August 11th is National Minorities Day in Pakistan, drawing its name from Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s famous speech in 1947, in which he vowed that every citizen of the new nation would be able to freely practice his religion; “… that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.
Pakistan, however, has reversed all those pledges made to its minority communities. These days August 11 is simply an occasion for regurgitating platitudes and putting on a tableau of hollow gestures for non-Muslim communities in Pakistan.
On August 11th, President Arif Alvi addressed representatives of non-Muslim communities and cut a cake at a ceremony to mark National Minorities Day. Ironically, none of the guests could ever aspire to Mr. Alvi’s office, nor even to the second highest, that of prime minister. The Constitution of Pakistan only allows Muslims to attain these positions.
As an editorial in Dawn noted “The grievances of minority communities are well-founded. Time and again, instead of proactive measures to uphold their right to religious freedom, they have been offered tokenism and empty promises. Under pressure from right-wing clerics, who cannot explain why those who convert to the majority faith are nearly always minor girls or women of marriageable age, legislators have more than once rejected a much-needed law to stop forced conversions and put in place procedural delays against impulsive conversions. Law enforcers have themselves been found involved in the destruction of places of worship of a minority community, part of a drive to intensify persecution against it. When the state becomes party to religious discrimination, the social fabric begins to fray, making it easier for malign elements to exploit divisions. Let alone a celebration of diversity, even tolerance is in short supply in Pakistan today.”