Minorities in Pakistan: Living a marginalised reality

Published: December 14, 2010

Aasia Bibi : another victim of the malicious nature of Pakistan's blasphemy laws

I’ve found the reaction to Pakistan’s current blasphemy laws surprising. Not because I think the whole Aasia Bibi (and more recently Naushad Valiyani) issue has been blown out of proportion but because of how long it has taken Pakistan to acknowledge the malicious nature of the blasphemy laws. I feel that our nation’s reaction is luke warm – one that has flourished just so most of us can sleep at night feeling good about ourselves as genuine ‘online philanthropists’.

These blasphemy laws have existed in Pakistan as long as I can remember. They are a product of what General Ziaul Haq and then our champion of democracy, Mr Nawaz Sharif brought about and legalized. Where were Pakistanis when this was happening? It’s all well and good when a person uses Facebook or Twitter as a tool to spread their opinion across the globe but how many of us have actually gone out and tried to aid Aasia Bibi or any minority member for that matter?

The newspapers and TV shows have found a sensitive topic to debate on. They have found the necessary artillery to berate guests on their shows and enough controversy to have the general public glued to their seats and empty their wallets to listen to the media. But what has ever become of it? Images of the eight Christians being burnt alive on the streets of Gojra still burn my eyes. When something as radical as that can go unnoticed by the local authorities why would we minorities want to believe that they could do otherwise? And all the while the media tries to cloak the situation with ‘non anti-relegious’ view.

Were we not all one when Pakistan was being formed?

One must remember the basic driving force behind the whole independence movement of the 1920s was to ensure that minorities got their due share in the sub-continent. Were not our founding fathers worried about the possibility that minorities such as Muslims were going to be disadvantaged and oppressed if they remained in India? And so we had the struggle for independence and the Radcliffe Award where many non-Muslim ‘minority’ leaders opted for Pakistan – they thought they were securing their rights, citizen status and a better life overall.

Sadly, wherever the road might have led, the fact is that the hope of the government facilitating better lives for the minorities was soon drowned amid the misery and sham of the Objectives Resolution. A document which conflictingly claimed that all members of society were equal and that minority communities would be given special allowances to survive in Pakistan. So much for living as First Class citizens. Now minorities have special seats reserved for them in the Senate and a Minorities Minister who everyone does their best to ignore. We have the whole slum community, who are labeled ‘Christians’ just because of their social standing, dedicated to cleaning the houses of the more fortunate. So I ask you, why should minorities expect anything better from Pakistan?

Growing up in a privileged home certainly had benefits that go beyond the realm of what’s served on the dinner table. My family’s social stature demanded that we be treated with respect wherever we went and as I attended very good academic institutions, I have never been the victim of religious discrimination. Growing up in a privileged home certainly had benefits that go beyond the realm of what’s served on the dinner table. However, since I have stepped into a more diverse environment, like university, I have come across people are less accepting. They may  simply refuse to shake hands or offer a simple greeting such as ‘Merry Christmas’ on the basis of religion.

Being raised in fear

From the very beginning, our parents have emphasized not letting our tongue slip in public when it comes to religion and to making sure that we don’t give anyone a reason to pin the blasphemy laws against us. We’ve been made aware of the importance of not making enemies with anyone or pursuing an activity where the other person might be vindictive enough to pull out these charges against us. After all, it’s not as if we get a fair chance at the hearing (if any) that follows. We’ve been brought up in an environment of fear where we are supposed to always keep an eye over our shoulders for our safety. For most, it’s like living in constant fear, waiting for air raid sirens to go off.

Beware the blasphemy laws

Cases have always been quoted to us about how people have used the blasphemy as a weapon to take over a non-Muslim’s business, household, property and sometimes even to harass and rape their women. It’s a fail-safe method to get away with anything you do to a minority. The local population will riot and demand for blood and the police and courts will be only too happy to oblige booking their passage to Heaven by doing what has been demanded of them by our less than literate scholars. They serve as a reason for minorities to keep their mouths shut and evade public exposure as much as possible. One only needs to pick up a minority journal to realize just how many incidents of religious persecution are taking place and going unnoticed (or kept in the dark) in Pakistan.

Where was the support before today?

So when NGOs and Pakistanis raise their voices in support of Aasia Bibi and Naushad Valiyani against their prosecutors, I cannot help but not take them seriously. To me, this support is more about making themselves feel good about themselves as opposed to actually helping the minority cause. After all, Aasia Bibi isn’t the only recent victim of the blasphemy. Rahid and Sajjid Emmanuel died before her and Gojra was already burning. Shanti Nagar had already become a desolate wasteland and us minorities had already been cheated out of our basic rights – rights promised to us before the new age Pakistanis ever came calling.

We are a great nation indeed,

If only we can pull sheets over

Everything that’s wrong with us

And evade the gaze of the Almighty

This is the country I was born in,

I’m destined to spend my life here.

Long live Pakistan!

nicholas.sharaf

Nicholas Sharaf

A computer systems engineer who graduated from Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute. His interests include politics, blues music and football. He [email protected]

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Amna

    The blasphemy laws effect more Muslims than non-Muslims. The law needs to be looked at- that is obvious from the way it is being abused. Why do Non-Muslims act like they are the only victims though? When they are not even the majority of victims. That being said, I would like to ask you what the minority communities did when the law was being introduced? You blame the majority Pakistanis for not speaking up then…but correct me if I am wrong, neither did the Non-Muslims.

    This is just a Pakistani problem. Not Muslim or Non-Muslim. We wait for issues to become devastating and huge embarrasments in the international community for us, and then we decide something needs to be done.
    Representatives from the govenment, Ulema and Minority communities should have decided to sit down and come up with these laws instead of General Zia or Nawaz Sharif.Recommend

  • Talha

    There wouldn’t even be a Pakistan if it wasn’t for it’s minorities.

