Islamic fundamentalism is at the helm in Pakistan. Very rapidly moving towards accomplishment of the concept of homeland of Muslims, this country has gone so far that it has nothing to do with the protection of the lives of people who follow religions and beliefs other than Islam. Today, Pakistan’s minority population lives in an atmosphere of constant fear and disdain. Various organs of governance play the role of an executive in this process of harassment. Today in Pakistan, Hindus are forced to live a cursed life, and their lives are always at risk. On a mere basis of doubts and rumours, the houses and business establishments of Hindus are burnt, their religious places are vandalised & destroyed and the number of such incidents are increasing day by day.
What was the Issue?
On September 14 in a similar incident, widespread violence erupted in the town of Ghotki after an FIR was filed against one Notal Mal, who is the principal of Sindh Public School, by 14-year old student Abdul Aziz, alleging that the principal had committed blasphemy. The case was filed by local police under Article 295-C that pertains to ‘derogatory remarks in respect of the Prophet — of the Pakistan Penal Code, and accused the principal of committing blasphemy on the school’s premises.
And after this, the violent mob ransacked three temples, a school and multiple houses belonging to the Hindu community. Religious groups and organisations called for a shutter down strike in the wake of the incident. All business centres in Ghotki remained closed on September 15. Several videos of stick-wielding protesters had gone viral on social media, in which they were seen desecrating a Hindu temple and damaging the school where the incident occurred. However, authorities deployed contingents of law enforcement agencies and paramilitary forces to control the situation, but Hindu community is in panic. As soaring tensions and vulnerability of the minority community was pointed out by activists on social media.
Ghotki Witnessed another Heinous Crime
In a similar incident, also related to Ghotki, another stark hate crime against a Hindu medical student, who was found dead in Larkana city of Sindh province was seen. A final year student of Bibi Asifa Dental College in Larkana, Namrita Chandani, was found dead in her hostel room on September 16, just two days after the incident of vandalising Ghotki. Chandani belonged to Mirpur Mathelo, a taluka of Ghotki, Chandani was found lying on a ‘charpai’ with a rope tied to her neck while her room was locked from inside. But local police said it was too early to say whether she had committed suicide or had been murdered. However, her family has alleged that Chandani was killed because she was a minority.
Reactions: Mere Crocodile Tears!
Government and leaders of political parties of Pakistan talk a lot on these issues, but no one works. And on this occasion too, a farce played in the Assembly of Pakistan. During the National Assembly session, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and Ex. Federal Minister Khawaja Asif said the Hindu community has a lot of concerns over the Ghotki incident. It is our duty to provide security to the minorities against harassment. They are loyal Pakistanis.” Whereas State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs M. Ali Khan said, “All Pakistanis are equal in the eyes of the government,” and he vowed that the federal government would fulfil its responsibility, saying securing rights and ensuring safety of the people of Pakistan was the state’s responsibility, “though the Ghotki lies within the Sindh government’s jurisdiction”. These are only evasive statements, mere eyewash. No action has ever been taken in Pakistan’s record till date on these kinds of atrocities against Hindus.
Plights of Hindus
At the time of Partition, in the overall population about 10℅ Hindus were in West Pakistan, now they are less than 1%, so the data speaks for itself. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports are also eye-opener. Hardly, anyone from minority has a chance to rise to prominence in Pakistan. They are supposed to live under compulsions, compromises, agony and distrust.
Non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are treated as unequal and second-rate citizens, and a form of religious apartheid occurred here since Independence. The Constitution of Pakistan and laws and regulations are overwhelmingly preferential to those who adhere to Islam, which is proclaimed as the State Religion, and Muslim population enjoyed a privileged status. Systematic exclusion of Hindus and other minorities ranges from humiliations to restrictions. Here is a relevant example that a non-Muslim lawyer cannot appear before Federal Shariat Court. In Pakistan, the President and Prime Minister must be Muslims. Religious extremism and fanaticism sponsored by the State that disenfranchises its own minority populations by using constitutional provisions, which have engendered fringe factions that endanger the lives of minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadiyas, Zikaris, Hazaras and Shias.
