For a country formed on the ideological foundations of providing a persecuted mass the freedom to pursue the religion they choose, Pakistan hasn’t done right by the minorities it once relied on to win its birth. Christians and Hindus were once our allies. We sat together, ate together, and worked together hoping dearly to one day create a country where we could live uninhibited by the daily uncertainties of life. Woe to you the minorities of Pakistan, it seems that certainty was just for us Muslims, not you of the less popular religions.
In her short life Pakistan has reminded time and again how minorities have no place here. The daily lives of Hindus and Christians is fraught with the same uncertainty they once hoped to avoid. They are subject to discriminatory laws, they are only given low paying jobs and at a moment’s notice they may find themselves stripped of all respect and livelihood. Mercy we never gave them because while persecuting them every day is enough, you would think we would let them celebrate the few festivals they hold dear without any fear. You would think, but for the past 70 years you would have been wrong.
Pakistan has a 2 percent Christian population and while that small figure alone might make them worthy of persecution in numbers they still amount to 4 million people!
While Christians face all the persecutions any minority faces in Pakistan, which include a lack of affirmative action as Christians can only find second or third grade jobs, these aren’t by coincidence but by design. They regularly face discrimination and at times are incriminated on the whim of a law that actively seeks to discriminate against them.
There are only two main Christian holidays which include Easter and Christmas. In the two years from 2012 to 2013 there were approximately 150 Christians killed in these festivals and just as many injured. It took a few suicide bombers, a few extremist Muslims, and in between four events and two years, 150 Christians were no more. While the Government has now tightened security and most of these festivals now routinely feature armed trucks and security guards, there is no ignoring the fact that it is a feat of extraordinary bravery for a Christian to set foot out to celebrate the events near and dear to his very being.
When Christmas however is allowed to occur uninhibited then it’s a spectacle all can admire. As the 25th of December is a holiday (not for Christmas but to celebrate the birth of Jinnah) there are normally huge processions outside Cathedrals and Churches. Spiritual seminars take place before during and after the big day and carolers go house to house to collect money. In predominantly Christian areas the area adopts a personality of its own with beautifully lit houses, streets and the all-important Christmas tree.
On Christmas eve churches are packed all through midnight. The choirs sing special songs for the big day and everyone waits for the clock to strike twelve. They return once again in the morning to celebrate with their brethren as they share the few gifts fate has yet to snatch from them. And while all this sounds amazing let’s be honest, these are the fading images of a time long gone. The crowds are smaller, more timid, walking a road they aren’t really sure they’ll get to walk again later that night.
It should be no surprise that we treat those few brave Hindus that naively decided to settle in Pakistan just as bad as we do our Christina brothers. Approximately 2% of Pakistani population is Hindu. In numbers they are no different than the Christians.
Sadly, they face an even worse plight then do the Christians. Hindus as Christians are treated as second class citizens both by the people and by policy. Neither minority has any right to hold any political position. Both are discriminated by laws specifically constructed to be biased against them. Just as many if not more Hindus have died over the years. They are routinely enforced into conversion to Islam, their women are also married off to random Muslims. Their temples are frequently attacked and vandalized and they are frequently victims of the most atrocious of attacks.It would seem however that we tend to treat Hindus slightly better than we do our Christians. The number of Hindu deaths while are toe to toe with those of the Christians but most of these deaths are further back in the short timeline of Pakistan’s existence. Either we’ve gotten better at hiding our persecution or maybe, just maybe, we’ve grown slightly more tolerant.
Hindus celebrate Diwali in grand fashion in the few places they still have some semblance of autonomy. Temples are decorated and well-lit in the five-day festival that pays homage to the Hindu god, Lakshmi. All celebrations end at daybreak, the people then visit friends, relatives and exchange sweets and gifts. During the day the local Hindus meet and share sweets and gifts among one another. The nights bring with them a more spiritual side to the event whereby people listen to seminars and preachers during the night. Pakistanis frequently are also part of these celebrations. In Peshawar for instance the number of Hindus and Muslims celebrating Diwali are virtually equal.
Who But Us
Statistically most of the hate crimes that occur in Pakistan are conducted by the Taliban forces or extremist Muslims. Sadly, that’s only half the truth. Fact is while the actual transgressions are in fact frequently carried out by these men it’s not just them that threaten to take the liberties of Pakistan’s minorities.
The system at large is designed both intentionally and unintentionally in a way that persecutes all non-Muslims. Minorities have no political power, they have no job security and the jobs they receive are those reserved for the lowest classes of society. These aren’t mere coincidences but design choices. The majority of illiterate Muslims fully support all transgressions against minorities, all that’s needed to motivate them are two simple words, “blasphemy law”. The Government offers them no safety nets. They are left to fend for themselves in a country where they’re surrounded from all corners by men who don’t honestly need a lot of motivation to take their lives.
And even the educated elite of Pakistan can’t step in to help. The educated elite apathetic men and women of Pakistan don’t care. Or they might care but fact is they can’t risk their necks to support a dying cause. Salman Taseer was one such man who openly defended a Christian and was gunned down by his own guard. Taseer’s nobility ceased to exist while his assassin was hailed as a hero. It’s plain stupidity to rise against the indoctrinated masses. It’s impossible to rise against a people who will kill motivated by a misguide sense of nobility. But in our pragmatism we remain voiceless and contribute to the growing oppression.
The Obstacles of Change
In creating Pakistan, it seems we never really changed the cultural script we intended to, nor did we bring the change we wanted. All we really did was transfer the hate from one minority to another. Different country, same result.
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