    The extremists have hijacked the nation under the guise of Islam and are destroying it.

    But remember, nothing lasts forever and it will return to those who worked for it.Recommend

  • suzanna masih

    a very moving piece indeed!
    minorities r always treated as second class citizens in pakistan ironically it was founded on the basis of equal rights for all, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, etc.
    great job!!!Recommend

  • http://dinopak.wordpress.com Hasan

    The problem lies with the clergy. Notice in both cases, clerics intervened and pressured the law enforcement agencies into making their decisions. Within Pakistan, a local cleric has more power over the community than a SHO. The only trouble with our nation is ignorance. We never open the Holy book ourselves, it is merely a showpiece in our houses. We are heavily dependent on these clerics. What ever comes out of their mouth is holy and God written. We never put our own thought into the Holy scriptures to verify what they are talking about. There will be many more Aasia bibis and Naushads, victimized over and over again in the name of blasphemy.Recommend

  • Humanity

    The oppressed stay steadfast and preserve through God’s help. . Hang in there with faith in our Creator, Allah the Forgiving and Merciful. This dark age shall pass too :)

    “Hope isn’t obvious or easy. It takes a stubborn resolve & an indomitable will. With hope, no matter how dark the day, there is always light.” – Cory BookerRecommend

  • jamil soomro

    we treat our fellow minorities horribly!!
    my friends won’t go my hindu friends’ house because they fear that they might have to eat something or drink cold drink from the hands of ‘napaak’ ppl !!!
    why are we so hung up & obsessed with religion?? why all this discrimination of paak & napaak?
    when will we stop treating our minorities as 2nd class citizens?? they are our equals.
    we like to abuse india at every chance we get,atleast india’s constitution doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religion.our constitution discriminates horribly against a 1 second old baby,a nonmuslim baby by birth,the very instant he/she is born is told by the pakistani state that he/she is an inferior being,that he’s not worthy of being the president or prime minister of this country.
    whatever the horrors of india,america atleast they are not so self righteous or religously bigoted that their laws & constitution discriminates.Recommend

  • http://islamabad Maryam

    your point is valid….but u left me with a question mark……
    our moulvis and mullas have twisted the religion so much that frankly speaking i don’t know what i should be in favor of…
    minority rights…is of course a YES..but blasphemy laws…i seriously don’t knowRecommend

  • Common Man

    I live in the capital and i have always felt the atleast here, we the majority, are victims. Our area’s planned school, sports facility and free area were all consumed by a slump mainly containing Christian population from interior Punjab. They brag about having weapons, most are involved in activities that can qualify as questionable and there is a constant rumpus in the streets. On top of everything they have not been officially been awarded plots in Islamabad worth millions. So in my observation, I have not seen any injustices with minorities and perhaps these extra Ordinary measures of favors should also be discussed. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    @ Amna

    I had hoped that you would’ve been able to pick the subject matter from within the article. Minorities did stand up against the ruling and it only got them a dead Bishop and public floggings. And I’m also very disappointed in you for taking the ‘We Muslims are facing problems’ angle to this whole argument. The fact is that while Muslims are condemned under blasphemy laws, their houses and families aren’t burnt for sport as a result of it. They still exercise some level of tolerance as opposed to when Minorities are charged.

    You’re pointing fingers at a community whose financial and political muscle is zero. How petty is that?Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    @Common Man

    It is the government’s responsibility to facilitate all of its citizens with food and shelter. If they’re allowing slums to exist, they’re not doing anyone a favor, they’re doing their job. And making a very poor effort of it. Where’s the sanitation and clean water?

    It seems to be that you’re hostile against people who’re living at the very litter of Pakistani society, slums. And that is very sad and disgraceful.Recommend

  • Eman Zahoor

    You write with such poise and conviction. Marry me Nicholas =DRecommend

  • John

    Very well written article by Nicholas …..He describle the true picture of common Pakistani Christian from his/her childhood and how is treated in Pakistan. Congratulations!

    I am agreed with Hasan’s comments and righty mentioned that Clergies instigate such cases and people who accepted their calls with blind faith and eyes. Neither you can challenge their authorities nor you can change it seems this is a divine order.

    Jamil has also pointed logic in his comments and this is all hatred that has been injected through our text books in schools, colleges and universities. Unfortunately, it has been taught from the childhood that Hindu, Jews and Christians are your enemies from your childhood. Nicholas was very right that Christians have no problem till they are in school because most of them are educated in Christian institutions and there is no discrimination based on religion.

    Amna your comments are totally baseless. How could you justify yourselves in saying that Blasphemy law effect more Muslims than non-Muslims? Can you give me a single example where incidents like Gojra and Shanti Nagar had happened. If someone from a Muslim background is involved in a blasphemy he/she is only punished but not the whole village whereas for Christian it is collective punishment How is responsible for Gojra and Shanti Nagar? How could you give explanation for the ratio? Look your population and compare with Christians?Recommend

  • http://na prasad

    Laws make all the difference. They are the first step towards equality. Social change comes later – it is a slow process that involves education, removing of prejudice etc.. However social change cannot come about in the absence of a forceful change in laws.

    I live in the Gulf so I know what it is to live in an Islamic society that considers one religion superior to all others. From censorship of our text books (removing of entire chapters in some instances) to bare minimal tolerance of our religious practices (ie allowing for one dilapidated temple), the governments are progressively regressing in matters of tolerance. The rulers’ fathers were far more open-minded than the current crop. If you argue (in the mildest form possible) for a more open-minded society, you are told – this is an islamic society – if you dont like it – leave it.
    Nicholas – if you have the choice, my advice is migrate to a non-islamic society, notwithstanding your fanciful ideas of the founding of pakistan. While the vast majority of muslims are moderate, I dont see an Islamic society embracing the tenets of equality in our lifetimes. Recommend

  • Amna

    @Nicholas Sharaf:
    I am not pointing fingers. But at the same time, I feel the minorities tend to act as if they are not Pakistanis, and hence feel they deserve more sympathy for the same mistreatment that other vulnerable Pakistanis are dealing with.

