Fear, persecution and intolerance

Published: October 30, 2012
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The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

Existing on the edge of fear has become the norm for the vast majority of people in Pakistan. Once known for its remarkable hospitality, suspicion of absolutely everyone governs how people react on the streets, in shops and in other places where strangers have no option but to mingle. Given the current unrest, nay, let’s be honest and call a spade a spade: given the ‘civil war’ we have been so blindly living in for the past few years, suspicion is understandable. But one unfortunate thing, amongst many other things, of course, is that despite the indisputable fact that this civil war is being fought by Muslims against Muslims, the population at large appears to have turned almost completely against Pakistanis of other faiths, too.

Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and any other minority community to whom Pakistan has always been home, are increasingly victimised, persecuted and as appears to have become the trend of late, charged with blasphemy for no reason other than that they happen to own something, usually property or land, that someone else wants to get their filthy hands on. This targeting, irrespective of whether they are men, women or children belonging to other faiths, has knocked both religious and cultural pluralism firmly on the head. It is a very retrograde step indeed, all angles duly considered; a step which serves only to push this supposed ‘land of the pure’ even closer to being a ‘land of the narrow-minded, bigoted fanatics’ over which uneducated mullahs rule all and sundry and in which the word ‘freedom’ — be this freedom of thought, act or deed — has been deleted from the dictionary of the human right to live in peace.

Pakistan is, of course, an Islamic country but this, as insisted by the father of the nation himself, most certainly does not remove the rights of those of other faiths to which the country is also home. Yet, their rights are rapidly being erased with the result that those who can are bailing out for pastures new and far safer than if they were to fight for their birthrights here.

Just because someone happens to be of a different faith does not mean that they should be viewed as enemies which is, frankly speaking, how Muslims — through no fault of our own — are now viewed by the world at large. Knowing how abhorrent it feels to be treated with hurtful disrespect and utter disdain should make Muslims think twice about maltreating those of other religious persuasions. However, selfishly insular as the general population has become, it has done nothing of the sort and as a direct result of this insularity, the standard of life has been seriously degraded for all.

Just across our eastern border, people of many religious denominations live side by side in complete harmony: mosques, temples, churches and other places of worship stand in close proximity and all go about their daily lives and routines — religious, educational and otherwise — with smiles on their faces and happiness in the air. They live, or so it appears, in a state of bliss, which has long since been relegated to the history books here.

Fear and persecution of ‘others’ equates to fear and persecution of ‘self’ which is, for Pakistan, an extremely sad state of affairs, indeed.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:32PM

    Just because someone happens to be of a different faith does not mean that they should be viewed as enemies which is, frankly speaking, how Muslims — through no fault of our own — are now viewed by the world at large.

    Unlike the minorities in Pakistan, Muslims world over are partly to blame for the suspicion they are viewed with. The peaceful majority has let the extremist minority hijack the religion, and today those extremists are the first thing that come to mind when one says ‘Islam’ – so yes, the peaceful Muslims are at fault here. Also, Muslims are the first to demand ‘their equal rights’ when they are in a minority making the host nations bend over backwards; but the access of minorities to ‘equal rights’ vanishes where Muslims are in a majority. Muslims are eager to blame and demonise the ‘West’; yet don’t see the hypocrisy when lining up at the embassies for visas of the very same nations they claim to ‘despise’. And the classic ‘Muslims don’t kill Muslims’ or ‘there is no compulsion to convert in Islam’ while turning a blind eye to evidence, and looking for bogeymen to blame.

    So let’s not be so ‘innocent’ – you are at fault. Till you realize this and change yourselves, the situation will not change.

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  • sid
    Oct 30, 2012 - 10:52PM

    Troll alert……………India vs Pakistan……….Going to have a big laugh…..

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  • Oct 31, 2012 - 2:07AM

    Few of many observations are right..but few words in text body are extra..our society is alive society..if a man concerning with concerning with society builder organization will never write like this..those who were sleeping are now awaking..ite the only change ane it’s dominant on society presently..

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  • Oct 31, 2012 - 4:36AM

    Economic Prosperity = Tolerance

    It’s a simple equation. Some of the most intolerable and racist nations on earth have had remarkable turn arounds simply because even though they were racist they focussed on education and valued the right attributes in their leaders. And they became economic powerhouse, and thenat the end of the journey, they realised that tolerance and globalisation is the key to a healthy society. One example of this is Australia, where I am residing right now.

