Why are we so afraid of our minorities?

Published: March 25, 2012

The writer is a development consultant and a PhD student at the University of Melbourne syed.ali@tribune.com.pk

Injustices faced by minority populations remain a problem around the world, ranging from the plight of migrants in western countries, to Kurdish troubles in the Middle East, to the discrimination faced by the significant Muslims minority in India.

Leaving aside the plight of sectarian and ethnic tensions, Pakistan itself has but a miniscule religious minority, protecting the rights of which should hardly pose a significant challenge for the state. Yet, our track record in this regard remains dismal. A latest “Life on the Margins” study by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, is quite perturbing as well. Over 75 per cent of the surveyed women who work reported being subjected to sexual harassment. The literacy rate of these women was found to be 10 percentage points below the national rate (57 per cent) and the infant mortality rate among them was higher than the national average. It was also disconcerting to note that nearly 62 per cent of Hindu and Christian women fear that a majority of Muslims would not come to their aid if they were being discriminated against.

These fears are substantiated considering the prevalence of forced conversions to Islam and increasing incidents of kidnappings which have instilled a deep sense of insecurity amongst our minority communities. The Human Rights Commission’s Balochistan chapter has identified an ongoing exodus of Hindu families from Quetta due to the fear of kidnappings for ransom, yet the Balochistan government does not seem to be doing much to address this problem.

NGO reports indicate that over 568 FIRs for forced marriages were lodged last year across 40 districts of Pakistan, with the majority of such cases having been filed in Sindh. While many Muslim women and girls are also forced into marriage within our country, females in minority communities are even more vulnerable to such coercion since they face a ‘double jeopardy’ of being subjected to discrimination due to their sex and religion.

The government has taken some steps for empowering minorities by fixing a five per cent quota in government jobs, reserving four seats for minorities in the Upper House and declaration of August 11 as ‘Minorities Day’. It was also encouraging to note minority rights being discussed during the recent National Assembly proceedings and acknowledgement by incumbent parliamentarians of the need for enacting legislation to better protect minority rights and to particularly curb the phenomenon of forced conversions. Another proposal which merits further political support is helping minority women feel less alienated from the country’s politics by instituting a parliamentary quota to be established to resolve this discrepancy. Yet, the inclusion of one or two reserved seats for minority women within the national or provincial assemblies will hardly be enough. Much more needs to be done to ensure protection of the minorities as it is enshrined in our Constitution.

The judiciary and the executive also need to overcome their existing complacency and take a much more proactive stance in safeguarding vulnerable minorities from blatant incidences of exploitation and violence. Moreover, the silent majority within our country must also overcome its complacency or indifference and denounce this unbearable level of intolerance. Until this occurs, the existing myopia towards vulnerable minorities will just continue spilling over to further exacerbate strife perpetuated in the name of other divergences, be they sectarian or ethnic in nature.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.

Reader Comments (49)

  • Arijit Sharma
    Mar 25, 2012 - 11:21PM

    ” … Why are we so afraid of our minorities? … “

    Inferiority complex ?

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  • Khi2Khy
    Mar 25, 2012 - 11:33PM

    @Arijit Sharma:
    WELL WHAT GOES ACROSS THE BORDER GOES HERE TOO.
    CAST SYSTEM, CALL IT ONE WAY OR THE OTHER!

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  • Ravish
    Mar 25, 2012 - 11:53PM

    According to World Minority Rights Report 2011, Pakistan ranks as the 6th worst country after some African states with respect to safety and rights of minorities. The report is for everyone to see: http://www.minorityrights.org/download.php?id=1011

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  • unbeliever
    Mar 26, 2012 - 12:00AM

    @Khi2Khy:
    atleast you could have written the spelling right.
    it’s caste, not cast.

    however who told you that in subcontinent only hindus are divided in caste…
    you may better take a look at the article below to appreciate the problem.

    http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/Caste%20and%20Caste-Based%20Discrimination%20among%20Indian%20Muslims-Part%201-The%20domination%20of-high-caste%20Muslims%20that%20parallels%20the%20Hindu%20case/d/3611

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  • Ali
    Mar 26, 2012 - 12:13AM

    Our state pertaining to human rights is bad but it is not so bad that Indians start pointing fingers at us as if India has none of it.