    How many laws are actually implemented the way they were meant to be in Pakistan? Almost every law is abused and used against poor and vulnerable people. So why would we not expect the Blasphemy law to be misused? I am not saying its okay, and that the minorities are not being targeted. But I am trying to say, this goes beyond just being a member of the minority community, and has to be dealt with along with misuse of power/laws in the country.

    Aside from abusing laws though, I do understand that our masses are ignorant and people like to take the law into their own hands…hence incidents like threatening Aasia Bibi and offering rewards to kill her, if the court decided to let her go. But again, that is something that has to do with law and order, hence the government should act on that. People can not take the law into their own hands, and it is the government’s responsibility to provide protection to citizens. Recommend

  • simon

    Amna,
    I call 295C as a Half Law as it does not meet the ends of transparent Justice. It assumes the guilty as a criminal if he cannot prove himself to be innocent.Even the Police in its investigation does not dare to come out with facts contrary to the FIR.

    Statistics can be misleading. Yes there are 447 cases of Muslims against 167 of Christians. The catch is that these are 447/177,000,000 = 0.0000025%. For Christians it is 167/3,000,000 =0.000055666% ie a ratio of 1:22.

    I agree with NichoasRecommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    It is a political tool..used for political/personal enmity ends…there is no need for 295 C but in a country where literacy is less than 40% and the majority of the populace in a complex where they consider themselves to be victimised…conspired against by the west/india/jews/fill in your own….there cannot be civilised discourse over this law….

    and it will keep doing what it has been doing….islam has become a joke in the way its applied here…Recommend

  • Mahvesh

    Wah, Amna and Common Man, what grand delusions! When you talk about abuse of law and justice, have you ever had to denounce your religion just to gain acceptibility? I know of Christians who go about with Muslim or Asian names just to be less conspicuous. And the notion of ‘not being Pakistani enough’ simply blew me away. What sentiments towards a fellow countryman, I must say.

    Yes, most of the accused in the blasphemy law are Muslims, but this article is about the problems minorities face in this country to get education, quality jobs, equality and status. How many of such people do you know? How many managers in your office are Christians, Hindu, Sikh, Ahmedi, Ismaili? Merely by virtue of being a minority in this country, you are robbed of so many opportunities and are susceptible to being abused by those who have power (social, economic, religious) simply because they’re the majority. Talk sense. Not every Pakistani is a Muslim and calling to question someone’s patriotism because they’re of a different religion is plain bigotry.

    Nicholas, I’ve recently been told by my parents to keep shut about saying something too ‘radical’ about Islam (which could mean protesting the killing of Ahmedis) because of the growing insanity. I can’t put myself in your shoes and know how you get through it, but the bigots and intolerants have taken me hostage just as much as you. It’s a shame that ‘minorities’ aren’t even considered Pakistanis, just aliens. Recommend

  • Talha

    @ Amna

    Who says the minorities did not do anything?

    You do know that they protested, appealed and fought against the tyranny being handed down to them.

    For doing this, they were kicked out from their high ranking jobs, restricted in roles and many of them were killed or humuliated.

    Do you know how many Ahmadi and Christian men who served on the army were kicked out. Do you know of those who were restricted and harrassed out of important roles.

    Do not patronize us here while you know nothing of the said history.

    My family didn’t put in years of civil and military service for this nation only to be cornered for being different.

    Also no member of minority bombed innocents in this nation. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    Thank You Mahvesh.

    @Amna
    There is this general perception that minorities of Pakistan do not consider themselves to be Pakistanis. Although I do not agree with this notion, if it were true, I would ask you to imagine just how terrible their situation must be to denounce their own country.

    You can’t expect a man to get spit on every day and then go on to advocate Pakistan. That’s being unreasonable.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    And I don’t understand how complaining about being called and treated as a ‘Minority’ can make you less of a PakistaniRecommend

  • Awais Farid Khan

    Fire can destroy a house but it can also be used to cook food. So its the usage that counts. Minorities are our fellow Pakistanis and we will stand with them as long as they are right. If someone disrespects your father or mother what will be your obviuos reaction. You will deifinately wants to remodel that person’s face. Same goes with this law. It stops muslims to kill a person who disrespects Our Prophet on the spot. It is due to this law that aafia is alive today. in the absence of this law, she would have been killed on the spot.

    You are Pakistani and Pakistanis can never be minority in Pakistan Recommend

  • Justin Sharaf

    Dear Nicco,
    GREETINGS AND BLESSINGS!
    I am not surprised at the depth of this article. You have exercised the “rights” envisioned by our founder, Quaid-a-Azam.
    I am Not surprised, because after all, Your Grandfather, The Late Lal Din Sharaf, played a role in the creation of Pakistan. (YES AS A CHRISTIAN)
    I am not surprised because your dad and two of his brothers served in the Pakistan Army.
    I am not surprised because before you were born, when during the war in 1971, your Grand Mother was asked by a reporter and I quote:
    “Amma Ji, you are a widow. One of your sons a Captain, has been declared a “Shaheed,” one son is a Major and fighting in the Infantry, and now you have sent your youngest son to the army; What are you thinking about?”
    Your grand mother replied; “If my son has been killed, then It is my prayer that, Captain Justin Sharaf distinguished himself before he became a Shaheed. As for my thoughts, if today I had Ten more sons, I would gladly send them to the Pakistan Army.”
    (Several months later it was discovered that I had not died but that I had been taken a POW)
    THESE ARE THE SENTIMENTS OF PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN MOTHERS.
    I just wish some one would enlighten our fellow Muslim Pakistanis, on the role Christians have played for Pakistan and continue to play for their country, PAKISTAN.Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    And not just Capt. Justin Sharaf we have shining beacons such as Capt Cecil chaudhry who have risked their lives for this country…..

    since when did we become so petty, so narrow-minded, so exclusionist that even the north koreans would tell us to lighten up a bit, makes me sick.Recommend

  • Amna

    @Talha: I said I did not know of any incidents where the minorities did anything to show opposition when the laws were being implemented. Hence I asked Nicholas to correct me if I was wrong. So you should have read what I said first.