    Extremism and intolerance in Pakistan can be partially if not totally blamed on an utter failure of the civilian government to provide cheap education to the masses. Pakistanis value education, but the poor amongst us at one stage had no choice but to send their kids to madrassa, while the rich ignored their fellow citizens. We are reaping the rewards now.

    There should be an education emergency in Pakistan, the newspapers need to get better at highlighting government inefficiency in this area, rather than spewing articles about how intolerant we’ve become, and that too in English!

    All respect to your writing Ma’am, fully agree with you.

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  • sabi
    Oct 31, 2012 - 5:02AM

    Bhutto has done two things for this country
    1:Nationalisation of all private institutions & industries.
    2:Commercialisation of relegion
    In the later years all institutions were de-nationalised and given back to private sectors and eversince struggling to come back on the right track.
    Relegion however remains state property where, powerfull religious clergy is enthrised to define
    what relegion is and who is good or bad muslim.Any definetion of religion viz a viz quran, hadith or fiqah by layman or sect in minority, is not only forbidden but punishable according to the constitution.This powerfull loby is working hand in hand with establishment,with both parties enjoying maximum by virtu of that constitutional clauses.This is the reason why every time when there is debate to do away with these clauses,these fitna baz mullahs from all major sects, despite staunch differences gather on one platform.to resist any change and don’t
    hesitate to sillance any voice for ever.This is a matter of bread and butter for them.If Pakistan has to survive peacefully and live like a civilised nation it has to do away with with this fitna.There is no other option.

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  • Oct 31, 2012 - 10:22AM

    Well, your concern for minorities is heart warming, but they are going to disappear from Pakistan in the next decade or two.

    Just see the math. 20% at Partition to 2% now. In the next decade when the crime against them will increase exponentially, the Taliban get stronger and stronger, there is really no way, they will remain.

    Total submission to Islam, Jinnah wanted. You’ve got submission alright.

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  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)
    Oct 31, 2012 - 3:33PM

    Unfortunately, its people like you who are fueling the fire. They have privileges which is not enjoyed by any Minority elsewhere. They have reserved seats in all the Houses. They are represented in all walks of life.Recommend

  • Nadir N.M Mahmood
    Oct 31, 2012 - 3:59PM

    Unfortunately Islam is surrounded by extremists, bigots and fanatics and they are getting stronger due to the complacency of the silent majority of Pakistan.Wrong interpretation of the Holy Quran and Knowing nothing about the conduct of the Holy Founder of Islam has made things even worst .It is high time to propagate the true and message of Islam, which is peace for the whole mankind ,irrespective of religion, race and color.Islam teaches to love to every human without any discrimination unless somebody takes up arms against the peaceful people of any nation.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 31, 2012 - 4:36PM

    ‘Just because someone happens to be of a different faith does not mean that they should be viewed as enemies which is, frankly speaking, how Muslims — through no fault of our own — are now viewed by the world at large.’

    Then, whose fault is this? Of the ‘world at large’?
    This is where the problem lies.
    The binary world view of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ may help laying the blame at the ‘other’s door and claiming the moral higher ground, but it won’t take us even an inch closer to fix the problem that breed,nurtures and glorify intolerance.Recommend

  • arifq
    Oct 31, 2012 - 4:59PM

    “Pakistan is, of course, an Islamic country” With assertions such as these there is very little room to argue for a pluralistic state as defined by MA Jinnah. To be honest, Jinnah did not envision a theocratic state or any such definition.

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  • Ahsan
    Oct 31, 2012 - 5:39PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd):
    Mr Imtiaz, were you promoted to colonel rank during Zia’s time? It is very much apparent from your comment. Your fellow soldiers with Islamic tendencies have ruined this great country and now you are displaying intolerance towards voices of criticism towards this extremism. Pakistan should be governed in a way where there should be no minorities but all Pakistanis. Minorities don’t need your charity of seats. Your fellow soldiers and their leaders had turned towards US in 1980s for money and since then never looked back. You must be ashamed of your biggoted and hypocritical views.

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  • mahakaalchakra
    Oct 31, 2012 - 6:26PM

    @Author: I appreciate what you have written above. However,a religion is judged by its followers, their behavior as a society, deeds and proclamations… it is judged by what is being ‘practiced’ by its followers today rather than some glorified or delusional interpretations by some individual which are never put in actions by the majority of its followers. When cornered, Muslims say Islam has been distorted by Muslims extremists. Is there any country or planet where “true” Islam is freely practiced today or it is a case of “what you see is what you get”?PERIOD.

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  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)
    Oct 31, 2012 - 6:29PM

    @Ahsan: When one doesn’t have a viable explanation, one hides behind making wild accusations.

