The protection of racial and religious minorities from the excesses of the majority racial or religious group in the form of either persecution or discrimination on any account has been codified universally. In a civilized society, the people have to respect the religious and political freedom of all races and creeds, however, small in numbers they may be. In short, the protection of minorities has been guaranteed and the countries like Pakistan, where communal riots are a common feature, are not held in high esteem anywhere in the world.
It is very unfortunate that our track record of providing due protection to the minorities of this country from the ever looming threat of religious zealots has been extremely poor. This has run counter to the advice of the father of this nation. After the birth of Pakistan, it was made clear that the minorities will have their individual and collective freedom of exercising their religious beliefs/rites in that the Christians will be free to go to their churches, Hindus to their temples and Jews to their synagogues. Later, the religious zealots took over and the situation began worsening. By and large, it became a nightmare.
The politicians, by nature, have always an axe to grind and if the religious bigotry helps their cause, they won’t miss the opportunity of fomenting it and then utilizing it to their advantage if they can. In the earlier days, anti-Qadiani agitation ignited by some self-seeking politicians proved disastrous. A peculiar case in point could be that of Salman Taseer. He was not a member of any minority group but fell a victim to religious persecution when he was killed because of his affiliation with PPP. Otherwise had Rana Sanaullah said the same thing Gov. Taseer had said, nothing would have happened. Religious sentiments were exploited. I say this from experience because I come from a remote area where communal frenzy is always very high. Benazir was branded infidel on the pulpits with full religiosity. This led to her ultimate assassination and investment in it came from the interested quarters.
What has happened to the minorities like Shias, Christians and Qadianis is in everybody’s knowledge. The villages of Christians have been ransacked. The religious places of Shias have come under sniper fire in which even the children were not spared and, to quote an incident from the recent past, one of the mosques of Qadianis was attacked in broad daylight in the heart of Lahore wherein nearly 30 persons died during the congregational prayers of Friday including some prominent members of the community. They showed the remarkable courage of refusing to file an FIR when asked to do so by the Government agencies. This was a slap straight in the face of those whose favorite pastime is to trigger of such an act of bestial ferocity to satisfy their brutal religious compulsions. It was most shameful to see such a staggering loss of human lives at the hands of those who had lost their way because of a warped religious vision. To cite a quote from Democritus “a man should feel more shame in doing an evil before himself than before all the world”. But we refused to heed to this excellent piece of advice. On the contrary, I even heard people rejoicing and appreciating this carnage.
Who is aiding and abetting this religious rage? There are many groups standing on the sidelines and encouraging the disruptive elements. One of these outfits is Difa-e-Pakistan Council for which Sh. Rashid is most vocal and playing a contributory part in promoting the communal fury, the victims of whose wrath are only the minorities. What is most disappointing is that an enlightened person like Imran Khan is throwing his weight on the side of these people, little knowing that religious groups like Difa-e-Pakistan Council are, in fact, the hotbed of communal riots and persecution of minorities. Sh. Rashid has nothing to lose. He has been rejected twice by the people of Rawalpindi and is trying to resurrect himself from the depths of political obscurity. Imran Khan has every thing to lose if he continues entertaining people like Sh. Rashid and Difa-e-Pakistan Council. I am a great admirer and well-wisher of the great Khan and would advise him to keep Sh. Rashid at a distance instead of closely associating with him. The time has come to put the last nail in the coffin of this clown from Rawalpindi in the coming elections and dispatch him to the dustbin of history to be forgotten forever. Imran Khan should play cool and distance himself from the extremists in the larger interests of the minorities of this country.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org