    @Nicholas: I actually do know quite a bit of Pakistani Christians that are patriotic, and love Pakistan. But as I have mentioned before, unfortunately the poor and vulnerable masses have ALL been mistreated and abused at one point or another. I know Pakistani Christians that have played the minority card to get a visa to go aborad….when their families are/were in no threat from the muslim majority…ever.

    @Mahvesh: For the most part, from my personal experiance, I have seen non-Muslims holding decent positions. I have had Christian teachers in pakistan when I went to school. And no, I did not go to the convent. I had a classmate who never had to take Islamiat with the rest of us, and it was never an issue. Like i have been saying over and over, I know it is different for the poor minorities vs the well to do minorities, but isnt that similar for all of Pakistan? Recommend

  • Talha

    @ Justin Sharaf

    Sir, it is good that you highlighted the services rendered to Pakistan by members of so called ‘minority’ communities who still work to this day for this nation without any acknowledgement what so ever.

    Jinnah had personally stated that the rights of all those people who are citizens of this country will be safeguarded.

    We have put a lot of effort and resources into this country and it is very enraging to see those who opposed it destroy it from within.

    I hope that some sense come to these people and they let those who want to work this nation work for its betterment.

    Alas it remains a dream.Recommend

  • Justin Sharaf

    My Dear Friends,
    GREETINGS TO ALL OF YOU!
    All of us mean well, and all of us hold the sanctity of Pakistan sacred.
    Let us not stare at each other; rather, let us hold hands and look in the same direction.
    Is that not how we look at the Flag as it flutters………IN THE SAME DIRECTION?
    ALL OF MY MUSLIM FRIENDS ARE MAGNIFICENT.
    None ever brought or brings religion into the equation.
    Nicholas had the courage to make a point. Most of us are acutely aware of it.
    The task at hand is to assuage what went wrong.
    That is what *Five DIFFERENT rivers do, Join hands to become one!*
    God Bless you all,
    JustinRecommend

  • Ammarah

    @Amna
    You should also consider the other side of their plight as well. There are villages and restaurants in Sindh in which minorities are barred from entering otherwise they are beat and the plates smashed to make sure a Muslim doesn’t eat in them.

    It’s all butterflies and flowers by saying that minority rights are protected, even in education as you quoted, but it is reminded to you that students who appear in ‘Ethics’ as opposed to ‘Islamiyat’ are graded most unjustly by our examiners.

    Of course its a Pakistan problem because these people are Pakistanis. But them being minorities also make them vulnerable to the abuse carried out in Pakistan as opposed to the majority Muslim population.

    @Nicholas
    Kudos. Recommend

  • Muneeb

    It is matter of justices system Minorities take it personally if she committed that crime she has to punished otherwise wait for justice like other millions of Muslim Pakistanis. Recommend

  • Nicholas Sharaf

    @ Amna

    Fair enough. The problem of Pakistanis(including minorities) looking for Political Asylums in other affluent countries is reality and I, for one, am not in favor of it. However, the want of an asylum does not stem from their hatred of the country but rather by the desire to live in a better, more nurturing environment.

    I would think that if our countries laws were just and the legal system transparent, we’d see a decrease in the number of people seeking asylums. Reason being, the basis of political asylum are researched and investigated thoroughly by the respective country and most sanctioned due to the inconsistency of our legal reforms. Recommend

  • Zara Abassi

    The worst thing that can happen to a riot/lynch mob is for them to believe they have God on their side. Unfortunately, that pretty much defines our Blasphemy Law.

    @Nicholas
    I think you have a thing for hitting controversy. All your articles so far are issue based with very little positives. That’s quite a gift to have in your armory =) Recommend

  • Nicholas Sharaf

    @Muneeb

    The current blasphemy law makes a non-Muslim a blasphemer by default. What a law to have!Recommend

  • Amna

    @Nicholas Sharaf:
    Yes, I agree that they probably seek asylum for a better life vs hatred for Pakistan (as the particular person I am speaking with reference to does have a love for Pakistan), but I do not think that is justified.
    But I must also admit that can not just be held against the minorities, as they are plenty of Muslim Pakistanis that have done whtever they possibly can legal/illegal and patriotic/not patriotic to move abroad unfortunately.

    @Ammarah: I do agree that the problem may be exacerbated for the minorities vs the majority, due to the ignaroance in our society. But again, the root stems from our failed justice system, whch doesn’t provide protection to the majority of people, Muslim or Non-Muslim. And I did not say minority rights are protected…I mentioned my personal experiance to reply to Mahvesh and let her know that I personally have seen Christians in decent respectable positions. Maybe not in very large numbers, but when I have seen them they have been able to command respect. But again, I haven’t really been one of the vulnerable masses, so maybe my opinion is a little too flowery.Recommend

  • Danielle Sharaf

    You know its very easy for us to lay in our cozy beds and turn a blind eye towards all this. Tragedy is that this “half law” will claim many more Aasia’s and Naushad’s. Question is how long will we allow this to happen? The Blasphemy Law needs a revision and if that’s too painful for the misguided masses, its implementation should undergo a strict SOP.

    It makes one laugh when our “democratically elected” leaders strongly condemn foreign allegations of Pakistan being a terrorist nursery.

