Back in 2002 when I was a rookie journalist I met Jeewanti, a teenager who was doused with acid to avenge a property dispute with her family. She was the first person I met who has faced an act of violence against her. Unfortunately since then I have met various people who have faced brutality, be it Munno Bheel who has been fighting for over a decade to release his bonded family or the peon in my former office who fled his home in Chitral because he was a Shia living in a Sunni village fearing persecution for his faith. One of my friends has lost her uncle, a surgeon, during the period when sectarian groups were killing Shia doctors in Karachi.
Every minority – be it ethnic, religious or sectarian – have faced violence and persecution in this country. If you are a religious minority in the land of the pure, you have as much opportunity for growth as a one-legged man in a kicking competition. The constitution bars you from holding the highest offices in the country. Your temples and churches are vandalised and you are not allowed to propagate your religion. You are lucky if you are a Christian or a Hindu, at least you can call your places of worship what you want; if you happen to be an Ahmadi, you cannot even do that.
If you are a child, you are probably one of too many children in the family; your parents do not give you enough food and attention. There are not enough schools and even if they are, you parents cannot afford to send you and you are working to contribute to the family income.
At the workplace you are abused. If you leave home, you could be sexually abused and will end up using drugs. If you end up in a madrassa there is a great likelihood that you will end up as a suicide bomber, perpetuating violence and terror to others. If you are a sectarian minority, you are on the hit-list of all sectarian outfits. They can burn your houses and places of business if you are in Chitral or can shoot you from a distance of two metres in Karachi and get away
If you are woman, you will be malnourished and uneducated. When you are a little older, you will probably be doused with acid, burned, tortured, married off to men of inappropriate age and character to pay off debts (vani) or killed to either implicate or secure money from opponents of your family (karo kari). You could be be raped, at times even by the police and other security forces, to settle dispute and at times because men think they can get away with it. Your testimony in the court of law is that of half of a man, and your citizenships rights are limited.
The way things are in this country of ours; soon it will turn into a place where only rich rightwing fanatic men belonging to the majority sect will have any citizenship rights. If you are a religious man from the majority sect spewing venom against the minorities and women from the pulpits, you will have an unassailable immunity.
The way things are, the future migrations from the country would not be for economic reasons, they would be for liberty and freedom.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 15th, 2010.