Pakistan’s Religious Minorities Still Waiting for Security and Equality
Pakistan’s religious minority communities, including Christians, are still waiting for their country to provide them with security and equality. For more than 70 years, religious minorities in Pakistan have faced escalating persecution. When the country was formed in 1947, religious minorities comprised 20% of the country’s population. Now, due to minorities seeking refuge abroad, religious minorities only make up 3%. Faced with the threats of biased blasphemy laws, forced conversions to Islam, and targeting by extremist groups, will the day soon come where there are no religious minorities left in Pakistan?
01/26/2018 Pakistan (Open Democracy) – Since the birth of Pakistan, religious minorities have been demanding safety and equal rights. Though government officials promise time and again to take necessary measures to protect them, injustices and persecution are ongoing.
Just a week ago, five Hazara (ethnic minority) Shia Muslim were killed by extremists. Recently, in two different incidents, two young Christian boys were killed in Punjab province, Pakistan’s most populous region. Just a week before Christmas, on 17 December, 4 suicide bombers from ISIS attacked a church in Quetta, Baluchistan Province. They killed at least nine Christian men, women, and children, and wounded 56 others. On 9 October, Arslan Masih, who was 14-year-old, was beaten to death by six policemen in Sheikhupura. And, on 27 August, Sharoon, 17, was killed in the classroom by his classmate in Vehari. According to Sharoon’s mother, her son was killed because of his Christianity. He was warned against drinking from a glass used by Muslim students who called him a ‘choora’ (a derogatory term which often used for Christians in Pakistan).
Pakistan is an Islamic country, which was arrived on the world map on 14 August 1947. When British rulers left the Indian subcontinent, they divided the region into two independent states: India and Pakistan – created as a state for subcontinent Muslims. According to Pakistan’s constitution, non-Muslims are considered a minority, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, Kalash, Zoroastrians, and so on. At the time of partition, they constituted 20% of the total population. Today, however, minorities constitute only 3% of Pakistan’s 207 million people because of their continual emigration. According to government statistics, almost 97% of Pakistanis are Muslim – about 80 percent Sunni and nearly 20 percent Shia.
Hindus are the country’s largest minority, and around 80% live in Sindh province. They carry the burden of historical prejudice. They face land-grabbing, attacks, and kidnapping. Forced conversions, temple desecration, rape, and murder are also reported regularly. Christians are the second major minority community across the country, and about 80%live in Punjab province. They are the poorest section of society and often falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam and face constant violence. During just the first two weeks of 2016, five attacks on churches and Christians were reported by the media.
“Violence against minority groups is deeply embedded within political and social processes in Pakistan,” said Umair Javed, a columnist for Dawn, a liberal Pakistani newspaper. Sadly, many Pakistanis portrayed Hindus as enemies, and Christians as agents of the West. Both communities are also considered infidels, which makes their position more vulnerable.
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