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  • Rahman
    Mar 26, 2012 - 12:35AM

    Not only in Pakistan but the establishment of most of the corrupt countries are using and abusing religion and ethnicity. Unfortunately, Pakistani establishment is the most corrupt and incompetence to deliver any substance to the people. From time to time they used political and religious leadership for their vested interests. Regretfully, “Islam” has become a marketable commodity in the World, both foes and friends are using and abusing it indiscriminately. Right after the death of Qaid-e-Azam, Pakistani people were brainwashed and deprived from their basic rights on the name of Islam. The majority of Pakistanis led to believe that the minorities are against the divine sanctity of Pakistan and they are unfit for an authentic Islamic society. Consequently, the minorities have become a soft target, not only in religious but also on private issues. People are using and abusing Islam and the name of Islam to settle their personal agendas. Unfortunately, so called Ulema-e-deen provide them ‘free’ services.

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  • Khi2Dhi
    Mar 26, 2012 - 1:01AM

    @unbeliever:
    Atleast they don’t burn down or slaughter whole towns on this side of the border or make riots if low-caste get admission or jobs in high-class school or colleges. To relieve your other concern you must know there is ever increasing number of “smart” Indians running the world data & poll statistics that’s “outsourced” to India & so now can not be relied on specially when it’s about India or Pakistan. I know caste system is the age-old culture developed on the banks of Indus Valley and all who came here or went out somehow get inflicted or spread it sooner or later. Even the master rascist “Hitler” had to borrow it’s insignia from Aryans of Indus.

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  • Mar 26, 2012 - 1:37AM

    Our ideological insecurities compel us to assure ourselves of our moral superiority by suppressing and cornering everyone who’s views differ from our own. We’re not bad people you see, we’re just very, very scared to lose our ground!

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  • GH
    Mar 26, 2012 - 2:04AM

    In a country where even majority don’t get rights! Why everyone is worried about minorities. And India if Pakistan rank 6th u’ll be 3rd if not second.

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  • Mar 26, 2012 - 2:30AM

    @Ali:
    But we donot like Hindus’ forced conversion. Are we converting the Indian muslims into Hindus? And the Indian muslims are doing quite well on the whole.I don’t have to give you examples as you can see for yourself.

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  • narayana murthy
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:07AM

    “discrimination faced by the significant Muslims minority in India”

    Dear author, you seem like a learned, reasonable person. So, please use a little bit of logic and analyze what I have to write below.

    In India, there are several minorities including Buddhists, Sikhs, Xians, Parsis, Jains, Muslims. Now compared to Hindus, Xians, Sikhs, Parsis and even Jains are better off. But not Muslims.

    While Christians, Sikhs and Parsis educate themselves very well and reach top positions in politics/bureaucracy, academics, military, Muslims don’t. Jains do extraordinarily well in business.

    While Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, jains are busy educating their one or two children, Muslims are busy in making their 6-8 children study Islam.

    While some christians, sikhs, parsis, jains are involved in criminal activities, a disproportionately high number of Muslims end up being criminals.

    Now my question is…why of all minorities one minority never progresses? Don’t you think that minority need to introspect a lot lot harder and correct themselves?

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  • Khi2Khy
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:19AM

    Atleast we don’t burn down villages of low-caste Hindu villages or any minorities!

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  • Suzy
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:22AM

    The whole point is that you have virtually extinguished non Muslims from Pakistan through chauvinism, bigotry and co-ercion. You are going to solve the problems of the minorities by converting them all to Islam, or making them flee the land.

    You will then spend the rest of your time squealing about the Ummah and how they are treated in lands that whilst not perfect, are infinitely more attuned and responsive and caring for minorities than you ever managed to be, or aspired to be.

    Pakistan, you really are a piece of work.

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  • Cynical
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:40AM

    @Author

    You seriously think that we are afraid of our minorities.
    What a joke.

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  • ashok
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:56AM

    …Because of what Jinnah, the creator of Pakistan, once said (and preached) in his famous speech,

    “It is quite clear that Hindus and Muslims derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other, and likewise, their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state”

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  • Senman
    Mar 26, 2012 - 5:04AM

    @Khi2Khy
    Mate the job is almost done in Pakistan, you can’t burn whole village of minorities because minorities are lower in numbers or fleeing your country. If you are here to spread propaganda at-least do it right like “Pakistan in near future will never hurt minorities” because there will be no minorities left.

