Once A Minority Always A Minority
Recently after almost a decade of prosecution, we saw Asia Bibi’s acquittal and no one from minority segments had the courage to step forward and openly celebrate the verdict. They were scared due to the inhuman acts carried out against them in the past. However, it was a landmark judgment that set a precedent for the coming ages. Still, there is a lot of work pending in terms of delay in justice and false allegations that are perpetuated to victimise minorities.
Pakistan is a country embroiled in conflicts with other countries and within itself. On one hand, we are facing radical narcissists who take pride in being vocal about distorting of the constitution of Pakistan and on the other hand there are fanatics who have usurped and paralysed the proper functioning of society through violence and hatred.
Sometimes it becomes difficult to distinguish between both, however, the predicament of discrimination against the religious minorities is not a new trend.
They are called by names, given bad identities, stigmatised, ridiculed by offering cleaning and housemaid jobs through advertisements, provided with no security, their lands are grabbed with no compensation, deceptively accused of blasphemy if they stand for their rights, forcefully converted, incarcerated, made to flee villages, their houses are burnt to ashes, shamed for their names and what not.
Such practices are still at play. Mostly when someone realises how needy a person is and requires help, manipulating and exploiting in such situations in the name of religion is the worst crime one can commit.
Most of the times violence against religious minorities is incited to gain political favours and sympathy of masses, the irony is that government condones such acts on all accounts with no provisions made for minorities to practice their faith freely and work in a society without the fear of being penalised or despoiled.
While my stay in Lahore, I came across a young boy belonging to a minority who was sacked just because of his faith. He stated that he was looking for a culinary job for quite some time, fortuitously he found a place on Raiwind Road to work at a restaurant.
He was very delighted that he will be able to support his family. Nonetheless, after a week, one of the inmates inquired about his religion during a friendly conversation. However, after their chat, he soon communicated it to the authorities. The next day he was asked to convert if he wishes to continue or leave the cooking job because he comes from a minority.
I was astonished while hearing that young boy’s story. Yet he was determined and not even for a second he got angry or frustrated. His composure spoke very highly of him because he loves this country and wants to live and die in this country. In his view, once you are born into a minority even if you immigrate you will always be a minority in a foreign land. His words still resonate in my ears as it’s just an eye opener. There are hundreds of such cases where just for your faith you are expelled and no one can hold the perpetrators accountable because it’s next to impossible.
Imagine its repercussions on a larger segment of society. How such treatment makes us more tolerant of others. Many families are ruined just because of their belief and religious practices. I believe it’s time to introspect our own morals of the society as a whole, in which direction we want to advance.
Based on current narratives and political state of mind, this society has been proselytized to an extent where almost every day we see content being aired that promotes hate speech. It is rendering very toxic results; masses are being primed into becoming a herd of hooligans.
The delicacy of handling such affairs has become a matter of pejorative diaspora. Sooner or later we will have to start cleaning from our house. Unless we bring tolerant leadership from religious and political quarters our masses will remain oblivious to the importance of minority rights.
Although there are multiple examples to quote on barriers to economic uplift and access to quality education for minorities. For now, we need to ask ourselves for how long such practices will prevail. Why such hatred and bias for an already downtrodden and neglected segment of society?
In contrast, the priorities of government are as displaced as the rule of law itself. Every year multiple cases of desecration of minorities’ religious sites are reported. The concern at large remains that Pakistan is swamped with a disease that was created by itself and the cure to it will come from within. No one else can bring an end to the atrocities committed against the marginalised segments. As long as we do not create such environment where each individual can prosper regardless of his/her affiliation to any cast, creed, gender, belief or status, and can contribute in a pluralistic society to make Pakistan most tolerant country on earth, we won’t be able to move forward.
The author is based in Lahore. He’s been serving in academia for almost four years now. He loves to read, explore and travel.