Minority Rights Day: 2012 saw rise in attacks on places of worship

Published: December 18, 2012

at least 27 places of worship of religious minorities hvandalised in last four years. DESIGN: SUNARA NIZAMI

LAHORE: 

Just this year, nine places of worship have been damaged, destroyed or vandalised in Pakistan. This includes five churches and three Hindu temples.

Part of a disturbing trend in violence against minorities in the country, at least 27 places of worship of religious minorities have been vandalised in the last four years, according to data collected by the Church-run National Commission of Justice and Peace. The NCJP also records incidents of forcefully occupying land meant for worship places or occupying existing places, as well as murders of those involved in building worship places.

This year, three churches in Sindh, one in Mardan and one in Faisalabad were attacked; one Hindu temple was vandalised, one razed in Karachi and another attacked in Peshawar, while minarets of an Ahmadi place of worship were demolished in Kharian, Punjab. The perpetrators in all of these cases were “unidentified men,” except for the Ahmadi worship place, where the minarets were demolished by the Punjab police.

Senior office bearer of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Hussain Naqi blames this increase in violence against minorities on a “mix of absence of good governance, connivance and fear” on the state’s part.

The country’s Constitution defends minorities, their access to worship, and their properties; more specifically, both Pakistan Penal Code and Muslim law protect all places of worship. However, prosecution is often weak when places of worship of minorities are attacked. “Minorities are discriminated against in such cases, largely because of weak investigation on the police’s part,” says senior advocate of the Supreme Court Mian Tariq Ahmed. Kamran Arif, lawyer and member of the HRCP agrees, “Nobody is interested in prosecution of such cases.”

Arif adds that, “the law for protection of minorities’ worship places, for example section 295 of the PPC, does have room for improvement, but the issue is that the government needs to work on implementation of whatever little the law offers, to tackle the issue of impunity.”

Most lawyers agree with this assessment. The issue is not of poor legislation but of poor implementation and lack of political will to stand for the rights of minorities. “Politicians are busy with the goal of gaining enough votes and probably fear plays a part in stopping them from taking a firm stance in the minorities’ favour,” says constitutional lawyer Salman Akram Raja.

Two members of the ruling party, former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and religious affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti were both murdered for their stand on a blasphemy case. The state’s weak response to the murders of its own was widely criticized by rights groups. “Pakistani society has never stood up for a fundamental norm or rights collectively and such cases cannot just be fought in the courts,’” says Abid Hassan Minto, senior lawyer and constitution expert. Minto points out that judges also do not take decisions which would rile the status quo, partly due to fear.

Perpetrators

Naeem Shakir, an advocate who has represented Christian victims of violence in Punjab, believes judges give verdicts that do not provide justice and lawyers take up cases against religious minorities because they believe “their status in heaven will be raised by such stances in court”.

“Only a particular brand of Muslim is considered a citizen with full rights,” says Raza Rumi, director of the Jinnah Institute, a public policy think tank that also focuses on minority rights and discrimination in society. Rumi adds that the problem lies in society’s attitudes toward minorities. “Law enforcement apparatus is also staffed with people of the same society, whose interface with Pakistan’s educational system and the “values”, indoctrinates them with identical prejudices.

Of late, the law enforcement agencies are weaker and vulnerable to organised militant groups, who infiltrate themselves in the mobs who attack worship places of the religious minorities, and when faced by a powerful adversary, the police also stop resisting the mob.” He stresses that the general public is indifferent to such crimes against the minorities because they simply do not know how to react, and because their identity is premised on Islam.

Organised attacks on minorities can only be dealt with, if Pakistan has a law on “violence against minorities”, just like there is legislation on violence against women.  “It is the only way forward,” says Peter Jacob, Director of NCJP. He stresses the need to also “define crimes against minorities so that such incidents can be dealt with as per law.” Jacob says that the posturing of law needs to be proactive, and the government’s efforts to mainstream non-Muslim citizens needs to reach a logical end.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2012.