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  • sana
    Mar 26, 2012 - 5:36AM

    muslims politician in india are very powerful , they are not king yet but surely they are the kingmaker, recently in UP election more that 89 MLAs are from mulim community , some have become minitiers . In hydrabad the local MLA have so much power that he has stopped Ram-navmi yatra(parade) and Aatri in famous temple, even though hindus are in majority in that city. so there is no comparion between pakistani hindu( endanged species)and indain muslims(highest growing demographics).

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  • Raj - USA
    Mar 26, 2012 - 5:48AM

    @Suzy: ”
    The whole point is that you have virtually extinguished non Muslims from Pakistan through chauvinism, bigotry and co-ercion. “

    I beg to disagree with you very strongly. Not only non Muslims have been extinguished but also the reasonable ones who follow the true teachings of Koran have been extinguished.

    Though all Pakistanis cannot be blamed, the blame is definitely on the Saviors of the Nation. “Nation” I said. Sorry, cannot call Pakistan a Nation as most consider themselves citizens last and Muslims First. It is still a young country with History books still being rewritten as required. Even political system is evolving. Jirga System is favored. So, Ministries are giving way to Councils. For instance, the Defense Ministry is now Defense Council. Dictionary is also changed to find new meaning for Laskhar and Tareek.

    On a serious note, no one in Pakistan has an idea how much pain and suffering Pakistanis settled abroad are facing daily due to such policies and practices. Pakistan’s biggest source of foreign exchange is the remittance from its overseas citizens and this would trickle down to nothing if such ideology is not reversed.

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  • unbeliever
    Mar 26, 2012 - 7:30AM

    @Khi2Khy:

    Atleast we don’t burn down villages of low-caste Hindu villages or any minorities!

    all those ahmadis, shias and ismailis who were killed, were killed solely because they were shias ahmadis and ismailis. aren’t they suffering terribly. though i agree that a wrong done on your part doesn’t justify my wrongdoings, but we have special laws which are invoked in case you burn down some low caste village.

    and who told you sir that they can’t get admission in colleges…..that itself shows you are not knowledgeable enough to comment here. infact each and every college( yes each and everyone, IITs, IIMs, included)
    has to reserve 22.5% seats for them(both central and state owned) , and if they can’t find suitable low caste candidate the seats are left vacant but never given to upper caste candidates.

    we already had a president of lower caste for five years in k r narayanan.
    we had elected a low caste mayawati as cm for 190 million people of UP, when will you elect an ahmadi as something in your country…
    in india they flaunt their identities openly because they are protected by law.

    and out of 29 or so states in india we have only two brahmins as chief minister(both ladies), few from other upper caste, and the rest cm are those who were born in intermediate/lower caste.

    we have tried to correct our mstakes, what about your poor(both economically and socially) nation?

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  • BlackJack
    Mar 26, 2012 - 9:17AM

    Another attempt to point a finger at one’s self while the other hand is patting you on the back. As long as you search for excuses to perpetrate injustice on the basis of real and imagined ones in neighboring countries, in history, in your dreams etc Pakistan will remain on this one-way street. Be done with it; convert all those who cannot afford to leave and then start work on level 2 – assimilating all Pak nationals (including people like you) into a monolithic Islamic structure based on the pilot project in Afghanistan (1996 – 2001).

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  • hassan
    Mar 26, 2012 - 9:44AM

    Why are we afraid of our minorities?

    Because, our country is full of indoctrinated people, people fed on false ideas of supremacism, nurtured on misguided notions of victimhood, and grown on the staple diet of delusions of grandeur. We eat conspiracy theories for breakfast and the rest of the day, we munch on anyone who does not agree with our worldview as they are our enemy.

    Our nation was founded on the concept of persecution complex and a deep sense of paranoia. Our founding father’s ideals were shaped by ‘them vs us’ philosophy and on the intrinsic belief that people of different faiths cannot co-exist. Our very nation was founded so that the country will be for muslims, by muslims and of muslims. (Please don’t give me the BS on the founding father’s one random independence day speech again.)

    We are happy to wallow in our own set of ideas of glory and our own set of beliefs that we are always in danger. We are afraid of our minorities because they have the potential to show the mirror to us. Which we don’t want.

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  • Noor Muhammad
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:19AM

    There are individuals and smaller political/ethnic/sectarian groups behind such hate crimes. It has nothing to do with the ideology of Pakistan, or state policy.

