Stories about minorities in Pakistan

With Ehtram-e-Ramazan, we might as well change our flag and make it all green

Pakistan never ceases to shock me. Be it its controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015 which could get us in prison for tweeting against the powers that be, or the formidable strategy of fighting terrorism by banning pillion riding, the government has come up with creative ways to use the law against the public. Staying true to its tradition, the government has recently announced another bill which states that smoking or eating in public during the month of Ramazan will lead to three-month imprisonment for the “offender” along with a fine of Rs500. This has been proposed as the Ehtram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017. There have been mixed reactions to ...

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Dear Pakistan and India, stop trying to convert your minorities

My attention was recently drawn to a news story according to which non-Muslim employees of Mian Mir hospital in Lahore are forced to recite verses from the Holy Quran daily at the morning assembly. The news further stated that those who refused to do so were penalised by being marked absent for the day (and thereby losing a day’s wages). If true, this is indeed shocking news. Once a non-Muslim says the words of the Kalima, he or she automatically is converted to Islam, and cannot go back to his or her original religion. It goes without saying that such men or women cannot continue ...

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Asma Jehangir, a force to be reckoned with

Growing up, I was filled with loathing for Asma Jehangir and yet somewhere deep down I had a sense of respect for her, however grudging it may have been. Today, I have come full circle and openly admit having deep and uninhibited respect for her. My dislike for her was primarily caused by her views which portrayed her as ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘against’ Islam. But I was way different back then as I used to be a typical product of state-tutored nationalism and considered any criticism of the state as anti-Pakistan. This brand of nationalism, instilled through textbooks and the media, creates deep mistrust of the outside ...

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Reflecting on Raza Rumi’s Identity, Faith, and Conflict

I arrived in the United States a few weeks ago and the first public event I attended was a bit too familiar. In 2013, I went to the launch of Raza Rumi’s book ‘Delhi by Heart’ at the Khayal Festival in Lahore. Four years later, I was in Queens Museum, New York where Rumi’s new book titled ‘Identity, Faith and Conflict: Essays on Pakistan and beyond’ was released. The book is a collection of essays that Rumi has authored over the past few years. It was strange to see that the introduction described Rumi as an “international scholar in residence at Ithaca ...

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Why is there a religion column in advertisements for sweepers anyway?

Whenever a local body like a municipal or town committee advertises for jobs involving ‘dirty work’ (like sweeping floors or cleaning bathrooms), the religion of those applying for the job is also specified. And the advertisement usually mentions that the applicants should be Christians or Hindus (Dalits). Though why sweepers and cleaners have to be non-Muslims is not clear. Who does the dirty work in countries where there are few, or no, Christians or Hindus (like Saudi Arabia for instance)? One such advertisement went viral recently. But this time the advertisement stated that applicants for the job should be “Shia, Hindu/Balmikis or ...

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In Pakistan, tolerant Islamic voices are being silenced

Last week, only three days after a suicide bomb went off in Lahore, an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporter struck a crowd of Sufi dancers celebrating in the great Pakistani shrine of Sehwan Sharif. The attack, which killed almost 90, showed the ability of radical Islamists to silence moderate and tolerant voices in the Islamic world. The attack also alarmingly demonstrated the ever-wider reach of the ISIS and the ease with which it can now strike within Pakistan. ISIS now appears to equal the Taliban as a serious threat to this nuclear-armed country. The suicide bombing of the ...

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Why has Pakistan not had a census in 18 years?

Now that the country will have a census after 18 years, doubts are already being expressed about the accuracy of the data that will be collected. Farooq Sattar, MNA and former Karachi mayor, says that the census should not be influenced by the landlords as the census commission is very close to the landlords and there should be no injustice with the people living in Sindh’s urban areas. Mir Hasil Bizenjo, the chief of the National Party and the incumbent federal minister for ports and shipping, has said that the census should be put off in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) till the four million Afghan refugees return to Afghanistan ...

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Can Pakistan ever be a minority-friendly country?

Both January 11th news items were almost conjoined. Or like reading the mirror-written ecnalubma (mirror image of the word ‘ambulance’ written in front of ambulances) and getting it right as ambulance in the rear-view mirror. The Guardian carried a report, titled ‘Christians in India increasingly under attack, study shows’, in which Pakistan ranks fourth on the list of the 50 countries where persecution is worst for Christians. APP reported that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached out to minorities in a speech at the sacred 900-year-old Katas Raj Hindu temples in Pakistan where he said: “The day is not far when Pakistan ...

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The minority protection bill is both Islamic and constitutional

The Sindh Criminal (Protect of Minorities) Bill 2016, passed by the Sindh Provincial Assembly seeks to outlaw forced conversions. This has led to a backlash from certain quarters, the self-styled thekaydars of Islam in particular, who say that the bill is unconstitutional and unIslamic.  Unfortunately, these people who are agitating against the law have neither an understanding of the constitution nor that of Islam. But then very few people, including I am sad to say our black coat brethren, have any understanding of constitutional law. “Holy Quran and Sunnah are supreme under the Pakistani constitution” they scream. Their reference is to ...

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You can’t run to America anymore Pakistan, time to fix yourself now!

The mayor of a small West Virginia town has resigned after facing backlash following the endorsement of a Facebook post calling Michelle Obama an ape in heels and thus became the poster woman of the America that will now be made great. This might trigger some pretty intense flashbacks for some Pakistanis (hint: Tractor trolleys) but of course in this country, resigning isn’t a thing. Although mortified apologies have been made, the fact is no one really believed that the US would become what it is at this moment (except for my mum), that Trump would win (mum called it), that ...

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