Peace interventions ratio in Pakistan is always disproportional in the supply and demand. Pakistani society is gradually dipping into disharmony and going awry as demand increases and supply is less than its required level. Pakistan is unable to achieve its desired status in the comity of nations despite having good natural and human resources; the reason is that there is injustice at the heart of all its systems and levels.
Pakistani Christians appear to have thrown some of their political support to Nawaz Sharif in the May 11 election, even although they have reason to be wary of his return to power. During the campaign Nawaz Sharif promised that his party would give equal rights to minorities, including Christians. The PML-N even took the unusual step of thanking minority voters for their support. There could be unbelievable positive change for the Christians because the way Shahbaz Sharif rehabilitated Christian’s families of Joseph Colony, which was attacked by Muslims protesters in March this year, and have changed Christians’ view about Sharif’s party. If so, the PML-N will have to overcome a history that Christians find worrisome.
The Taliban, in turn, have close connections with Islamic militant organizations, including Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan- SSP, a banned terrorist organization, which has been targeting minority-Muslim Ahmedis and Shias, as well as Christians. The SSP still operates in Punjab province under a new name, Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, which reportedly has struck a bargain with Sharif's party for some of the PML-N seats in the Punjab provincial government.
During the time in power in the 1990 – 93, the PML-N included the fundamentalist Islamic group Jamat-e-Islami in its coalition government. We have experienced that PML-N tried to bring Islamic laws in the country in its last ruling tenure. The majority of Christians are not optimistic about Sharif’s government because of their religious approach and close linkages with fundamentalist groups, said Sajid Ishaq, central President PTI, minorities’ wing.
The PML-N history of ruling over Punjab province is marked by several episodes of anti-christian violence. The village Shantinagar, 1997, seven Christians were burned alive in Gojra in 2009, attacked on Christians in Khokharki, Gujranwala in 2011 and most recent riots in Joseph Colony in 2013.
Albert David, Chairman Pakistan United Christian Movement, whilst commenting on the current situation said that the mandate given to PML- N is an opportunity for the government to bridge the widening gap between the state and Pakistani Non Muslims, especially Christians. Devising of Standard Operating Procedures and ensuring that they followed religiously by the law enforcement agencies while dealing with any case of blasphemy could be one of the many confidence building measures (CBMs). This would ensure that the law is only applied to preserve its real spirit and sanctity and not to settle personal vendettas, which at times affects people from all faiths, including Muslims. Apart from this dealing with some of the other political issues including electoral system, census (to determine exact population of Christians), denationalization of Christian institutes and revitalization National Commission for Minorities could be some of the other CBMs.
Blasphemy laws are widely criticized as it being misused by Muslims trying to settle scores and extort property, but are also popular with ordinary citizens. Blasphemy law is one of the major causes of the Christians’ troubles in Pakistan, especially in the Punjab province. Basharat Khokhar, who had been falsely charged with blasphemy in 2008, doesn’t expect Sharif to change or review it now.
“The religious-fanatics are responsible for the tense situation of Christians in Pakistan, and this nothing to do with the government,” said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, Ex- MPA and social rights activist. “This is big challenge, if Mian Nawaz Sharif does not take any practical step in favor of Christians to protect them from extremists, the situation would be worse, he added.
If Mian Nawaz Sharif wanted to bring some changes for Pakistani Christians; here are few recommendations:
1- Census: Christians are the biggest minority in the country, while Election Commission of Pakistan – ECP has declared them 2nd biggest minority. Christians are living in every corner of the country and Hindus majority living in Sindh province. So census can give you the exact figure.
2- Election not Selection for the minorities: It is beseeched that PML-N, while honoring its commitment must include minorities in every walk of field and give dual voting rights to minorities so they may express their will and elect their representatives. Selections of minority candidates are totally at major parties disposal, which is not true representation. PML-N has been given a heavy mandate and religious minorities stood with Nawaz Sharif so he must draw parameters to bring their true representation in the parliament. If PML-N doesn’t take initiative it may means that the government has certainly given clear message that minorities are still not emancipated and are the second grade citizen, which is disenchanting and disheartening.
3- Equal representation in the legislative body: Christian community in particular has been targeted and internationally ostracized in the past. Even in the present government the representation of Christians in the National Assembly at reserved seats in not in accordance with their population. Christians who are in majority among minorities communities of Pakistan are reduced to 3 out of 10 reserved seats in NA. Such a representation of minority community on reserved seats at national level has caused serious apprehension among the Christian community who find it beyond any justification.
4- Restoration of Ministry of Minority Affairs: It sounds good that PML-N declare Kamran Michael as Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping but he is not representing the religious minorities neither would be in position to solve their issues. The PPP government has accommodated them creating the Ministry for National Harmony, which is merged into Ministry for Religious Affairs. How would you think that a person have long beard, Muslim rigid mind set can represent other religious minorities? This may be a tough one for Nawaz Sharif, and I am pretty sure if he is really serious to show his love for religious minorities, as he mentioned during his election campaign. It is very important for all religions of Pakistan whether Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and Parsis to live in peace. Shia and Sunnis and other Muslim sects need to exist in harmony.
5- Denationalize Christians’ institutions: The Missionary schools, Colleges and Hospitals were nationalized during ZA Bhutto regime. During the Parvez Musharraf government few institutions were denationalized so it would be a token of gesture to Christians, the denationalization of rest of the missionary schools, colleges and hospitals in Punjab province.
It is not worthy that if the democratic process in any state has to be checked than one must look at how their minorities are treated. No society can aspire to call itself democratic if it systematically excludes specific groups from the full protection of the laws, provision of equal rights and opportunities.