Stories about minorities

Niqab, blasphemy and the life of an 8th grader

A shocking example of the severity of ignorance within our society is the blasphemy case against an eighth grade Christian girl, based on something as trivial as a spelling error. Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) colony in Havelian, accidently misspelt ‘naat’ as ‘laanat’ in an Urdu exam while answering a question on a poem written in praise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). While the blasphemy law and its affect on minority rights – who ironically it was meant to protect – has been part a controversy whirlwind this past year, the fact ...

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Jinnah’s Pakistan, hijacked by clerics

With the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan came into existence on August 14, 1947. The valiant and astute Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the minority Muslim community of united India to a separate homeland to fulfill the demand for freedom of religion, profession, and speech. Jinnah was an outstanding lawyer who had studied law in London. He had a modern outlook on the world and was strongly secular. Part of the oath under which he took office reads: “No subject … in Pakistan shall, on grounds only of religion, place of birth, descent, color or any of them be ineligible for office.” He was ...

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A mere debating club?

It’s 11.30am. I’m still anxiously waiting for Senate’s proceedings to kick off. An hour has gone by since the Senate chairman had announced that the session would begin at 10.30 am. The unending wait has jaded me, along with many other reporters present with me to cover the proceedings of the upper chamber of parliament. In this, I recall the words of a senator, who had said that the Senate was nothing more than a debating club. And given what I was presently doing, I tended to agree with him, though at that point in time, the debate had not ...

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Jinnah, minorities and cake

After four years of celebrating Pakistan’s Independence Day on foreign soil, I finally had the opportunity to celebrate the 14th of August in Pakistan. As with most celebrations in Pakistan, this celebration too inadvertently revolved around food. On this momentous occasion, one of my cousins baked a cake that looked like the Pakistani flag. As I was staring at the appetizing green and white cake, I was reminded of a fact that my teacher once told me of how the green in the flag represented the Muslims in Pakistan, and the white the non-Muslims. I smirked to myself and thought ...

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Pakistan, a place where non-Muslims also live

A lot has been written about the plight of minorities in Pakistan – some by minorities themselves but mostly by the majority. In most such reports, analyses and blogs, the focus has been on the aggressive tactics used by a violent and regressive few to intimidate and persecute the middle to lower-middle class of Christians and Hindus. I speak not of Ahmadis, as the persecution they face is a more severe one resulting in death and legislation-led despair. Theirs is a plight I pray for daily. In this piece, however, I want to focus on another aspect of the issue that ...

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Time for the minorities to wake up

Arguably, the communities that have suffered the worst kind of discrimination in Pakistan over the past decade are religious minorities. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and followers of other faiths have been up against not only a ‘silent’ hatred by many Muslims but, in recent years, they have also faced the rage of religious extremists. Several external and internal factors, such as attempts by a powerful civil-military establishment to create a theocratic state and a ‘misdirected’ quest to seek dominance over our neighbours, appear to be contributing to the state of affairs we find ourselves in. But one reason ...

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A question of religion

A furore was recently raised in the United Kingdom (UK) over the voluntary religion question in the 2011 census. Humanists and secularists attacked it for being ‘fatally flawed’ because the information, according to them, can be used to influence public policy and services. For anyone living in Pakistan the outcry might seem a smidgen over the top, given the country’s strident penchant for religiously determined identity systems. Here almost every conceivable form or questionnaire comes replete with a doctrinal question. For example, anyone wanting a passport has to first declare their faith of preference. Need an ID card? Then identify yourself ...

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Gojra slaughter: Keeping the faith

While the reopening of the Bhutto case has the courts frothing and fulminating and the newspaper headlines screaming, perhaps one should give thought to another case, in which, little progress has been made in bringing justice. I speak of the Gojra case of 2009, in which hundreds of people were initially charged with murder and violence in a Christian neighbourhood in the town situated in Toba Tek Singh district. Eight Christians, including four women and a child, were burnt alive when attackers set 40 houses and a church ablaze following allegations that members of a local Christian family had desecrated ...

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‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’ has no room for Hindus

Hindus and Muslims may have similar wedding celebrations, but there is no registration system for Hindu marriages in Pakistan. The Indian parliament passed the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955 which made it mandatory for Hindu marriages to be registered in India. In Pakistan, the Hindu community has been demanding the same rights for decades, but to no avail. Members of the Hindu community gave a two-month deadline to the government and threatened to hold a sit-in in front of the Parliament House in June if these demands were not met. They urged the media and concerned citizens to participate in a petition campaign as a ...

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After Bhatti: The decay of justice

The dynamics of the state’s relationship in turning a blind eye to terror and extremism has resulted in a decay of justice within the country. By repeatedly abdicating and submitting to extremist ideologies the government has compromised the legal framework of the country. The recent murder of Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti comes at a time when a struggling government is failing to assert itself for the greater survival of the state. Author Semu Bhatt wrote yesterday, “With the existing socio-economic realities, geo-strategic compulsions, and political and institutional weaknesses, it is no wonder that the media is abuzz with the debate about ‘when’, ...

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