Before Liberating Kashmir, Try Standing Up For Your Own Minorities

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Before Liberating Kashmir, Try Standing Up For Your Own Minorities

It is hypocritical to act as a human rights defender for the oppressed people of Kashmir, Palestine and Myanmar while remaining tight-lipped over persecution of religious minorities taking place in your own country, writes Ailia Zehra.

As Pakistan marks National Minorities Day today, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the extent to which the state has failed to protect minority communities. August 11 was declared Minorities Day by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government in 2009 after untiring efforts of former Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who wanted the nation to remember Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s 11 August 1947 speech to the Constituent Assembly in which he made it clear that one’s religion, caste or creed has nothing to do with the business of the state.
But the minister tragically became victim of the anti-minority violence himself.

Bhatti was assassinated in 2010 for extending support to blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi who was sentenced to death over false allegations of blasphemy. Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer met the same fate for his statements seeking an end to the misuse of blasphemy law in the wake of the Aasia Bibi case.

Ten years later, the state of affairs is hardly any different. Not too long ago, bearded hooligans of religious extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) wreaked havoc on the streets of Islamabad, Lahore and many other cities to protest Supreme Court (SC) verdict absolving Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges. Government remained unmoved as the rioters were baying for the blood of members of the Christian community.

The blatant hate speech against religious minorities went unnoticed and the government cut a deal with the protesting leaders, assuring them that Aasia Bibi would not be allowed to leave the country before a review appeal is filed in the apex court against her release. This despite the fact that the country’s highest court had already stated that no blasphemy had been committed, and that Aasia was wronged for eight years over a crime she had not committed.

Aasia Bibi finally managed to leave the country six months after her acquittal, but we failed her. We have been failing our minority citizens for far too long.

It was only after TLP’s protesting clerics crossed a red line and threatened army generals that the state came into action and began a crackdown against them. Khadim Rizvi, the firebrand cleric of the TLP, who was arrested weeks after the riots in December last year was recently released. But he has not been delivering his venomous speeches lately, which suggests that he must have been given a message by the state that his shenanigans can no longer be tolerated.

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This means when the state decides to right a wrong, no violent group can continue its impunity. The government must take a decision about the fate of all such extremist groups that seek to divide Pakistanis on basis of their religious or sectarian identities.

While the long overdue crackdown against Khadim Rizvi’s outfit was encouraging, the state could not build an effective legal strategy to ensure Rizvi’s conviction. An adequate punishment for Khadim Rizvi could have set a precedent against the practice of creating unrest in the name of religion – something successive governments have failed to tackle.

The discourse put forth by such divisive elements often ends up having disastrous consequences. The cold-blooded murder of a professor at a Bahawalpur college in March at the hands of his young student for organizing a non-segregated party is one of the many examples of bigotry resulting in violence.

Mob justice against religious minorities over allegations of blasphemy is also a norm in Pakistan. We need to ask ourselves why the anti-minority violence in Pakistan fails to generate the level of outrage that is currently being witnessed against atrocities in Indian-Occupied Kashmir.

It is hypocritical to act as a human rights defender for the oppressed people of Kashmir, Palestine and Myanmar while remaining tight-lipped over persecution of religious minorities taking place in your own country. Many of those who are rightly speaking out against India’s atrocities in Kashmir don’t bat an eye when Shias, Christians and Ahmadis are targeted and killed for their faith in Pakistan. It is about time such individuals are called out for their hypocrisy.

Before claiming your right to Kashmir, protect the minorities of your own country from the vicious cycle of violence and discrimination.

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Ailia Zehra

The author is Web Editor (features) at Naya Daur. She writes on counter-terrorism, human rights and freedom of speech among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at ailiazehra2012@gmail.com

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3 Comments

  1. P. V. Ravi Chandran August 12, 2019

    It all has to do with the fact that at the end of the day, Pakistan is a spurious creation. Notwithstanding the best intentions of Jinnah, when he created a state for the first time in the world on the basis of the religious beliefs of Indians, it sent the ball rolling. One thing leads to another. It happens with clockwork precision and cannot be averted or prevented. That is how all the minorities including the Ahmadi Muslims came to be discriminated. The chain reaction or domino effect is inevitable and the end result will play itself out eventually to its logical conclusion, not withstanding the sane voices of the minority intellectuals and academics! There is only one way, only one way to stop the domino effect and that is to nip it at the source! So there!

    Reply
  2. SANJAY SHARMA August 13, 2019

    Why is that in Pakistan whenever you are talking about crime or injustice against minorities, one gets the Shias, Christian and Ahmadi named, but not the Hindus and Sikhs. As if crime against the Hindus and Sikhs doesn’t happen ajdd people of these religions are praised, protected by the Pakistani muslim community. Or it is a case where a crime against these religions iß allowed to happen by the government and the law.

    Reply
  3. Zuberi August 14, 2019

    False equivalencely. You can condemn evil even if you have committed evil in the past. To condemn evil is good. To do evil is bad. To stop evil is even better if you can. And the problem in Pakistan at the root is lack of proper education weather religous or secular. These Risvi TPP whatever are not scholars. Have no idea who the Prophet(SAW) was in reality and they are the total opposite of him at times. Other is corruption whenever there is blasphemy accusations usually over money or some kind of asset grabbing. It happens to normal poor muslims they just get slaughtered and police paid off. Here in blasphemy cases payoff not neccessary money saved. The issue is the culture of no law and order outside the 3 cities.

    However India is much more educated but the leadership is using its uneducated and hindu fanatics to destroy the muslims in India.

    So let’s be fair and not spout such BS as you are. Make everyone in Pakistan with your level education or Quaid E Azam level education and you will see this finish over night. I have friends family members who are shia Ismali Christian Jews even Qadani. I am educated and overall family is educated as well. In fact we have more female Masters/PhD than most families in Pakistan. However that is an anomaly in Pakistan. Make it a standard and your so called hypocrite goes away. You can not call uneducated hypocrites. You can call Benazir and her damned father and family that.

    Reply

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