    The state needs to act the unscrupulous elements who work against the constitution and ideology of Pakistan.

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  • Umer
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:35AM

    @Khi2Khy:

    Atleast we don’t burn down villages of
    low-caste Hindu villages or any
    minorities!

    Read up on Gojra and Shanti Nagar incidents.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:57AM

    @Khi2Dhi:

    Atleast they don’t burn down or
    slaughter whole towns on this side of
    the border

    If it is Godhra or Khandamal you refer to, please the study the historical and political background of both the cases before you start point fingers

    make riots if low-caste get admission
    or jobs in high-class school or
    colleges

    Please quote an example

    And rest of your rant makes sense only for people like Zaid Hamid and his fans

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  • narayana murthy
    Mar 26, 2012 - 11:40AM

    @Sana who writes “muslims politician in india are very powerful , they are not king yet but surely they are the kingmaker, recently in UP election more that 89 MLAs are from mulim community , some have become minitiers . In hydrabad the local MLA have so much power that he has stopped Ram-navmi yatra(parade) and Aatri in famous temple, even though hindus are in majority in that city. so there is no comparion between pakistani hindu( endanged species)and indain muslims(highest growing demographics)”

    Yes. You also forgot to mention the Godhra train burning by the Muslims, which resulted in riots.

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  • Zeta
    Mar 26, 2012 - 11:55AM

    You maybe afraid, but not the people in Pakistan.

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  • Uza Syed
    Mar 26, 2012 - 12:55PM

    “Why are we so afraid of our minorities?”——is it so difficult to understand? We are afraid because we are insecure and uncertain of the truth and confused about or not willing to know our History and who our forefathers were really.

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  • HG
    Mar 26, 2012 - 1:27PM

    @Arijit He has power because he’s muslim?? than you should start worrying because 220 Million Muslim living!!

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  • gunjan
    Mar 26, 2012 - 2:45PM

    As a nation Pakistan has always been afraid of questions. Questions on Jinna were never asked. Questions on partition were never asked. Questions on religion, questions on army, questions on violence, questions on minorities – nothing at all is being asked. Until you demand answers, you shall never get any.

    Simple and elegant remedy… ask questions and demand answers, at home, in your personal and professional circles, etc.

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  • G. Din
    Mar 26, 2012 - 2:55PM

    @Khi2Khy:
    “Atleast we don’t burn down villages of low-caste Hindu villages or any minorities!”
    No, you don’t! You burn them and keep their villages!

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  • Yash
    Mar 26, 2012 - 4:23PM

    @Khi2Dhi:

    ya..very true…all the data that blames india is absolutely and 100% correct and the one that blames pakistan is tampered with by “smart” indians

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  • Iron hand
    Mar 26, 2012 - 4:27PM

    Persecution of minorities is seen by many Pakistani’s as a religious duty – that’s why this behavior is so entrenched in the society. All roads lead to Islam in Pakistan.

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  • Mar 26, 2012 - 4:29PM

    The desire to convert others is inborn. After the loss of Spain, Muslims were either slaughtered or converted en masse to Christianity. In India, Muslims have been converted to Hinduism or killed in state-sponsored riots. The Muslim population in India is at least 25 million lower than it should be (my own, very conservative, estimate-according to a study I did many years ago, before internet became common).

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  • waqas
    Mar 26, 2012 - 4:39PM

    As a pakistani minority myself, i left Pakistan 15 years ago, it is really really bad there! Looking at the comments above, i am not surprised, but muslims always needs an excuse to justify the wrongdoings of their muslim brothers/sisters! Because according to their religion, the religion of “peace”, islam is always the best and logic and always right, so muslims cant never be wrong!

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  • sashayub
    Mar 26, 2012 - 5:11PM

    we as a nation are no different from the French, the Americans, or even the Indians…..it is quite normal, understandable and entirely fixable situation……the problem is not that we are afraid of minorities, the problem is that we do not take any measure/sufficient measures to fix our own short-comings or complexes….and that is what we need to work on

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  • Raj - USA
    Mar 26, 2012 - 6:33PM

    @HG:

    You have not understood the discussion nor the views expressed here by those who have commented. It is not Muslims Vs. Non Muslims. It is Others Vs. Pakistani Muslims (not all but many). Pakistani Muslim here means those with such mentality as is being discussed here. Muslims elsewhere were also blamed at one time but they have changed a lot for the better. Particularly, Muslims in India. Preach any Muslim in India that he is also a Muslim like a Pakistani Muslim and look at his reaction. Less than 2% would appreciate you and the rest 98% would ridicule you.

