Pakistan’s Christian community is seeking greater influence and acceptance in the country’s Muslim-majority society. Making up only 1.5% of the country’s total population, Christians make up the country’s largest religious minority community. Recently, Pakistan conducted its first census in 19 years, all results have been release, except those pertaining to the size of the religious minority communities. This exception falls within a pattern of discrimination in which religious minorities are squeezed out of political influence. Currently, religious minorities are given 10 seats in the country’s legislative body, the same number of seats set aside at the founding of the country even though the legislative body has expanded the number of total seats significantly. Will Pakistan allow Christians and other religious minorities to participate in the future of the country?
11/27/2017 Pakistan (World Watch Monitor) – Pakistan conducted its first census in 19 years in July. All the results have now been released, except those on religious minorities. The government has provided no explanation.
On 22 November a small group of protesters, mostly Christians, gathered outside the Press Club in Lahore, the major city in Pakistan’s Punjab province, threatening to protest every day until the data is released and to take the matter to the Supreme Court if it isn’t released before Christmas.
Pakistan was founded in 1947 as a homeland for Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, who were back then a minority and were socially and economically behind the Hindu majority. The country is a republic with Islam its state religion. Religious minorities, including Christians, make up only 3 to 5 per cent of the total 207 million-strong population, but their citizenship and even political representation in assemblies are highly contested topics – non-Muslims are prevented by law from becoming the Prime Minister or President.
Meanwhile Pakistan has the most notorious blasphemy laws in the world – and they have been used disproportionately against religious minorities. Pakistani Christians make up only 1.5 per cent of the total population, but over a quarter (187) of the 702 blasphemy cases registered between 1990 and 2014 were against Christians.
Pattan, the non-governmental organization that organized the protest outside the Press Club, held a consultation on the same day at Lahore’s Hospitality Inn, titled ‘Shrinking Political Space for Minorities’.
At the consultation, Government College University Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Hassan Amir Shah stressed the need to review school textbooks to provide students with a balanced worldview.
“Academics and scholars are consulted but in the end of the day it is the state machinery which decides the future of the country,” he said.
Punjab Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Amir Zulfiqar Khan said the biggest challenge facing police is making Pakistan’s large Muslim majority realize the non-Muslim minority are equally Pakistani citizens. He added that, contrary to what most people believe, incidents of violence against minorities are mostly sporadic, unplanned and uncoordinated, and that often they are motivated by vested interests. He also said that the number of communal attacks on religious minorities has decreased in recent years.