It unfortunately was not a surprise waking up to another tragic news in Pakistan. Over the past few years it has become a norm, the only variation being the context. On November 10th, 2014, the tragedy that awaited me was death of a Christian couple in the province of Punjab. Death is certainly too subtle word for that incidence. It was rather a heinous brutal killing of two individuals in the name of blasphemy. This again was not a tragedy unheard of as killings in the name of blasphemy have made the news quite a number of times now over these years. Although this hasn’t spared even the political heads of the nation, the religious minorities still remain the victims.
Religious minorities in Pakistan are protected in law but as the implementation of law has failed in all sectors of life, this is not an exception either. Religion is an established vulnerable issue that societies avoid to involve in the usual matters. However in a country like Pakistan, it is rather one of the most significant elements from national policy making to social dealings at the level of Mohalla. This is associated with strong sentiments and the illiteracy is then enough to stir up the emotions over even a negligible thing.
Though it’s an old phenomenon but the frequency of such events has progressively increased, spiking to a worrisome level where it has transitioned from a sporadic to repetitive nature. We see the officials taking notice of such brutalities, as the arrest of 44 suspects of November 10th incidence but the severity of measures taken is certainly not proportional to the gravity of situation. There still is an acknowledgeable failure of the law in providing justice in such cases- justice that sets a standard and example for all such subsequent events, along with serving the specific case. We still lack the clarity of law over this aspect. The law calls for death sentence for blasphemous acts yet the exact criteria of blasphemy remains undefined.
Despite all this, it is not at all justifiable for the people to take the right of decision and punishment over the state. The state has indeed failed to implement firm policies regarding these sensitive issues which is why we unfortunately see the religious minorities suffering in this country. It is also true that contrary to such aggression, there is a huge majority of people that stands in solidarity with the minorities in Pakistan and strongly condemns such injustices. However, religion being a sensitive one is never an issue our leaders are comfortable with. We have seen how even a minor decision over a religious case can provoke fierce response. Therefore it calls for very delicate measures.
The right of minorities is a worldwide issue and we see it under different labels such as racism or sectarianism. Lately, it has been a major problem for a country like USA, which is believed to be civilized enough to be over and beyond such discriminatory ideologies. The government and responsible institutions have tried the best to diffuse the situation subtly yet it is a sentiment so deep rooted that the spark has started the fire that just won’t go away that easily.
All these factors highlight the importance minorities hold in a society, which is further implied by the fact that from formation of a new nation to election campaigns, the protection of minorities succeeds in staying in limelight at any stage. We have witnessed in past how a weak policy regarding protection of minorities can alter the course of election campaigns. Also, the smart strategists often target the social and religious minorities first to make a spot.
Since the minorities in a society understand the delicacy of their position, it is understandable that they live as benign sector of the society. This fear and associated subdued nature rather makes them even weaker. Weak enough to disable them from identifying and asking for their basic rights as citizens, which gives space to non-significant elements of their suppression such as being unable to govern the country. They fail to understand that it is more important for them that they are not denied the basic rights as citizens of a country merely on basis of being a part of socio-religious minority. This however is a seeped in psychological phenomenon that can be countered by jolting and making the minorities aware of their true rights, or at least the basics. It will be a strengthening factor for them, as well as a manageable problem for the authorities as there is no room for debate over rights of a citizen.
Pakistan is going through an evolutionary phase as all the aspects of society from the governance system to basic rights are being challenged. Amidst this phase, it is important that we do not overlook an issue significant enough to make any member of the nation vulnerable and insecure. The minorities need to identify their fundamental rights and with collaboration of active social elements like human rights activists, they should make sure that the protection of their rights is incorporated during this process of civilization. The role of political and religious officials is undeniably complementary to the action of minorities and therefore all the relevant authorities need to advocate genuine solicitude for socio-religious minorities and help them in making this mark.
Urwa tul Wusqa