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Mar-09-2014 16:44printcomments

High-Handed Leadership

The Islamists are prevailing in the battle of ideas. Secular voices have been either physically eliminated or removed from the mainstream by judicial means.

Z. A. Bhutto
Z. A. Bhutto photo courtesy: blogs.tribune.com.pk

(ISLAMABAD) - Religious minorities are widely viewed as beleaguered or under attack since Z. A. Bhutto’s regime. Even then, Pakistani Christians followed his ideology. At the time of partition in 1947, around 23 percent of the population was comprised of non-Muslims citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3-4 percent. Religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis, have been the targets of suicide bomb attacks; several incidents of violence and intimidation were reported including abduction and subsequent forced conversion of girls. Worship places and graveyards of Christians and Ahmadis have not been spared. Regular reports of graves being excavated and vandalized appear in the press and via community reports.

General Zia brought in rules and regulations which were supposed to bring Pakistani law more in tune with the Sharia, or at least the Sharia as interpreted by him and his cohorts. These laws, which included the infamous blasphemy law, had a long term impact on Pakistan’s minorities. Since then there has been a steady rise in incidents involving attacks on both Christians and Ahmadis during the last two decades. Blasphemy law has targeted religious minorities on a regular basis. In spite of the case’s dismissal by the court, the Christian girl named Rimsha who made headlines over a false Blasphemy accusation, and her family, had to be kept in a safe house t,o prevent vigilante action against her. Finally Rimsha and her family relocated to Canada.

During the British era, blasphemy laws were used infrequently and were reserved for prosecution of clerics, authors and preachers who caused inter-communal violence by attacking other faiths. But since 1982, any individual can be charged with blasphemy, leading to vigilantism and frivolous accusations against Pakistan’s minorities, especially Christians. Before 1986, only 14 cases of blasphemy had ever been reported, whereas between 1986 and 2012 around 1300 people had been charged.

I believe that all Christians are not saints but human beings and often make mistakes, but I certainly believe that there is even a limit to telling lies. Bhutto nationalized Christians’ institutions and since then Christian students are out of educational institutions. Even now Christian students are being expelled from missionary institutions due to the lack of sources. But Paul Bhatti’sclaimed that he has supported 4000 Christian students and funded 15 Christian students for higher studies in abroad and 100 million provided for rehabilitation of worship places. I didn’t see any support for Christians during his time. This huge fund is beyond the total grant to Harmony Ministry from the government, which is around 20 million per year. During the vigil marking slain minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s third death anniversary, I heard people claiming they are promoting his vision; I try to recall, what Shahbaz Bhatti or his followers have done for the community but found nothing but this scandle. Sitting as federal minister in government, if he delivered a statement in the favor of persecuted women it is not worthy to take credits. He was elected through a democratic process but was selected by a big Muslim political party. Candidates appointed to reserved seats are not real representatives as they do not get their votes. The selection system adopted for minority members has opened the doors of corruption, says Albert David- Chairman PUCM. Thus he was not a public representative. When the majority of fellow Christians are going through sufferings we are not worthy to take any credits. Nazir S Bhatti, president PCC declared joint electorate conspiracy against religious minorities. PCC has filed a writ petition in IHC against this system.

Besides flagging the incidents, the HRCP report laments the failure to do away with discriminatory laws including the constitutional provision barring non-Muslims from key government positions. Instead of abandoning the promise of revising and improving the law, the government should create consensus on the need to reform it. Educational institutions, technical training centers and women empowerment is required to empower the Christian community.

If I look around and I could find few passionate Christians, who delighted to extend their hands to all affected areas and people in need. There is a lot of information regarding the recent and past Christian persecutions that sway Pakistan over and over. Scientists say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can create a tornado in Texas a week later. Clearly, in today’s deeply connected Christian world, truthful unbiased and unfiltered news about realities of persecution is a basic need to address. Christian persecution news coverage is pitiable in Pakistan, but reminding the Christians around to unite, remain prayerful and patient so that we can ripple Christian love and concern through our own individual lives and the consequent lives we inevitably affect around us.

But unlikely there are many so called Christian leaders wasting the resources shaking up with Muslim ullmas and contributing in main political parties. The Islamists are prevailing in the battle of ideas. Secular voices have been either physically eliminated or removed from the mainstream by judicial means. Therefore, it is in the interest of neighbors and the international community to support the minority communities in Pakistan and to support the voices of those Pakistanis who refuse to give up the idea of a pluralist society.

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About Shamim Masih

"I am Christian rights activist and freelancer Pakistani journalist specializing in writing about Christians rights for the different papers in the world. My aim is to create a peaceful environment in the society and to help eliminate Christian persecution through my writing as I bring the plight of these brave people under the spotlight of the whole world."

Shamim Masih was born in Sheikhopura's village and raised in Gujranwala, a city in Pakistan's Punjab province. He earned his Bachelors Degree from the University of the Punjab, Lahore majoring in English, Economics and Statistics; he also received a Masters Degree in Business Administration

As a freelance writer and author, Shamim has written for different papers in the world; his expertise is in writing articles highlighting different social issues. He has served as freelance chief reporter and column writer in “Minority Times” in Islamabad, and a number of Shamim's articles have been published in local papers as well.

You can write to Shamim at this address: shamimpakistan@gmail.com

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