It is important to talk about issues considered a taboo and an attitudinal change is required to protect Pakistani minorities. This was consented at the launch of Jinnah Institute’s (JI) report ‘State of religious freedom in Pakistan’ and screening of its documentary, ‘Strangers in Their Own Land’, on Tuesday.
JI President Senator Sherry Rehman said there were many things that make her proud to be a Pakistani but the way minorities were dealt was not one of them. “This report is made with the hope for a change in our country; to hold up every citizen’s rights, to protect the vulnerable and to go beyond that — to empower them. It is responsibility of the majority to speak up when minorities are under attack,” she said.
Rehman said that while it was indeed the state’s responsibility, it was also everyone’s responsibility as citizens of Pakistan and as agents of change. “The recommendations of the report may not be huge, but they are very important in furthering our commitment to the future,” she said.
Ali Dayan Hasan, the editor of the report, said it was an important contribution towards putting such findings on the record. “There is no political, social or ethical consensus on this kind of topic particularly on issues pertaining to discrimination,” he said.
Human rights advocate Tahira Abdullah stressed on the need for an attitudinal change. “We need to inculcate this in our curriculum so our future generations know it is our responsibility to protect minorities. We need to start a campaign and change the way children are educated about minorities. We need to change minds and hearts,” she said.
Abdullah also highlighted that we not only need to teach our future generations to tolerate minorities but also to respect them.
Jennifer Jagjen, a Pakistani Christian, said religious freedom in the country has many shades and layers. “One shade is that various articles in the constitution support minorities, and at the same time, a particular article of the constitution gives more power to Muslims. The constitution itself has disparity,” she said.
MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani highlighted the need for a change of mindset. “Our future generations need to be educated to accept all religious minorities. We will not be able to bring a change until we have a personal interest in it,” he said.
He further said that political involvement in law enforcement agencies should be eliminated in order to let them function properly and protect minorities in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2016.