Level Playing Field. By Shamim Masih

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Over past 15 years of my life, I have observed that working in a Sunni dominated country like Pakistan, on removing barriers to success like discrimination and divisions is not only hard but impossible, especially when you belong to any of the depressed community. During my career as writer, telephonic threats are a routine but recent Youhanabad unpleasant incident has brought to the level to think again the word “Pakistani Christians”. Youhanabad 2 Churches blast seems very well planned to defame Christian’s character in Pakistan. On March 15, 2015, two suicide bombers attacked two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore. I immediately planned to travel Lahore and informed my resident editor (Hanif Sabir, Daily Khabrain-Islamabad) about the incident and went to Lahore. However, I was considered absent and later was terminated from the job due to absence. The mob reaction towards those two suspects was very natural who were caught red-handed during the incident. Most media houses broadcast them that they were facilitator to those suicide bombers. However, later they were shown as innocent. It seems; it is done on certain pressure.
After this incident, the local authorities and media has proved the two suspects as innocent and tried to defame Christian character. I submitted this incident report to British Pakistani Christian Association – BPCA and Wilson Choudhry usually provides me assistance for reports. I welcome this tiny assistance because reporting on Christian affairs is my passion not assignments. BPCA financial assistance hardly meets the cost of my travelling and meal.
This Yohanabad incident has not only left the oppressed community helpless but police allegedly being detained and subjected to third-degree method without being produced in any court. Police targeted the people who have ever raised voice for the rights of the community. The list includes the names of the prominent Christian rights activists like Aslam Parvaiz Sohtra, Sohail Johnson, Joseph Francis and others. Apparently, these people have no link with the lynching. Unfortunately two Christian MPAs from PML-N helped the police identify the suspected miscreant and detain them. Aslam Parvaiz Sohtra visited me on 24th March; he was willing to arrange candle vigil in Islamabad. The very next morning, he was arrested from G-7 Islamabad and was shifted to Lahore. He is simply targeted for he was open to raise his community rights.
The reaction from the masses is not very encouraging either. The majority continue to remain apathetic to the on-going persecution of our minorities. They refuse to understand that standing up for them is a sacred duty entrusted upon us by our faith. Christians are persecuted due to their faith. The very unfortunate history of minorities in Pakistan is littered with violence and institutional discrimination at all level. We receive a “step mother love” from the land we belong to. Our patriotism is questioned and our loyalty to the country is often mingled with doubt and suspicion. In Pakistan, the history of minorities in general and Christian in particular is reddened with blood of innocents with endless catalogues of persecution.
On March 29, when I was on the way back to my home, when I was about to reach IJP road, two motorcyclists assaulted me. As soon as I fell down on the ground, both shouted to stop writing on Christian rights otherwise ready to face dire consequences. They left me affronted there; after few minutes I managed my motorbike and went to the doctor. I had injuries on my both knee and left arm with minor fracture. The doctor managed the first aid pasted plaster on left arm. Later I went to Police Station – PS I-9 and submitted an application of this incident. It is not the first time that I am being targeted because of my faith. Earlier in 2013, when I was working in my office, in the presence of other staff reporters in Daily Khabrain, Kamal Asfer, a religious extremist attacked me on the basis of different opinion. (Kamal Asfer, reportedly has close relations with Taliban group and had been working for different religious groups).
Christians find no protection of the law as their vulnerability is even exploited by the laws itself since they give room for the wide misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws, which further compounds their precariousness, disillusionment and alienation. Those Pakistanis who do speak up for Christian have themselves become targets of violence. In the midst of this ever-increasing persecution the terror-stricken Christians have no hope but to clamor for help to the government which seem to have no ears at all. In most democracies around the world, the law of the land should be the life blood for its citizens. It protects and promotes basic and fundamental right of its citizens regardless of race, religion, or any other background. However, in Pakistan, laws are more often than not used to spite the weak and the vulnerable and they often support the strong.
Laws should be equally applied to everyone, but how far government has provided protection and justice to the victims of persecution? How many of those who lynched a Christian couple Shehzad and Shama have been charged with murder or terrorism? Who among the attackers of Shanti Nagar or of Gojra and Korian and Joseph Colony has ever been prosecuted? To fully understand the two-faced nature of Pakistan's approach to justice system a recent statement of Pakistan Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar is worth to mention here. Commenting on the post Lahore Church blasts violence which saw two Muslim men burnt to death by violent Christians Nisar said: "Lynching is the worst form of terrorism."
Without doubt it is true that no one has a right to take law in its own hand and those who perpetrated this heinous crime of lynching two men should be brought to justice. Nevertheless, it is equally important to treat all citizens with justice. True rule of law does not allow any sense of alienation or stigmatization. To cap it all, no government minister attended the bereaved families of Youhanabad at the time of writing these lines. It is the first and foremost responsibility of the echelons of any state to provide legislation which serves the weak and the strong alike. They have to ensure the laws are applied equally to all citizens and that the justice system neither favor nor discriminates anyone on grounds of their religion, race and background. And equal opportunities should be given to every citizen of the country.

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