When we measure the success of people or a community, we gauge it by the number of achievements or advancements they have made — usually economic, scientific or humanistic. One such community that exists within Pakistan has been under-appreciated, despite various achievements in the country for the betterment of our people. Our Zoroastrian community, though flourishing in several parts of the country in the past, has over time become marginalised and neglected. Nonetheless, it appears to be holding on for now, for its prior success has brought the community some stability and presence. No credit is attributed to the Pakistan government for this, which continues to weaken minority empowerment, seeking to squash minority presence in every sphere of life.
With regard to protecting and facilitating the Zoroastrian community, India is on the right track and has garnered global support through Unesco for the revival of the world’s smallest religious community. Contrastingly, Pakistan, with its population of more than 180 million people out of whom just a few thousand are Parsi, has done nothing to honour and protect the community. Even if we acquired more awareness about the community in politics and in society, there is no guarantee we would afford the community with the respect it deserves. For many Pakistanis, respect is reserved only for members of a particular faith and all others face persecution. The fact that members of the Parsi community operate in kindness and tolerance for others is entirely ignored.
Zoroastrians were once driven out of Iran before they settled in South Asia, and now we risk reducing their numbers once again, like we are doing with our Christian and Hindu populations. India trumps Pakistan when it comes to living in harmony with people from various cultures. Tolerance is something not found in abundance here but we must turn over a new leaf soon and respect our marginalised communities before we lose them.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2014.