Hopes were high when Jinnah presided over the Constituent Assembly in 1947 and declared without doubt that freedom of religion was to be respected. It was his wish to lift up the economic and politically deprived Muslims from their backwardness that led to the support of many non-Muslim minority activists as well, notably Christians. In a time where major Muslim political groupings allied themselves with the Indian National Congress, the Christians in their legislation secured Jinnah the desired support the All India Muslim League needed.
His close friends and those amongst the founding fathers of Pakistan also belonged to minority groups. The first Law Minister Jogendra Nath Mandal is a Hindu from Bengal; his secretary and later the Chief Justice of Pakistan Alvin Robert Cornelius belonged to the Catholic Church. The long time, highly admired Foreign Minister Mr Muhammad Zafrullah Khan belonged to the Ahmadi sect. In addition, Jinnah himself belonged to the Shia denomination and many of the top leaders of the Pakistan movement were from the Shia, Ismaili and Ahmadi camps.
Mandal and Zafrullah Khan became quite disillusioned after Jinnah’s death when the Constituent Assembly went to declare the newborn country an Islamic state, limiting its leadership only to be preserved for Muslims. Both, and especially Mandal, became quite vocal in advocating the need for a secular nation, which is what Jinnah had meant it to be. Their voice fell to deaf ears, Mandal was pushed aside and had to leave his ministry. His resignation letter paints a gloomy picture of how violence against Hindus was neglected and the authorities failed to catch the culprits.
Why should Pakistani Christians, who are as proud of this country and are involved as bravely in its struggle for freedom, economy and defense suffer here for the deeds of what the US is doing in Iraq or Afghanistan? Why should our Hindu community, an entrepreneur’s class who pay their taxes just as any other, suffer because Hindu extremists in India preach hatred and indulge in communal violence? And should it even be mentioned how badly mistreated the Ahmadi’s are on our soil.
Christians and Hindus both make up about 2.5 million individuals each. The latter, although, has for the last three decades fled the country with an average of 10 families moving to India each month. Imagine our own family members being harassed, kidnapped for ransom, raped or converted by force. It is of national disgrace that our federal and provincial authorities fail to realise and accept that such occurrences are frequent.
Merely allocating mandatory seats in the parliament or involving one or two names representing minorities on the electoral list does not provide security or safety to our religious minorities. Our brave civil society and the local neighbourhoods’, who do care, can do nothing when all these factors are against them.
Those behind these gruesome acts are not unknown. The most militant of them are these days touring the country under the banner of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, together with several political parties. Its militant members, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Jamaatud Daawa all have an ugly record of several thousand innocent Pakistani civilian lives. They have openly embraced the Taliban and denounced the military operations taking place to curb terrorism caused by such fascist groups. Most importantly, this group fails to condemn violence on minorities in the country. And if they do address this issue, they blame it on ‘foreign elements’.
The reality is that, when deciding between a rally, which is given media attention, even if it spews hatred, and to protect minorities, our dear leaders reject the latter. And if they occasionally do say, as Nawaz Sharif so boldly said that, Ahmadis are our brethren as well, then all hell breaks loose from the self-declared protectors of this ‘citadel of Islam’.
And then we have the silent media, more specifically TV shows and news channels.
How often do they report that women are converted to Islam by force?
It does not help for those defenders of faith, to recite the verses of Quran, preaching tolerance or freedom of religion, when the ground realities are quite the opposite. The fact is that our minorities fear for their lives, their faith and their children’s safety. Imagine living such a life!
Pakistan is, sadly, ranked amongst the worst states for minorities to reside in; the others being Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Congo-Kinshasa. The UN Minority Rights Group (MRG) publishes a yearly report of dreadful statistics about incidents that have occurred during the year in Pakistan relating to violence against minorities.
There are many theories on what the ideology of Pakistan is; the most popular theory, which was quite unknown as long as Jinnah was alive, is that the country was created and destined to be an Islamic state. The ground reality, although that was the driving force, behind the Pakistan movement was the fight for the rights of minorities.
Jinnah believed in Hindu-Muslim unity, but was disaffected when the Nehru dominated camp in the Indian National Congress refused to agree on separate electorates for minorities. One thing led to the other, and we had an outcome which divided the subcontinent.
The main essence is that Pakistan was created to protect the minorities of India. And hence, the ideology of Pakistan is to protect its minorities in order to prove its existence. Our mere existence on the map is not to be the eternal enemy of India, or to have influence in Kabul, it is merely to protect our minorities. If they are well, all is well. If they are threatened, then we have failed. And at our current standing, we have failed Jinnah and Pakistan miserably.
At the end of the day, in one way or another, we are all minorities. If it is not religion, then ethnicities divides us, and if not that, then language, culture, tribe, cast and creed is always there. But when anyone of our countrymen, no matter what religion they have, travels to a foreign country, they are only known as Pakistani. We need to realise that being Pakistani, in its essence means equality.