NEWS & VIEWS
August 11, marks the celebration of minorities’ day in Pakistan, as it was on this day in 1947 that founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his speech to Constituent Assembly had clearly laid down the outlines of his perception about Pakistan. He had said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, which has nothing to do with the business of the state.” In 2011, the government declared August 11, as “Minorities Day” after the then Minister for Minorities’ Affairs Shehbaz Clement Bhatti was killed on March 02, 2011 by militants of banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. In fact, he was the one who had floated the idea of celebrating the Minorities Day in 2009.
Islam enjoins upon the Muslims to respect the Minorities and never harm their places of worship; let them perform their rituals and let them lead their life according to their faith. In fact, there have been scores of people from the minority communities who held high posts in the government and civil administration. It has to be mentioned that a Christian, Justice A.R. Cornelious was the fourth Chief Justice of Pakistan. Then we had Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Bhagwan Das – a Hindu. He had been a Supreme Court Judge since February 2000 for over a decade. He became acting CJP during judicial crisis in Pakistan in 2007. Earlier, he was acting chief justice of Pakistan when then CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry went on foreign tours in 2005 and 2006. He also worked as the chairman of Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan.
Many Christians have rendered meritorious services in Pakistan Air Force. Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry (Sitara-i-Jurat) was a Pakistani academic and veteran fighter pilot. As a Flight Lieutenant, he fought in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, and later as a Squadron Leader in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. A part of Lawrence Road Lahore has been renamed as Cecil Chaudhry Road to honor him. The renaming ceremony was held at St. Anthony High School, where Air Vice Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan was the chief guest. He said, “Cecil Chaudhry was amongst the distinguished breed of air warriors to whom we are all indebted. He was a legendry pilot and a true patriot, who displayed unflinching courage, exemplary devotion and professionalism throughout his service in the PAF. His services significantly contributed to achieving air superiority by PAF during the Indo-Pak war of 1965.”
Another Christian, Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat (Sitara-i-Jurat) was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot who was involved in a number of aerial battles during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars, before being shot down on December 12, 1971. He was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat for his devotion to duty and valour. There are many others who also contributed to defence of the motherland. In Pakistan, minorities are equal citizens of the state, as envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam, and have been leading their lives according to their faiths. So far as the minorities’ rights are concerned, it is Islam which gave protection and respect to non-Muslims 1438 years ago when the minorities were persecuted for their faith and religion. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said about zimmis (the non-Muslim citizens of a Muslim State), “O who kills a man under covenant (zimmis) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.” (Bukhari & Muslim).
Many books written by scholars narrate that during the time of the Caliph Umar (RA), certain Muslims had usurped a piece of land belonging to a Jew, and then constructed a mosque upon it. The caliph ordered the demolition of the mosque and the land was restored to the Jew. During the rule of Caliph Ali (RA), a Muslim murdered a zimmi, and when the charge was proved, the Caliph ordered the execution of the murderer. He had declared: “Whoever is our zimmi, his blood is as sacred as our blood and his property is as inviolable as our own property”. In fact, people belonging to other religions and Muslims coexisted peacefully till 1980s, and a few cases of violence occurred after the US and the West had facilitated jihadis to come from all over the world to wage jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Anyhow, the government should give exemplary punishment to the people who indulged in persecution of Christian or any other community. This is the essence of the justice Islam advocates in its teachings. It has to be mentioned that whenever any incident of killing non-Muslims took place, Muslims always expressed their solidarity with the Christian community, and the heinous act was condemned by all and sundry. It is true that some extremists had inflicted wounds to a few members of the minority community, but it should be noted that terrorists have killed more than 60,000 Muslims including 6,000 army personnel since Pakistan joined war on terror. It has to be mentioned that harsh treatment meted out to the minorities in India has assumed alarming proportions. There is incontrovertible evidence that Christians are being forcibly converted in large numbers; Muslims and Dalits are not safe in India — the country that claims it is secular and the largest democracy in the world.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.