Minority rights: Silence, increasing intolerance make for another grim year

Published: December 29, 2011

Minority communities, activists suffered huge setbacks in 2011, beginning with the deaths of Taseer and Bhatti . DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

LAHORE: 

Silence became the biggest atrocity against minorities in Pakistan this year. With the rise of the phenomenon of crushing the voice of minority advocates and increasing intolerance, 2011 remained a grim year for minorities in the country.

The year opened with the assassination of then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer by his own security guard Mumtaz Qadri in Islamabad on January 4. Taseer was killed for speaking against the blasphemy law and raising a voice in favour of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.

Minority rights activists believe that the incident was a huge setback as not only did they lose a supporter, but the PPP-led government also distanced itself from those who supported amendments in the blasphemy law.

What was equally tragic, if not more, was the fact that Qadri was hailed as a hero by many. “The assassin of the governor who happened to be his guard was garlanded by a group of people. This raised many questions about the protection of minorities,” said Executive Council member of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Nadeem Anthony.

The second major setback followed closely, with the murder of late minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2 in Islamabad.

Bhatti also supported Aasia Bibi and had been playing a role in bringing amendments to the blasphemy law.

“The interior minister has said that the extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba is behind his murder, yet they are still at large,” said Anthony.

Another tragic incident occurred in Mastung, Balochistan on September 20, when 29 people, mostly from the Hazara Shia community, were killed in two separate targeted incidents.

According to data gathered by The Express Tribune, from 1986 to 2011, at least 39 people booked under the blasphemy law have been killed before or during their trial. Of these, 18 were Christians, 16 were Muslims, two were Ahmadis, one was Hindu and two were unidentified.

Less killings, increasing Intolerance

“The situation of religious minorities in Pakistan progressively worsened,” stated the Working Group on Communities Vulnerable, established by the HRCP.

The group referred not only to violence against members of religious communities but also against the growing intolerance in society.

The group, in its report ‘Life at Risk’, noted that threats to religious minority communities have grown in direct proportion to a rise in militancy. “The factors for the rise in excesses against religious minority communities include not only the advance of militants and religious extremists but also the government’s failure to protect the basic human rights of these communities. No law can make anyone like a person, but if the law and the textbook label a citizen as inferior and another as superior, feelings of dislike increases,” the group maintained.

National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) Executive Head Peter Jacob told The Express Tribune, “The number of discrimination cases against minorities in Pakistan in 2011 isn’t as much as it used to be in previous years; however the scale is larger this year. The phenomenon to silence the voices that speak for minorities is more dangerous and terrible and this is what happened this year”.

Positive steps for minorities

In 2011, several positive laws for minorities were also made. The Hindu Marriage Act has been submitted in the National Assembly and the government is considering making it a treasury bill, Jacob said.

The draft of Christian Marriage and Divorce Act has also been reviewed and is likely to be tabled in parliament.

“For the first time, four seats have been reserved in the Senate for minorities for which election will be held in March,” said Napoleon Qayyum, a Christian rights activist.

Way Forward

The working group further suggested that the quota reserved for minorities must be strictly observed. The group suggests that the lack of tolerance for religious minorities stems from textbooks, which should impart knowledge about all religions in Pakistan.

It suggests that all discriminatory laws against minorities should also be abolished and the National Commission for Minorities should be developed into a body that is independent and powerful.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Basil
    Dec 29, 2011 - 11:46AM

    Sad indeed…..

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  • Acorn Guts
    Dec 29, 2011 - 2:17PM

    Quotas and seats and Senate are not a solution to anything. In our biased and corrupt democratic system no representation of minority within parliament or senate is going to make any difference. The only way to safeguard the minorities is to drop the fundamentalism, intolerance and holier-than-thou attitude that has ingrained within our society.

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  • naseer
    Dec 29, 2011 - 5:14PM

    The way forward is to take the word minority out of the Pakistan dictionaries. They are all Pakistani regardless of their religion. This is what happens in civilised democracies. Short of this is no solution. Pakistan was supposed to be state for all the people who lived within the borders. This Is what The Qaid wanted
    NaseerRecommend

  • Mard-e-Haq
    Dec 29, 2011 - 8:34PM

    Soon, anyone who is neither Taliban nor Jihadi will be considered a minority in Pakistan. Time to reset that ideology button.

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  • RajX
    Dec 29, 2011 - 10:38PM

    If my memory serves me right, it was not silence but red rose petals which greeted the person who killed salman taseer. That’s a step below silence to atrocities. It’s actually full public support of that violence and people who execute that violence.

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  • Noran
    Dec 30, 2011 - 1:36AM

    According to the father of nation here shia suni and rest of the factions are in minority. They are mentally and psychologically very
    weak trying to survive az hook and crook. Are advance to attack the majority in fear that they are seeing clearly that coming day are worse for them logic of their existance is failed. To be in society, dumping money grabbing land making big estates where they govern as they wish. Hosting the criminals of world. Black mailing them and using them to loot.
    they knows very well that their days are over the time is ahead for every one to see in holy book to find out that
    there is no shia no sunni wahabi brelvi or kadyani. God address’ human. Not shia or sunni. By the virtue of basic minority theory in thro out the world shia sunni and jews are three minorities. Where as christian plus hindus budh sikh are in majority after muslims. Great muslim of this century in pakistan are bhutto taseer and bhati and m a jinnah blessed martyrd. Those who shout in regard with blasphamy are directly denying the god’s command about the elephants and birds.
    Jews Shia and sunni are proved enemys of god. And are on an end. The parliament will have to face anger of god for using fabricating such sections. Which are not valid by holy book. No more tricks to terrorise the glob. Bye bye jews shia and sunnies.Recommend

  • American Desi
    Dec 30, 2011 - 1:42AM

    Pakistan has a tacit racist ideology. Ahmadis, Bengalis, Balochs, Christians, Hindus, Shias….! list goes on and on in the land of pure!

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  • Paki
    Jan 1, 2012 - 3:11AM

    Its ironic that Pakistan was founded by Shias (the Quaid-e-Azam) and Ahmadis (Sir Zafrulla Khan), yet these two communities are routinely murdered and persecuted, and most Pakistanis couldn’t care less…

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  • Feb 14, 2012 - 6:56PM

    It is truth beyond all boundaries that minorities are crippled and damaged under anarchy system. In Tharparkar the area where minority (Hindus) is in majority, only in these two months six girls have been kidnapped, rapped and converted. Girls who are studying in towns are not safe; glancing at above scenario majority of the people are migrating towards India, they leave their motherland, houses, memories, and everything. Lands and houses are sold on very cheap rates, groups from different communities are jointly planning to go. My cousion has been missed since august 2011. We are hopleless cont do any thing. Cant do can’t do ,

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