The calamitous reality of the situation can no longer be denied; nor can we hide behind political correctness whilst the ideals and principles Pakistan was founded upon go up in ruins. Pakistan has indeed become a dangerous place for minorities. The Quaid’s nation – which was supposed to be a free and safe haven for all to live in peace – has had blood spilt for decades.
In the past twenty years, over 4,000 people have been killed due to sectarian violence. We are reminded of this on every occasion dear to minorities.
Take the recent attacks on Shiites – after the grim attacks on Ashura, we are now reeling from attacks this past Friday that killed even more, tore the lives apart of hardworking Pakistanis.
Take the frightful national attitude towards Ahmadis. There are laws in place that would deny an Ahmadi a Pakistani passport. There are televangelists, like Aamir Liaqat and scores like him, who declare the murder of an Ahmadi to be perfectly Islamic. Is anyone therefore truly shocked when there are Ahmadis killed after this holy decree?
Take the recent case of a 12-year old Christian girl Shazia Masih. This child, already a victim of the shackles of generational poverty, was beaten, tortured and finally murdered by her employer, a wealthy Muslim lawyer. The police initially did not want to investigate the charges filed by Shazia’s family! Look what we have become…a nation where we do not even respect the basic human rights of our people!
As Huma Yusuf points out in her Dawn article , we can look to the opinion-makers and trendsetters to see where this is coming from and where it gains momentum.
Indeed, intolerance is very much a characteristic of Pakistani society, a fact obvious to anyone who follows the media. Take, for instance, the highly sensationalised, racist jibe at Senator Babar Ghauri by Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan. Khan resorted to racism as a response to Ghauri’s accusation that he had an illegitimate child. But the ease with which he opted for the race card — and the resounding applause that met his comment — indicates that intolerance is thriving here.
Khan’s one-off insult cannot, however, compare with the consistent intolerance preached by other prominent personalities. Pakistani bloggers have made much of self-proclaimed strategic analyst Zaid Hamid’s Wake Up Pakistan campaign, which is explicitly anti-India. Although the campaign calls for an “ideological revolution” that restores the Muslim identity of the Pakistani state, Hamid’s dream of Radio Pakistan broadcasting from New Delhi has come to symbolise the no-compromises attitude of this particular movement.
What can be said of a nation where these men have a respected platform and their calls for racism, sectatianism, military takeovers are met with wild applause?
The fact is, Imran Khan and Zaid Hamid are not isolated individuals. They are demonstrative e of the national of “us versus them” mentality. Them, of course, refers to the Ahmadis, Shiites, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, et al.
This is a reality that should break the heart of every true Pakistani.
We do not respect personal choices. We do not allow for individuality. We do not accept minorities (be they women or people with different religions) as having human rights. We do not believe in common decency.
In order to stop our county from spiraling downwards, we have to create and maintain a grassroots movement for tolerance while our political leaders call for fair treatment and brotherhood. Only with a concerted effort can Pakistan live up the Quaid’s vision.