Why are Pakistani minorities marginalized?
Tracing the roots of sectarian violence is a genuine malaise in Pakistan. The roots of sectarian violence seem to have fortified their bastions, for perpetrating more hatred. In every corner of the country, a large number of the crimes is somehow associated with religious discourse. Religion is used as a weapon for settling personal and tribal scores as well.
It is too easy to bring a person on their knees in a personal matter with the help of religion that many don’t even try to adopt the normal legal course. A radicalized mind considers people adhering to a different religion or a different interpretation of religion as inferiors. And this is what makes them commit such heinous crimes in the name of religion.
This is why minorities are under constant threat in Pakistan. And it is prevalent at all levels of the society, including our state institutions. Even a 17th grade commission qualified officer does not sign on Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) for the approval, when he realizes that the applicant belongs to a minority. Job environment is equally poor. First, they are rarely offered any jobs. If they somehow land one, they are treated not like other labourers who work there. Even employees’ unions discriminate against them.
Shia-Sunni conflict is brewing for decades and despite thousands of lives lost on both sides, there’s no end to it in sight. Things became even more complicated when Ahmadis were declared Kafir by the parliament on 7 September, 1974 in its second amendment. A new wave of religious violence hit Pakistan after this amendment as blasphemy laws were used as a legal weapon for killing Ahmadis.
Sir Zafarullah Khan, the first foreign minister of Pakistan was an Ahmadi. However, the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam seems to have been forgotten after his demise. Ahmadis’ woes did not come to an end even after their constitutional apostatization. In fact Zia introduced even severer laws for the community.
Similarly, the seed of sectarian rift in Balochistan was sown in 1980s under General Zia with the injection of Islamization.
Same is happening in India now. Kashmiris who demand self-determination, are being killed in hundreds each year. It is Kashmiris’ fifth generation fighting for self-rule. Still, the issue remains unresolved.
It must be noted that many Shiites and Ahmadis have made great contributions to Pakistan’s national wealth. And the government must realize that mere lip service won’t be enough to protect the life, property and rights of these marginalized minorities. Progress lies in peace and coexistence, not in sectarianism.
The author is associated with development sector.