Reader Comments (14)

  • Zehra
    Dec 18, 2012 - 9:46AM

    It is shameful that the rights of minorities are not just trampled on but also completely disregarded. Our society is filled with intolerance and if we don’t do anything about it, we’re probably going to be a nation full of hatred and violence.Recommend

  • Logicola
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:47PM

    Guys still talking about Babri Mosque, why don’t they see this?

    Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:47PM

    As the hearts of the minorities open up to Islam, these attacks will come down surely. No need to blow everything out of proportion.Recommend

  • dj
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:50PM

    this is a never ending destruction. first it was nonmuslims. now nonmuslims and muslims, after this you will see. but its unstoppable

    Recommend

  • Mard-e-Haq
    Dec 18, 2012 - 2:27PM

    These attacks are only natural for a society that boasts of its Islamic piety.

    Recommend

  • Nasir
    Dec 18, 2012 - 2:32PM

    It’s not a ahmadi place of worship …….it’s called a mosque…. And it’s not mullahstan it’s. pakistan

    Recommend

  • yousaf
    Dec 18, 2012 - 3:20PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:::If you are REALLY serious about what you say then Zehra is right what she says (most un-fortunately).Because despite all her good wishes we don’t seem to be doing anything to change for the better,at least in foreseeable future

    Recommend

  • Pradeep
    Dec 18, 2012 - 3:37PM

    Minority Rights Day: 2012 saw rise in attacks on places of worship

    So did 2011, 2010, 2009… so will 2013,2014… whats the point? Its not like this going to raise any more awareness than it already has.

    Recommend

  • Z.Khan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 3:57PM

    “Only a particular brand of Muslim is considered a citizen with full rights,” says Raza Rumi, director of the Jinnah Institute, a public policy think tank that also focuses on minority rights and discrimination in society. Rumi adds that the problem lies in society’s attitudes toward minorities. “Law enforcement apparatus is also staffed with people of the same society, whose interface with Pakistan’s educational system and the “values”, indoctrinates them with identical prejudices.

    Well said Mr Rumi. Now every one knows it is Saudi branded Muslims who enjoy full citizen rights.I would go bit further and shall term the current attitude as inflexible mind set of the Pakistani society. This mind set has infested the whole set up to an extent, any voice raised against minority atrocities aught to face deaf and dumb hearing at each echelon of the society. A complete overhauling of whole society is required if nation has to stay as an acceptable entity on this planet. Even Somalis have realised it and efforts are evolving for reformation in that country also.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Dec 18, 2012 - 4:23PM

    @yousaf:

    If you are REALLY serious about what
    you say

    I am serious of course. All the anti-minority violence will only lead the ignorant towards the light of Islam, the religion of peace, equality and tolerance.

    Though it will lead to destruction in the short-term, it will verily lead to heaven on earth in long -term. Look at the big picture. What can possibly be better than a purely Islamic Pakistan?!

    Recommend

  • BILL-usa
    Dec 18, 2012 - 10:51PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:
    If your religion is really of peace,equality and tolerance, you won’t have attacks on other religions. But in some twisted way you believe this.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Dec 19, 2012 - 2:40AM

    @Bill-usa, Yousaf: Yuri is an Indian Hindu and he is bieng sarcastic. We do however have people on these boards who actually hold these opinions – so unless someone is actually familiar with Yuri’s posts, it is easy to take such views at face value..

    Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Dec 19, 2012 - 12:04PM

    @gp65:

    Yuri is an Indian Hindu and he is
    bieng sarcastic.

    I am an India and myself have declared in these forums. I was being sarcastic (obviously). But, I am curious as to how you assumed me to be a Hindu.

    Recommend

  • Saira
    Dec 20, 2012 - 12:16AM

    It’s disturbing to read of the frightful conditions of minorities within Pakistan. There is hardly anything Islamic about the Islamic republic of Pakistan. Showing tolerance and respecting the beliefs of others is a core principal in Islam, and Muslims are taught to protect and honour all places of worship.
    Pakistan as a nation needs to wake up now and realize the situation, before the entire nation becomes engulfed with hatered and violence.

    Recommend

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