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  • Pollack
    Mar 26, 2012 - 7:54PM

    @Shakir Lakhani: “The Muslim population in India is at least 25 million lower than it should be (my own, very conservative, estimate-according to a study I did many years ago, before internet became common).”

    :-). So how many millions lower is pakistans Hindu population according to your “very conservative” estimate according to your “study”? Oh… Or is the Hindu population in Pakistan higher than expected in your “study”? It just amazes me what people will come up with to bend reality to confirm to their prejudices and bigotry. I see that in these forums every day. In a way, I find it very entertaining but the very scary implications of the thought process of such people is not lost on me.

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  • Ak
    Mar 26, 2012 - 9:57PM

    @Shakir Lakhani:
    Please share your brilliant analysis. I am all ears!!

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  • Ak
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:01PM

    India is always brought into anything and everything. Even if the article is about minorities in Pakistan, people bring india in that. Most Pakistanis have no clue of what india is but they would make comments as if they experts. Shakir lakhani is a typical example of this.

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  • Khi2Khy
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:20PM

    @Ak:
    Ha ha!
    INDIANS BROUGHT THEMSELVES INTO THE DISCUSSION read the number of comments above by Indians starting from the 1st one. How many Pakistanis have you seen commenting and voting in your papers?

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  • Optimist
    Mar 27, 2012 - 2:55AM

    Majority of Pakistanis believe in giving full rights to the minorities.
    .
    A small minority is holding Pakistanis hostage, even Muslims suffer because of this extremist minority.
    .
    Life is not easy even for Muslims!!

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  • zalim singh
    Mar 27, 2012 - 10:53AM

    Because they have better culture?

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  • jan
    Mar 27, 2012 - 11:38AM

    @Khi2Khy:
    Very rightly said…. they just dont have anything else to do apart from trolling ET… and you will see them everywhere even if the news has nothing to do with them… losers

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  • huzaifa
    Mar 27, 2012 - 11:39AM

    Are we a nation of hypocrites?//// When we go to other countries we want justice but we don’t give justice to our minorities, we want to enforce our values on other countries but we don’t accept other countries values. We want rules of other countries to be inline with our culture but we don’t tolerate other cultures. We want justice for Afia siddiqui in other country but we cant give justice to Fakhra in our country. Aren’t we Hypocrates??????????

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  • Pakistaniat
    Mar 27, 2012 - 11:40AM

    I dont understand the author.. what do you mean by “we”… its a very generic statement. Recommend

  • observer
    Mar 27, 2012 - 11:12PM

    @Shakir Lakhani:
    “The Muslim population in India is at least 25 million lower than it should be (my own, very conservative, estimate-according to a study I did many years ago, before internet became common).”

    Between 1991 and 2001, while the Hindu population increased by 20.3% the Muslim population increased by 29.5%.i.e. approximately at a 50% higher rate. Implication being, there were millions of more Muslims than there would have been, had the growth rates been the same.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DemographicsofIndia

    Now that we know what actually happened, can we have the basis of your own ‘study’? Please.

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  • Fauzia Mussarat
    Mar 28, 2012 - 9:41AM

    Because they might become the majority by doing to us what we did to them to make them minority. Oooga boooga scary thought. It’s a vengeful life to the tune of ace of base.

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  • kaalchakra
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:05PM

    Fauzia

    I made a similar point in my earlier post that was dispatched to the graveyard by our irascible mods. Pakistan’s treatment of minorities has been, no matters what others may say, quite rational. But I also made the argument that Pakistan has now reached a point of comfortable safety here Pakistani Muslims might actually benefit by promoting little flashes of ‘secularism’ here secularism there without significantly increasing any risk to themselves from local people of other religions.

    This simple rational analysis should not scare the mods the way local minorities scare Pakistani Muslims.

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  • Junaid Saqib
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:32PM

    Dear
    we appreciate you work for the minorities and you have a good knowledge about our rights and problems but need more work hard for the betterment of minorities

    Junaid Saqib
    Chairman
    Pakistan Minority Rights Commission

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