Voiceless Minorities in Pakistan

Shamim Masih, can be reached at "shamimpakistan@gmail.com"
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ISLAMABAD: Most of the time I had to dispute the generalizations people made about Christians (they can’t read or write, they are usually dark, present dark picture of Pakistan in the west etc), or that time when I met through work very casually call “choora” (a derogatory term used for Christians in Pakistan) and thought nothing of it. But I think these are all example of ignorance rather than persecution or discrimination – an ignorance that has been encouraged by the state, the clergy and the education system, but ignorance nonetheless.

Usually government officials claim and laud the protection and safety measures taken to protect the religious minorities in Pakistan. But the ground realities are totally different. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of minorities’ rights but I do have experience of living as member of a religious minority in this country, which I think can count for something.

Honestly speaking, I am one of the lucky Christians. I have had some of the opportunities at least, and faced few challenges that shape the lives and experiences of people of other Christians living in Pakistan. Though I went to the school and college where I was forced to study Islamiat; but into a job market leaving few odd incidents I faced where employers do discriminate on the bases of faith.

Killing of the sitting Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti in the broad daylight in the Capital. Other than the stories that mark the headlines: Joseph Colony burning, twin blasts in the Peshawar and Youhanabad Churches, the burning of Shama and Shehzad in the brick kiln and countless others. Nothing can mask the ugliness of these travesties, but it is the petty instances of discrimination when government played double role while knowing the services of minorities’ individuals.

For those who claim that religious minorities are enjoying all kinds of rights and liberties in Pakistan and mention Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius as Chief Justice of Pakistan and quote the bravery of Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry during the wars of 1965 and 1971. But forget that the same Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry was appointed as ambassador to Norway during the President Musharaf era and was stopped at the airport and bounced back his appointment due his faith and was replaced by a Muslim ambassador. And what was done with a cricketer Yousaf Youhana, he was reportedly force to convert to Islam. And most recently a famous Christian poet Nazeer Qaiser was nominated for the presidential award but at the last time, reportedly, his name was dropped and another blue eyed person was finalized. Is this PML-N’s merit to award highest achievement awards?

With discrimination happening at every level of society, from the allotment of government jobs where the so-called five per cent job quota for minorities is often totally  ignored and manipulated, to the petty incidents of hatred and intolerance that see all around us.

Perhaps, it would make more sense if the government took on the task of creating a more tolerant society (cracking down on hate literature is one good initiative, but it require implementation and follow-ups). We, as individuals, could do the same by re-examining our attitude towards others and create examples of love, justice and fair play.

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