In an enlightening bit of news, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti recently announced Rs90 million for the rehabilitation and renovation of a church in Mardan that was destroyed back in September during riots over an amateur anti-Islam video. While this is a surprising move — as members of the state appear more engrossed in destroying and marginalising Pakistan’s minority communities rather than supporting them and building them up — it must be emphasised and commended. It is a rare story, alluding to the idea that the state might actually care about our minorities.
Will other past atrocities towards minority communities receive the same kind of attention and treatment? The Ahmadi tombstones destroyed in Lahore on December 3 come to mind, as does the Hindu temple that was damaged in Karachi on December 4. In a fair state, governments pay attention to minority fears and concerns. They also work towards allaying those concerns and protecting the vulnerable. While the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister has alleviated some suffering of a minority community, there are still other marginalised groups that need attention in all provinces of Pakistan.
It is time to stop giving in to fear about how terrorists might react. There are too many forces creating divides in our masses — whether it is through religious sectarianising, political beliefs or socio-economic class — making it increasingly difficult to single out who our real enemy is. First and foremost on the security agenda should be protecting minority lives and then minority places of worship. With Christmas around the corner, we should take note of the chief minister’s gesture to show our leaders that we are paying attention to how they treat our friends in minority communities. Some searching would lead us to find that our minority communities preach the same peace and tolerance that the dominating religion in our country preaches. Many members of religious minority communities are deeply patriotic towards Pakistan and would love to remain here if they could be afforded some peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2012.
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