After 70 years of independence, Pakistan’s religious minorities, including Christians, have been reduced to 2nd class citizens. Politically, religious minorities have a separate electoral system where they are unable to directly elect their own communities’ leaders. By law, a religious minority is unable to hold the highest political offices. This, according to many, is against the original vision of Pakistan when the country gained independence. Is there any way for Pakistan to reverse this trend and become a better country for religious minorities?
08/14/2017 Pakistan (Daily Times) – We are celebrating Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day. We have traveled a long way but, in all these years, among many other things we have not been able to decide whether Quaid-e-Azam wanted Pakistan to be an Islamic or a secular state.
Proponents of both sides have valid arguments, but we have failed to reach a unanimous agreement. We haven’t been able to establish our national narrative, an important clause of the National Action Plan against terrorism. Early this year, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to raise a consensus, but failed.
I fail to understand how and where our priorities of national interest are set. Nations that gained independence around the same time as Pakistan are doing much better than us, especially politically.
Quaid-e-Azam and his companions were enlightened and firm believers of modern democracy. But soon after the death of the Quaid, the Parliament passed a divisive Objectives Resolution and Pakistan began its journey towards an Islamic state. Many intellectuals still believe that was a mistake but nobody has tried to rectify it.
In 1973 Constitution, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made Islam our state religion. Later, Ziaul Haq cut minorities from the political mainstream and made them 2nd class citizens of the country through a separate electoral system for them. This was totally against the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision.
Religious minorities, and especially Christians who supported Quaid-e-Azam in his struggle for Pakistan, have time and again manifested their loyalty and sincerity. Post-independence they played a vital role in the development of the country, but today they feel ignored and the most vulnerable community in Pakistan.
At Independence, religious minorities were 23 percent of Pakistani population, the share has since reduced to a mere three percent. All of our prime ministers and presidents have recognized and praised minorities’ services for Pakistan, but this praise has been nothing more than political rhetoric.
Schools and colleges run by Christian missions have played a significant role in educating the Pakistani nation. Several prominent bureaucrats and politicians have been educated at such schools and colleges, which were nationalized in 1972 by the Bhutto government. Though many institutions were later returned to their original owners, there are still several Christian schools and colleges that remain under government control.
The founder of Pakistan had called for equal citizenship status for religious minorities. He even set an example by appointing Joginder Nath Mandal as the new country’s law minister and Sir Zafar Ullah Khan as its foreign minister.