    In what category will you put this……………………..Recommend

  • simon

    To know one of the many contributions of Pakistani Christians, please read this obituary on Samuel Martin Burke, in the NATION. The government of Pakistan and the Foreign Office did not even announce his death.

    http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/07-Dec-2010/Pakistans-blitzkrieging-diplomatRecommend

  • JUSTIN SHARAF

    I really did not wish to get too involved in this; but certain facts need to be highlighted.

    Someone mentioned that Christians in Pakistan take on Muslim names for the sake of remaining incognito. This is absolutely wrong. Most Pakistani Christians have ETHNIC or Cultural names, which existed even before the dawn of Islam. (My Father was LAL DIN SHARAF) Just because most people in Pakistan have them too, does not necessarily align them to religion. On the streets of New York I have met thousands of Pakistani (all Muslims) who call themselves MAX, BILL, TONY, JACK,,,,,and the list goes on and on. Some will even tell you they are from India until I confront them.
    For your information, Quaid -e Azam would be considered a minority today, by those who are bigoted.
    It was the PAKISTANI Ahmedia Class and the PAKISTANI Parsies, who put their personal money into the Pakistan Treasury, when we Lord Mountbatten cut an Unfair deal in favor of India. Do you know that the Parsi Metha Family owned the THEN longest Runway in Asia,,,,,,Quetta!
    Political Asylum in other countries is a right granted by the Geneva Convention. There are thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of Pakistani Muslims who seek Political Asylum in Europe and the USA/ Canada. As soon as the paperwork is done, they head back HOME, TO PAKISTAN; to visit family and arrange sponsorship for them. Political Asylum is just an expedient to a more prosperous life.
    If the bigoted truly believe that Islam is protected by God, then Islam cannot be in danger by concocted charges.

    Nation Building is more then self aggrandizement and petty politics.Recommend

  • Roha Jamshed

    The superiority complex that we Muslims possess over members of different religions is the reason why such things happen. A thought which can be validated by the reaction of certain majority members on this forum to this article. I am ashamed to know that fellow Pakistanis would come on this forum which address’ minority problems and take the ‘ We’re suffering too’ approach.

    @Nicholas
    Love your work. You should write more often xxRecommend

  • Humanity

    @Dear Simon, Danielle, Nicholas, Justin, Aasia Bibi, all Christian and other minorities, and all the poor Muslims who are being persecuted in the land of pure, and only in name Islamic Republic of Pakistan:

    My salaam to you all!

    According to a 1,400 years old letter of Harzat Ali (ra) addressed to Governor Malik on governance and citizenship, you are either my fellow brother/sister in religion or in kind. Therefore, I love you because of my bond of humanity with you. No one but Allah is the judge for us all! Please accept a heart felt apology from a Muslim, a reciter of the Kalimah, a believer of one God, and all His Holy Prophets, and a follower of the teachings of tolerance and forgiveness of the Holy Prophet(pbuh), who is a mercy for the universe, declared as such by Allah in the Holy Qur’an.

    May Allah give you the courage and strength to stay steadfast against this onslaught of the most un-Islamic incarnation of a religion. All such laws are utter lunacy and totally against teaching of Islam, the religion of love, forgiveness, and peace. Islam forbids coercion in no uncertain terms. The so-called blasphemy law is in itself the blasphemy of a colossal scale. When the Holy Prophet (saw) forgave the most rabid enemies, who are these lowly mullahs and their supporters to overrule the Holy Propher(saw). My heart is fearful that these ignorant, arrogant crazy hate mongers are inciting God’s wrath for this land of pure.

    I know, you are hurting and fearful and that these words don’t help much. But we must have faith and hope, as we speak up against oppression. We must hold God’s hand and pray for His help, as He alone is the Forgiving and Merciful. He never fails to come to the aid of the oppressed. May He guide us to become worthy stewards to walk in His path of love, tolerance, and forgiveness.

    Please take care. God be with you. You all are in my prayers.
    Warm regards.Recommend

  • http://Newark Cherish Raj

    @Prasad

    I have also lived in Dubai for many years but we are not the citizens of that country. Though there are personal verbal attacks, minorities are not torched to death like in South Asia. Moreover, Hindus and Christians do have the freedom to prosper, make millions or even billions if they can and lead a life of dignity in that country. They are protected from fierce mullahs ( not sure about Saudi though). Thousands of Hindus and Christians have made the UAE their home. Hindus are actually more safe in the UAE than Muslims are in India. And of course, we have an option to leave, but where will the poor minorities of India and Pakistan go? In India there is at least a fair judiciary.Recommend

  • zahra shah

    The end is brilliant..reallyRecommend

  • Raqib Ali

    I feel sorry for our minorities. Feeling of being a minority alone is quite disturbing, even if you have all the rights!Recommend

  • Raqib Ali

    To be very honest, I have yet to meet any Pakistani who questions the loyalty of Christians. Poor Ahmedis are the real victim.

    I feel lucky to belong to majority Sunni sect and that is just accident of birth. I don’t know how to sympathise with you guys!Recommend

  • http://dinopak.wordpress.com Hasan

    This is a power game. The politico-religious parties want to strengthen their hold over the masses in Pakistan. The best way to achieve that is to use religion.

    I was watching this show earlier and Mr. Paracha of Jamat-i-Islami was talking rubbish about how the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him executed people for blasphemy, it seemed like he was lying to my face. He was distorting facts on National television, sadly even the anchors weren’t literate enough to correct him.

