The recent upsurge in violence being perpetrated against Rohingya Muslims in Burma has highlighted the Burmese regime’s complete disregard for basic human rights. The Burmese security forces are guilty of killings, rapes and mass arrests. The 800,000-strong Rohingya community has never been accepted as part of Burma and has always been discriminated against, with the violence against them seemingly intensifying in recent weeks. One catalyst was a statement by Burmese President Thein Sein that all Rohingyas should either be deported or placed in refugee camps. Since many Rohingyas trace their roots to Burma, going back many decades, such a move would essentially leave them stateless. Bangladesh has always been reluctant to accept Rohingyas, while Burma sees them as illegal immigrants. The Rohingyas seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
These recent happenings have highlighted Pakistan’s tendency to call for appropriate action to be taken in various cases of violence against Muslims across the world, instead of focusing on those violent acts being perpetrated on its own soil. The persecution of Rohingya Muslims has caught our eyes, to the extent that even the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has killed as many Muslims as any other entity, is calling on the Burmese government to stop the killings and for the Pakistani government to cut off all ties until this is done. Lawyers groups and political parties have also carried out protests. What makes our concern for Burmese Muslims ironic is that many of them are ethnic Bengalis, a group which we discriminated against with impunity in the past.
Despite their dire situation, there is little Pakistan can do. We have too many problems of our own to make this a priority. At most, we can raise the issue at international forums. It is hoped that the world does not ignore the plight of Rohingya Muslims and ensures that their rights are protected and that the Burmese regime stops its violent acts against this community.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.