Many Hindu temples have been vandalised, destroyed or converted into government offices and for other uses in Pakistan. In 1992 alone, hundreds of Hindu temples were destroyed in Pakistan in response to communal riots in India, which had nothing to do with Hindu population. Despite several official promises to rebuild these temples, in much of the cases, no action has been taken to redress the grievances of the Hindu community. Illegal encroachments on Hindu temples, shrines, lands and even cremation grounds are widespread. Last year, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on September 27 took suo motu notice of the acquisition of a Hindu cremation ground in Karachi. The same situation is there with ancient Katas Raj Temple and many more Hindu sacred places for worship. Molestation and abduction of Hindu girls, demanding of huge ransoms in kidnap cases, and frequent arrests of Hindus on false charges have become common in Pakistan. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, on an average about 20-25 Hindu girls are being abducted and forcibly converted to Islam every month in Pakistan.
Where is the Law?
Article 20 of the Pakistan Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The government is under obligation to safeguard the fundamental rights of all without discrimination based on religion, faith or belief, but do nothing. But for all practical purposes, Pakistan has failed to fulfil its obligations under Constitutional provision and international treaties to protect the rights of vulnerable minorities from forced conversions and forced marriages. Things would be different if a bill was proposed by members of the minority community.
This is proved by an example of how ready Pakistan is to make legal provisions to secure its minority population. Due to poor trickery of politicians of Pakistan the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill has failed to become a law. The Sindh Provincial Assembly passed a bill moved by PML-F lawmaker Nand Kumar against forced conversions in November 2016, but the then PPP-led Sindh provincial government asked the then governor, Justice (retd) Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui not to ratify it and send it back for reconsideration following concerns shown by some religious quarters. The bill was, however, never re-assessed or discussed in the Assembly, despite the fact that the ruling party counted it among its achievements towards safeguarding minorities’ rights. Since then, the bill has been blocked by the mobilisation of rightist groups and parties. A group of religious scholars, as well as the “band of fanatic” Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), termed the bill against the basic principles of Islam. Several religious fundamentalist parties and groups in Karachi launched a campaign against this bill in order to pressurise the local government into repealing it.
The domination of Punjabi Muslims, the main reason behind atrocities against minorities
—Zulfikar Shah, Civil Rights activist from Pakistan
The atrocities on Hindus are a conspiracy by the majority Punjabi people of Pakistan, who dominate the Pakistan Government and establishment. They conspire against the Sindhi people also. They want to eliminate the Sindhi-Hindus who are over 8 million in Sindh. They want to inject the ethnic Punjabi nationals from Pakistan's Punjab Province into the Sindh and want to invade the region in either way.
The roots of this lie in the nefarious and anti-human state policies of Pakistan, mainly by the Punjabis over there. In reality, on August 14, 1947, Sindh, Reiki, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were together declared as an independent country by the British colonial empire. Of course, Balochistan declared its independence before that. And It was Jinnah who was responsible for the process of making Pakistan a country. Jinnah himself was a Sindhi and Sindh was his country, and immediately, Jinnah was murdered. Later on, Punjabi Muslims in Pakistan, who before Partition created riots in Punjab, by killing Sikh & Hindu Punjabis, raped their sisters and mothers and annexed their property and occupied rest of the country including Bangladesh (East Bengal) which later on became Bangladesh. This domination of Punjabis who always wanted to dominate the Sindh province is the fundamental reason behind these atrocities.
From the time of General Zia, Islamic fundamentalism came to the fore and became an essential part of state policy. Today, Islamic interests are the only concern of Imran Khan and Pakistan. The main reason for their lament over Kashmir is also the possible change in the demography of Kashmir, which according to them will change the “Muslim-majority character” of Kashmir. And at such a time, when Pakistan is vigorously promoting its propaganda about the degeneration of minorities in India, Pakistan has become the most dangerous place in the world for minorities. But we leave Pakistan aside; it is the most worrying fact that, even in India, who cares about the Hindu population, which is in the middle of enduring atrocities in Pakistan, But the rapidly growing community in India and worldwide, who posed themselves as the saviour of human rights and champion for minority rights, can’t be able to hear the plea of these miserable fellows which are at the brink of extinction.
(The writer is a researcher with Jammu-Kashmir Study Centre and closely follows developments in Pakistan)