Persecution and discrimination is just a fact of life for Christians and other religious minorities living in Pakistan. Unfortunately, this persecution and discrimination now seems to be following Christians to the grave and beyond. According to Christian communities living outside of Pakistan capital, Christian graveyards are discriminated against by authorities meant to provide these spaces upkeep. In these areas, Christian graveyards are allowed to fall into disrepair, be vandalized and don’t even have proper facilities to serve the community’s needs. Muslim graveyards in the same area, kept up by the same government authority, are in excellent condition. The difference between these two graveyards? The religious identity of the communities using them.
10/7/2014 Pakistan (The Express Tribune) – Minorities in the land of green continue to face discrimination, even after death, as the capital’s Christian graveyards in sectors H-9/2 and H-9/3 stand in shambles — overlooked by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) which is responsible for their maintenance.
The graveyards were established by the civic agency in the 1980s and 2000 to facilitate the Christian community. But the authority, since then, has failed to maintain the graveyards which are not kept as the graveyards for Muslims in the area close by.
The Sector H-9/2 graveyard — spread over two acres — has a capacity of 2,000 graves but the community continues to suffer because of the unavailability of electricity and water in the facility. “How is it possible to perform burials in the current circumstances where there is no electricity and water,” questioned Arif Masih, a resident of Sector F-6, while waiting for his relative’s burial.
“I have submitted two applications in this regard to the CDA chairman requesting him to look into the matter but nothing has been done so far,” he complained.
Conditions of the second graveyard too, are not much different. The Sector H-9/3 graveyard is spread over six acres and has the capacity of 4,000 graves.
Christians question as to why their cemeteries are overlooked while Muslim graveyards in the close by sectors are properly kempt and have sufficient staff deployed for their maintenance. Despite being one of the oldest graveyards, the H-8/2 cemetery does not have a boundary wall leaving it open for animals who can enter and vandalize at will.
Pastor of Fatima Church in Sector F-8/4, Reverend Father Yousaf Amanat, expressed anger as to why the authority seemed least moved or concerned by the condition of the graveyards. “Why has the authority ignored our graveyards despite us being equal citizens of the country,” he questioned.
He argued that if the CDA could depute dozens of staffers for the Muslim graveyards why their cemeteries were treated differently.
Ashraf Bhatti, a pastor of Catholic Church G-7/2, has similar complains. “The irony is that one would only find two grave diggers in graveyards which is far fewer than what should be,” he said, adding that at times families have to wait long hours for their loved ones due to the unavailability of grave diggers.
According to Bhatti, the graveyards lack basic cleanliness with open drains running through them. “Our graveyards are as sacred as those of Muslims and are the responsibility of CDA,” he insisted.