Stories about minorities in Pakistan

How was I supposed to know about Dr Ruth Pfau, who she was or what she had done for my country?

On August 10, 2017 I heard about the demise of Dr Ruth Pfau. Within hours, social media was filled with condolence messages and appreciation posts for Dr Pfau’s efforts to counter leprosy in Pakistan. Prayers for Dr Ruth Pfua. "We shall remember you as Ambassador of humanity and for selfless services to the people of Pakistan. RIP", COAS. — Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) August 10, 2017 Saddened to learn of Dr Ruth Pfau's passing. Her spirit of selfless dedication leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. — Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 10, 2017 Dr Ruth Pfau. Pakistani legend. Represented the pinnacle of human empathy ...

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If Jinnah could see Pakistan today, what would he say?

If Muhammad Ali Jinnah came back from the grave and saw the sorry state of the country he had created, what would he say? He would be shocked to see that the Pakistan of 1947 had been broken into two, with East Pakistan (where his beloved Muslim League was founded) no longer a part of Pakistan. He would see a country on the brink of an economic collapse, with the dollar (which was equal to the rupee in value in 1947) now worth Rs107. He would see fruits and other edibles from New Zealand and other countries selling at prices beyond the reach of the common man in a land which ...

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How can we expect a better Pakistan if our caste system is the reason why our sanitation workers die?

There may be no better parameter to judge the character, values and structure of a society than by the manner in which it performs some of the most humble and menial tasks. Sweeping, handling garbage or working on clogged gutters and sewage lines fall into the category of menial tasks. Who are the people who perform these tasks? What methods, implements and protective equipment are used to remove, handle and dispose the filth, trash, sludge and raw sewage? Are these processes well regulated and controlled? Are these jobs open to all or restricted to some? What is the social status, respect ...

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Pakistan issued its first third gender passport – but giving respect to the transgender community is asking for too much

As a part of Pakistan’s minority group who seems to care about our country’s transgender community, watching this video was disturbing to say the least. Shortly after the holy month of Ramazan was over and Eid was being celebrated, a group of Pakistani men of all ages thought it was amusing and entertaining to publicly harass a group of transgender people in Murree. The video itself left viewers, including myself, completely taken aback and disappointed. It was a stark reminder of how pathetic people can be. I couldn’t help but wonder how much time it would take for people of this country to become responsible and empathetic citizens. ...

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Refusing to treat sweepers in Ramazan only highlights our doctors’ unethical unprofessionalism

“Primum non nocere” is Latin for “first, do no harm”. Although not overtly found in the text of the original Hippocratic Oath, the message in that Latin phrase holds firm for students making the transition from medical apprenticeship to medical practice. Scholars have widely attributed the oath to Hippocrates, the father of western medicine. As their rite of passage, young doctors graduating from medical schools the world over take some modern version or another of the oath, several in their own languages. Medical schools in Pakistan follow suit in terms of the oath being taken by students prior to practicing as independent doctors, with valid medical licenses ...

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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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