News & Views
IN media, there are stories and articles about persecution of Christians in Chak 44 of Mandi Bahauddin after a young Christian man was accused of watching a blasphemous video on his cell phone. According to the Christian residents, local Muslims demand that the community hands over the accused to them, so that they may burn him alive in front of the church. They say these are not hollow threats, as it had happened before in Kot Radha Kishan, where a Christian couple was beaten and burned alive in a brick kiln. Of course, persecution of minorities is condemnable anywhere in the world; however in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is responsibility of the government to protect the lives of its citizens irrespective of their faith, sect, creed or religion. However, some writers with penchant for self-flagellation are blowing the issue out of proportion.
In one national daily, a writer stated: “Today, I feel ashamed to call myself a Pakistani. I am ashamed because I have let my fellow countrymen down. I say this because I have not done anything to protect more than 300 of my fellow Pakistanis living in Chak 44 of Mandi Bahauddin. I feel responsible because I have allowed a bunch of fanatics to claim my faith as their own, and allowed them to force 300 members of a minority faith into hiding for something that they have not done.” The writer then quoted that a Muslim man named Sadiq Khan was elected as London City Mayor, not realizing that it was acknowledgement of what Pakistanis contributed to Britain and not out of generosity of the British. Otherwise also, the comparison between the developed countries and Pakistan is irrelevant, as the former have had colonized and plundered Asian, African and Latin American countries.
One should look at the atrocities committed and genocide of Muslims in former Yugoslavia. The Serbians had conducted genocide against Bosnians living in the areas under their control. As early as May 1992, they had begun segregation between Muslims and Croats in northwest Bosnia and sending Muslims to concentration camps. The most famous camp was called Omarska in Northeast Bosnia. The prisoners in the camp were beaten, denied food and water, housed in horrific conditions, sexually assaulted, tortured, and finally killed. In Trnopolje, in a women camp, the women were regularly raped by police and army personnel. These actions caused a mass exodus of Muslims out of Northwest Bosnia. Out of an initial population of 550,000 Muslims and Croats, by June 1994 fewer than 50,000 remained in their homes. Can’t the learned writer see comparison between the genocide there and a few events happening in Pakistan?
Look what is happening in India, where Christians were killed, women were raped and their churches were torched. In Occupied Kashmir, more than 90000 people have been killed since 1989 and according to confirmed reports women were raped, and youth killed that resisted Indian military. Why, the critics in Pakistan can’t see the genocide and atrocities committed by the above countries? It is not the intention here to gloss over persecution of minorities in Pakistan, but to point out that those who start blaming Pakistan and its Muslim majority for their failure to stop the fanatics should their voice for atrocities committed on Muslims in other countries. 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.
As regards status of minorities in Pakistan, there are 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 Justice Bhagwan Das – a Hindu, who had been a Supreme Court Judge since February 2000 for over a decade, and became acting CJP during judicial crisis in Pakistan in 2007. Earlier, he performed his duties as 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-e-Jurat) was a Pakistani academic, human rights activist, and veteran fighter pilot.
As a Flight Lieutenant, he fought in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, and later as a Squadron Leader in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. Another Christian, Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot who was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat for his devotion to duty and valour. There are scores of non-Muslims who have fought shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan military, but the space of this column does not allow giving details of those heroes. In Pakistan, minorities are equal citizens of the state, as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam, and have been leading their lives according to their faiths. Despite differences over interpretation and nuances, all sects of Muslims respected each other’s views. In fact, extremism escalated since 1980s, when the US started supporting Afghan jihad, and many militant and fanatic religious groups emerged.
The militants want to impose their version of Islam, which is at variance with the great majority of the people, who despise the terrorists whether they kill Muslims or non-Muslims. Some misguided elements attacked people belonging to minorities, but the loss of life was a very small fraction of the Muslims martyred by the terrorists in Pakistan since the War on Terror started. Incident such as Gojra was a source of pain and agony to the true followers of Islam, since Islam advocates tolerance, love and peace. Last year, members of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights had endorsed the move to criminalize forced religious conversions and to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law. By referring to the plight of minorities in other countries, it is not the intention to downplay the incidents like Gojra and Radha Krishan, but to invite the attention of ‘sensitive, writers to highlight what is happening around the world.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.