For this one day of the year, politicians of all stripes and sizes will trip over themselves to wish the Hindu community a happy Diwali. Their statements will make it to the newspapers, they will feel happy about themselves and then they will go back to doing nothing about the plight of Hindus in the county. The Hindu population doesn’t need politicians to pay them lip service; it needs actual action to be taken to help them out. In Sindh, kidnappings of young Hindu girls, who are then forcibly converted to Islam and married off to influential locals, continue unabated. Even the Supreme Court took up a forcible conversion case but did not rule in favour of the Hindu family, whose daughter had been wrenched away from them. In Balochistan, meanwhile, prosperous Hindu traders are being kidnapped for ransom and the state has not even acknowledged the problem. Many Hindu families have been left with no option but to migrate to India — a country they don’t want to live in but one where they will at least be accepted.
Of course, it is not just the Hindu community that faces public discrimination and official apathy. Christians and other minorities live in constant fear of being attacked or hauled off to jail after being accused of blasphemy. Often, their ‘crime’ is nothing but a property dispute or a misunderstanding. But their religion ensures that only the Muslim point of view will be heard. Christians are given the most menial jobs in the country and end up living in poverty-stricken ghettos. And yet, come Christmas or Easter time, all our politicians will be posing in front of the camera reading out their rehearsed statements.
If the plight of minorities is indeed something the political class cares about, there is a lot that can be done. A simple reform of the blasphemy laws alone, making it much harder for cases to be registered without proof, would make minorities feel incalculably safer. Now is also the time to treat every citizen of the country as a Pakistani, regardless of caste, creed or religion. It is scandalous that non-Muslims cannot be elected as president. This is not the Pakistan that Jinnah fought for.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2012.
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