    The whole section of 295 is rubbish and totally man made. Zia ul Haq used it to confirm his seat, we all know what God did with him. I have written in detail why the blasphemy law is un Islamic and its origins.

    http://dinopak.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/the-blasphemy-law-of-pakistan/
    http://dinopak.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/why-blasphemy-law-is-not-islamic/Recommend

  • Rahim

    Being a Pakistani, I feel ashamed when I hear about such incidents in Pakistan regardless they hurt Non-Muslims or Muslims! Remember the famous Hadith “One who killed a man (Not Muslim), indeed killed the entire Humanity”.
    Can’t we recall the instance where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) forgives the lady who used to throw Garbage on him? or when Angel of Mountains was seeking HIS (PBUH) permission to crush the city of Taif and HE (PBUH) replied “No! For, I hope that God will bring forth from their loins people who will worship God alone, associating nothing with Him.” (Saheeh Muslim) or last but not least what our beloved prophet finally said to people of Quraish “Then I say to you what Joseph said to his brothers: ‘There is no blame upon you.’ Go! For you all free!.”
    Don’t you think HE (PBUH) wanted to give message to Insane people, like us, to learn forgiveness and tolerance!! Bravo, what we learned? We learned to punish people who we think are insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)! They are NOT but we ourselves are culprit of Plasphemy!
    I am sorry Nicholas, Naushad, Asia Bibi and every one who are victim of the subject Law! We all feel sorry for what happened to you but trust me its not what Islam teaches us! Its not my dear friends… its not!!!Recommend

  • Sarah Ali

    Beautifully done Nicholas. Not many people have the guts to take such sensitive issues head onRecommend

  • http://www.opinion-maker.org Raja Mujtaba

    Simon, the contributions of Christian Community in Pakistan can not be denied. One will never and can never forget Justice Cornelius, Air Commodore Cecil Chaudry and many more names. List is long.

    Why you mention your publications in Nation only just because its a big name, but remember http://www.opinion-maker.org has a greater and wider reach. Not mentioning Opinion Maker for publishing your papers is not understood. All your papers are published here also and get a much wider circulation.
    http://www.opinion-maker.org/2010/12/pakistan-samuel-martin-burke/ Recommend

  • Aliya Qureshi

    Nicholas I agree one hundred percent. I’ve had a few nutters(Mullahs) try to convince me that I shouldn’t be celebrating New Year’s or wishing anyone a Merry Christmas!Recommend

  • Simon

    Since its turning out to be a forum of educated youngsters, I’ll request you to please read the Treaty signed by prophet Mohammad with the Monks of the ‘Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai.The Treaty is sealed with the hand impression of the Prophet. It reads.

    This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

    Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

    No compulsion is to be on them.

    Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

    No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

    Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

    No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.

    The Muslims are to fight for them.

    If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

    Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

    No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

    St Catherines monestary has this to say about their letter:

    “According to the tradition preserved at Sinai, Mohammed (AS) both knew and visited the monastery and the Sinai fathers. The Koran makes mention of the Sinai holy sites. In the second year of the Hegira, corresponding to AD 626, a delegation from Sinai requested a letter of protection from Mohammed (S). This was granted, and authorized by him when he placed his hand upon the document. In AD 1517, Sultan Selim I confirmed the monastery’s prerogatives, but took the original letter of protection for safekeeping to the royal treasury in Constantinople. At the same time, he gave the monastery certified copies of this document, each depicting the hand print of Mohammed (S) in token of his having touched the original. ”Recommend

  • http://www.opinion-maker.org Raja Mujtaba

    @Rahim:
    Its not a Hadith but a verse in the Holy Qura’n. Please do not mix it. But I agree with your spirit.Recommend

  • Ibrahim Shakeel

    “The heresy of an age of reason: I see what is right and approve, but I do what is wrong.”

    …I’m guessing this is the part where we all hold hands and sing ‘One’? :D

    An Honest article once again! Good show Nick-O.Recommend

  • Bisma

    Hey!!

    well first of all .. minorities are all over the world just not in Pakistan.. i live in USA and i have to face some of these problems as being a minority.Sometime i don’t get off for my religious holidays if its a Christmas season.
    And all girls have to face the same problems in Pakistan like a harassment.
    but why you think that in Pakistan only Non-Muslims has to face all these thing and not Muslims?Recommend

  • a Hindu

    I am a Hindu. I so agree that yes, we are brought up in a society where the fear is instilled in us that where ever a religious discussion is going on, make sure your mouth is zipped. What I see that majorities (Muslims) here are not consistent with their beliefs. Two Muslims will quote two opposite things. For example, I have this gentleman who never attends a birthday party, because according to him, celebrating birthday is Haram in Islam. Reason being that you are nearing death with every passing birthday and thus, shall not celebrate it. Whereas, you see thousand others celebrating birthdays like crazy. And its just a single example of what I have seen in my 24 years of life. But one thing is consistent with Muslims is that they want you to convert to Islam, the reason being that they want to go to Jannat. According to them if you convert somebody to Islam you will have an undisputed place in Jannat. For God’s sake, let us live in peace. Whenever I hear Azaan, I make sure that any music going on around me is put to zero volume, this is not because of fear, but because of pure respect for other religions. I also expect the same from you guys. But I have lost hope you know. But guess what, I have seen some awesome Muslims too.I love Pakistan, I am sure this love will remain forever.Recommend

  • @Bisma

    I think you’ve missed the 50 so comments posted above yours =/ Recommend

  • RhyMe

    When Islam has given minorities their due rights and respect in muslim socities then who are we to negate it?….remember Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) was sent for whole of Mankind and not for any particular group or race….and this Mankind includes everyone irrespective of religion etc…let us all not forget the teachings on “botherhood” and “Humanity” that our religion emphasizes on!

    @Nicholas

    I agree and respect to most of the points you raised in this article but please keep one thing very clear in your mind that in a land where even muslims,who belong to a religion practised and followed by vast majority here,are seen oppressed by all sorta social,political,economic injustices,you cant expect much for minorities that they can live a peaceful and life free of prejudice!!

