasia Bibi. He was killed by Muslim extremists who believed that his liberal outlook posed a threat to the standing of their Prophet.

Shahbaz Bhatti recorded after receiving death threats, he said “He would continue speaking for the oppressed and marginalized persecuted Christians and that he was ready to die for cause.”
The questions now are how many more will stand defiantly as he and Salman Taseer did, and what hope remains in Pakistan for religious minorities to live without fear?
The answers are very few and little..
It is understood and obvious that in Pakistan the laws of Islam should be enforced. In a Muslim state there is no place for Anglo-Saxon or the laws of the Holy Bible. Laws of Islam do not harm non-Muslims because Islam protect the rights of non-muslims.It is written in Surah-ul-Maida verse 82 that “YOU WILL FIND THE NEAREST OF THEM IN AFFECTION TO THE BELIVERS WHOS SAY “WE ARE CHRISTIANS” ,THAT IS BECAUSE AMONG THEM ARE PRIESTS AND MONKS AND BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT ARROGANT”
Islam seeks to establish such a society where all citizens of the state enjoy equal rights and religion does not become the basis for any discrimination. Islamic Law holds both Muslims and Non-Muslims equal and no superiority or privilege is given to the Muslims on any ground.
The 11-year rule of Islamisation has changed our attitudes, ideologies and beliefs immensely.
Christians along with other non-Muslims are barred from becoming the President or Prime-minister. Furthermore they are barred from being judges in the Federal Shariat Court which has the power to strike down any law deemed Un-Islamic.
For years now minorities have demanded a change to the law and yet the government has failed to do anything! Either it has no interest in the suffering of minorities or it is too scared of the extremists to show any!!
Islam espouses values of universal brotherhood, tolerance, mutuality, peaceful co-existence ordaining its followers to be the source of peace for people around them.
As Quaid-e-Azam said that “you are free to go to your temples and mosques” but the tragedy of Pakistan is that Jinnah’s vision never came to pass and the tolerance he sought has become a capital offence!!
Although Pakistan is called Mumlikat-e-Khudadad which means a land given by God but minorities are insecure in this land which is given to us by God. Minorities are always seen as a sign of disrespect which is a very bad behavior because God gave us this land but we are not Given our rights.
Anyhow it is a collective duty of the Muslims to protect and safeguard the life, honor and property of the Non-Muslims living in a Muslim state.
The white strip in the Pakistani flag represents the Non-Muslims and minority religion groups in Pakistan. But majority religion group do not even care for it and deprive the minorities off their rights.
But still we minorities hope for the best and one day we hope to see a Pakistan which will not differentiate between caste, creed and religion as was promised by Quaid.
In the end I would like to say that “ I am involved in a freedom ride, protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demand is our right to twinkle”
And that “the most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by the minorities.
(Ifrah Siddique is student of St. Anthony School who delivered this speech in Youth Talent Festival 2012, held in Ewan-e-Iqbal, Lahore, Pakistan. She secured 3rd Prize on this speech where student from all over Punjab Province participated)

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