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  • gp65
    Oct 31, 2012 - 6:46PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd): “They have privileges which is not enjoyed by any Minority elsewhere. ”
    You are right sir.
    Minorities elsewhere do not have their worship places destroyed by police because it has a dome.
    Minor minority girls do not get raped and forcibly converted to the majority religion elsewhere.
    Prayer leaders of majority do not create fake blasphemy cases against minorities to settle landgrab issues.

    Seriously though, if the minority is so well off, why does the proportion of minority shrink every census?

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  • Bill Maher
    Oct 31, 2012 - 7:10PM

    To borrow a phrase from a speech by Gandhi (really from the movie Gandhi):

    ““Here we make speeches for each other – and those English liberal magazines that
    may grant us a few lines. But the people of India are untouched.”

    How similar is the situation here?

    @Author: Pls make an effort to have this published in Urdu press for the masses.
    ..ps

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  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)
    Oct 31, 2012 - 8:19PM

    @gp65: It is very simple. Mr. Bhutto got the Constitution passed unanimously which says It will be an Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Naturally they cannot enjoy what they would like as in a Secular State like India or Migrating to US & Canada. They certainly feel comfortable in that Environment.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 31, 2012 - 9:39PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    After making such bombastic claims, as,

    ‘They have privileges which is not enjoyed by any Minority elsewhere. They have reserved seats in all the Houses. They are represented in all walks of life.’

    you climb down from your lofty pedestal (with the benefit of a little nudge from @Ahsan and @gp65) to the pedestrian They certainly feel comfortable in that Environment

    Didn’t know that India, US and Canada do not fall within ‘elsewhere’ when Pakistan is considered as the centre of universe.
    Thanks anyway for this little gem of a geographic wisdom.

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  • Atyachaar
    Oct 31, 2012 - 10:17PM

    Muhammad Iqbal’s statement explaining the attitude of Muslim delegates to the London’s round-table conference issued in December 1933 was a rejoinder to Jawahar Lal Nehru’s statement. Nehru had said that the attitude of the Muslim delegation was based on “reactionarism”. Iqbal concluded his rejoinder with:

    “ In conclusion, I must put a straight question to Pandit Jawahar Lal, how is India’s problem to be solved if the majority community will neither concede the minimum safeguards necessary for the protection of a minority of 80 million people, nor accept the award of a third party; but continue to talk of a kind of nationalism which works out only to its own benefit? This position can admit of only two alternatives. Either the Indian majority community will have to accept for itself the permanent position of an agent of British imperialism in the East, or the country will have to be redistributed on a basis of religious, historical and cultural affinities so as to do away with the question of electorates and the communal problem in its present form.”

    Now look what Pakistan is doing to its own minority.

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  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)
    Oct 31, 2012 - 10:27PM

    @Cynical: Cheer up. What is getting you so riled up. Relax. Can’t make Head or Tail of what you want to say.Recommend

  • gp65
    Oct 31, 2012 - 11:16PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd): “Cynical…Can’t make Head or Tail of what you want to say'”.
    HE is pointing out the discrepancy between your original post and your post in reply to my comment.

    Specifically in your original statement you have implied that minorities are better off in Pakistan than ‘elsewhere’. In your latter statement you say that minorities are more comfortable in India, US and Canada.This prompted the question as to whether you do not consider India, US, Canada in your definition of ‘elsewhere’.

    Hope this helps.

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  • Oct 31, 2012 - 11:19PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd):
    ” It is very simple. Mr. Bhutto got the Constitution passed unanimously which says It will be an Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Naturally they cannot enjoy what they would like as in a Secular State like India”

    So you admit rather insist that In Islamic state Minorities will be discriminated

    They(minority) have privileges which is not enjoyed by any Minority elsewhere. . Is Discrimination a synonym of privilege to you?

    So far reservation of constituencies for minorities is concerned you need to update your knowledge. In India constituencies are reserved for socially backward people which are a minority ( Not a religious minority of course).

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  • Cynical
    Oct 31, 2012 - 11:58PM

    @gp65

    Thanks for the time and trouble you took to explain my comment to @Lt Col…..
    I resisted the temptation out of a belief, that I can’t wake up people who pretend that they are sleeping.
    By the way I replied to your query in another page on ensuing cricket series between India-Pakistan. But it didn’t pass through the Mod’s radar as yet.

    Regards.

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  • Dec 10, 2012 - 6:43PM

    I realize the concern.I am very j sad to hear that you got your Supra fixed. I remember reading about some of your doubt !.Recommend

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