    @Justin Sharaf

    Sir i Salute ppl like you and your mother!!!….we need more of such patriots in all faiths!Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    @a hindu….i think the issue is that muslims arent a monolith..much like every other religion – we have crazies, liberals, middle of the road people like any other faith….its just tha when a religion comes to dominate the running of a state is where you have problems…particularly in our case where ‘islamic’ republic of pakistan has morphed from a generally tolerant sate to a monty python life of brian sketch…..

    p.s. i dont lower the volume around azaan…its not disrespect its a personal choice…Recommend

  • a Hindu

    @waqas Iftikhar….u r completely right that you will find every kind of people in every religion, we have them too. But whats the point of every Muslim trying to convert a non-muslim. Why is the focus on Jannat and not on trying to make this world a Jannat to live in. Though its impossible but why not give it a try. Why even the most educated of the persons is at the end of the day trying his best to convert a non-muslim. Even my manager of the most reputable bank in Pakistan tries to tell me that Islam is the best. We never go and tell anybody that CONVERT. why havent you got CEOs and MDs as Hindus, or non-muslims. If there are, then it will like one on in 1000s. We face problems in everyday life when it comes to our growth, our sentiments, we can not express those views which are in contrast. But then again, things wont change. Doesnt matter how much I comment.Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Dear Simon ……….. Thank you for sharing the contents of the Treaty that the Prophet made with the Monestry of St. Catherine ……….. we need to make such knowledge common so that people can return to sanity – tolerance – humanity Recommend

  • Majid Maqsood

    I absolutely agree with you, but its very difficult to come in streets and protest against this blasphemy act because extremist force has been a reality of our country and those who are liberal and mystics cant raise their voice in the street. we all wish and hope this law may be repealed which leads embarrassment for the country but it does not seems in real terms. In many institutions extremist force exists in name of Judges, politicians, Generals, intellectuals any writers who support this law.
    not only minorities but in this countries small Nations are badly deprived and victimized so who cares of this? you cant find any general from sindh and Balochisatn, no one can find any National cricket player from Sindh and Balochistan. All main slots have been given to Punjab and where extremism is being cultivated and projected.
    If People of this country can reinstate judiciary then why not protect Assia BB?? but there is no voice in Punajb from its liberal society. Nawaz Sharif cant dare to defend Asia Bb, but only liberal force of ppp fully support this innocent woman and they have moved the amendment bill to repeal this blasphemy law but there is no any possibility to repeal it. Recommend

  • Humanity

    @Bisma:
    The way your last line reads to me is that you see no problem with people facing ‘these things’ as long as both Muslims and non-Muslims face it. Tell us, if there a law in USA by which you can be hanged if you hurt the religious feelings of another person?

    I am sorry to say it is the indifference and stupidity of people like you that the rabid mullahs draw their backing from. I am sure your position will change if it is your neck in the noose.Recommend

  • Rahim

    @ Mujtaba, it was a typo! Thanks for correction though.Recommend

  • Ammar

    @Bisma. Wow.

    So yeah, not getting a day off for your ‘religious holidays’ is pretty much the same thing as your entire family getting lynched, hacked and burnt to death. Totally. (Hint: look up Gojra massacre on google. Or countless other examples of gory violence against religious minorities in Pakistan).

    You are living in a delusional world, madam. Compared to Pakistan, minorities in the USA are treated like Victorian royalty. Seriously. Spare us your dangerous, entirely-uninformed parallels. Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    Very unfortunate but true. Minorities do not get good treatment in this land of the pure.Recommend

  • Ammar

    @Nicholas. Bravo my friend. Very brave of you to write this. If at all possible, I’d suggest you translate this (or get it translated) and try and send it to the Urdu Press. We need people like you to speak out (preferably to the Urdu speaking majority) if we are to do anything about the hateful religious chauvinism that afflicts our land. It’s a long, hard fight that must be fought in tandem with other coeval struggles for justice in this country. But it absolutely has to be fought.

    Great job. In solidarity.Recommend

  • Bisma

    @Ammar
    all over in Pakistan ..people getting hacked and burnt.. most of the bomb blast happens in Mosque. so how could you say that in minorities are the only ones who get hurt?.If you remember two brother killed bu the whole community really badly this Ramadan they were Muslims . I do agree i have no such problems like you guys face but my point is we all are suffering just not the minorities. Even today people make differences about cast tooRecommend

  • Bisma

    @Humanity:
    well i never talk about another religions and never tried to convert my non-Muslims friend into a Muslim. as an individual i respect everyone’s religion. And you have no right to judge me what i m. Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org Rahim Munir Soomro

    Nicholas, hope you are in good health. You know how things work in Pakistan, even in GIKI. blasphemy laws are just to hype muslims and pakistanis. our nation is easy to ignite, and others are taking advantage of this.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    @ Rahim Soomro

    Define others please.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    @Bisma

    There are a million things that are wrong about, wrong in Pakistan. Difficulties faced everyday by the general public is one of them as you rightly claimed. However, that does not mean that the discrimination and degradation Minorities face through our Legal System and Constitution are of lesser importance. Fact being, these suicide bombings and what not have started over the past decade whereas these minority problems have been lingering ever since Pakistan was formed.

    The fact that you, and I’m sure you’re voicing the opinion of many, have taken a defensive approach to the notion of Minority Rights and taken a line of argument that ‘Majority is facing problems too tu why should we be worrying about minorities’ underlines the core crux of the problem. Your willingness to accept us as equal citizens. In your eyes we’re extra baggage of this country, something you guys could do without.

    The fact is that regardless of the problems the majority of the population are facing( problems they created themselves I must add), every community in Pakistan has a right to what you have a right to.

    The fact is that this article was posted on this forum to highlight minority concerns. Which means that this particular forum is dedicated to that one issue. If you think that you, and your fellow majority countrymen, are above this debate, then I ask you to please refer to other articles which are highlighting ‘suicide bombings’ and what not.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    @Bisma

    I’m also delighted to inform you that I’ve been sitting through exams during Christmas over the past three years and Easter is pretty much a forgotten event. Also, I’ve been fasting alongside my muslim friends as our Administration feels it necessary to shut down the University’s Mess’ and Cafeterias during Ramadan.

    Also, I have the monthly brigade of ‘Tableeghis’ on my doorstep trying to convince me to attend one of their sessions.Recommend

  • Aboo Dean

    I couldn’t help but smile at the above statement, I can relate. The article is nice , portrays what most of us have felt like growing up. To all the people going nuts, he’s just portraying a picture of what HE see’s and has felt growing up living as a minority. Props for speaking up.Recommend

  • Justin Sharaf

    @Bisma:
    Dear Bisma, Greetings!
    HERE IS THE THING! Wherever there are humans, there will be discrimination. Actually, if you get an opportunity; Look at a bee in a garden. It will first scout the good looking flowers, and then finally find a flower that is not so good looking, but has abundant nectar in it. So even insects and all things in nature discriminate. THAT IS A GIVEN AND MUST BE ACCEPTED.
    In this forum, active discussion has taken places, mostly with our Muslim Brothers and Sisters, trying to tell us that Islam is a religion of Peace. WE KNOW THAT, SO THAT POINT IS MADE AND ACCEPTED.
    What is at the crux of the discussion is the imposition of Laws, that make it convenient for people to extract revenge, or personal benefits, using or mis-using religion, as the expedient.
    Recognizing an inequity is one thing, resolving it is quite another, I too live in the USA, and believe me, be it the AMTRAK train station or the Airport, all security personal shower me with their benevolence, based purely on how I look. I accept that, because that is a given too.
    I just wish that our very intelligent young in Pakistan, who are commenting here, also make IT A POINT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
    One might ask; “I am just one person, what can I do about it?”
    Well, a mighty rainfall does start, with just one drop!
    God Bless you all,
    JustinRecommend

  • Bisma

    @Nicholas Sharaf:
    i do agree with all your points.. but unfortunately right now Pakistan need us .. it’s a time to forget majorities, minorities and cast differences.
    I grew up in Karachi, i remember during Ramadan our administration never shut down out canteens…thanks to them .n yeah i agree unfortunately few people even make differences among non muslim and muslims.. but those few people are always a problem for all of us..

    and i can exactly relate to your situation like 3 years you have been sitting in your exams.

    i really appreciate you wrote this article. i commented because not exactly but still i have to face these situations too..Recommend

  • Hafza

    Very well written article. The blasphemy law has been affecting the christians as well as the ahmadis alike. It should be noted , that nowhere in the Quran , has Allah ordered any human/ muslim to take “blasphemy” matters into their own hands. I, belonging to a minority group have faced lots ot persecution in my day to day life, and it feels good to see writers like you to write about it. It may be a small step, but every drop countsRecommend

  • Bisma

    @Justin Sharaf:
    :) i just love what you said,Wherever there are humans, there will be discrimination,, and you are right that its a time to do something.. and we are the ones who can actually bring a change by forgetting all these discrimination’s …Recommend

  • Adbeel Bhatti

    @Bisma

    Wow, you really had the audacity to compare the state of the minorities in Pakistan to the minorities living in the U.S. Being someone who had the disadvantage of living as a religious minority in Pakistan and privilege of living as an ethnic minority in the U.S. I can definitely tell you that my house hasn’t yet been attacked and burnt by an angry mob of white Americans nor have I been harassed to undergo cosmetic surgery to change my skin color. Muslims killed in terrorist attacks aren’t killed because of their faith but minorities are targeted by the Pakistani legal system and the fanatics solely because of how they identify themselves when it comes to religion. The perpetrators of the terrorist attacks are organized jihadi groups but the perpetrators of these heinous acts against the minorities often belong to the local community or the Pakistani legal system. If it was just an law and order issue than a mother of five wouldn’t have been rotting in jail for more than a year and facing the gallows for allegedly making a derogatory comment against a religion while a cleric roams freely after offering a bounty on her head. On another note, if your facing such grave adversity in the U.S may I suggest moving back to Pakistan. Recommend

  • Mussarat Hussain

    Pakistan is no doubt passing through most crucial days of its coming into existence as the founder of the nation unfortunately, didn’t get much time to mould new-born nation according to his aspirations and the images of the down-trodden muslims who migrated to Pakistan in search of peace, shelter and protection irrespective of their religious belief and sects.

    Political turmoil and frequent intervention of Miitary rule not only laid strong foundation of corrupt civil-military bureaucracy in country but also fortified “clergy”, specially the group that was defeated in the former East Pakistan during the independence movement of Bengalis in 1970-1971.

    In a desperate attempt to grab power in Pakistan, Clergy played yet another heinous role by using the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, promising him to provide safe cushion to Bhutto in exchange of declaring minority to Ahmadis.

    However, those unfaithful Mullah who once assured Bhutto of “safe cushion” got Bhutto hanged in 1979, thus paving way for another “so-called” Amir-ul-Momeneen.

    Zia completely overhauded sectarian landscpe of Pakistan providing all out support to “Wahabi” and granted license to kill every Shia, Barelvi and Ahmedis and passed verbal orders of demolishing Churches located in the rural areas and interior of Sindh.

    Religious extremists are the constant pain in the neck of every government in Pakistan who try to destablise governments to achieve their vested interests.

    There is a dire need to overhaul blasphemy laws in Pakistan to make them according to the teachings of the Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who once said illiterate and trouble makers Mulla of this centry will resemble “swine”.

    It is the high time that in order to ensure peace and tranquality in our society we should purge society from “Swines”.

    Lover of Pakistan

    Mussarat HussainRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    I think its rather big for the labelled ‘Majority’ to want the labelled ‘Minorities’ to think as one ‘Pakistanis’ while they’re the ones who keep the difference in the first place.Recommend