Selling Out Minorities for Political Advantage in Pakistan

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Pakistan is a country with a large Muslim population, where the rights and social status of religious minorities are always remained neglected leaving them struggling for survival.

In the wake of growing extremism, intolerance and prejudice towards religious minorities have reached unprecedented levels. Religious minorities feel threatened and insecure under the discriminatory state laws as well as the edicts of hardline mullahs, who consider it a religious duty to torment every single non Muslim soul present in the country. 

For a long time this inhuman practice of forced conversion continued to haunt the minorities in the land and remained unnoticed by the authorities. But just last year the Sindh provincial government unanimously passed a law to curb forced conversions of mostly female non-Muslim youths, earning praise from civil society for thinking about marginalized communities.

Soon after that political juggling saw the ruling party in Sindh province, the PPP, hint they may drop the measure following pressure from religious parties. Seemingly they just wanted to use the law as a vantage point to make right wing political parties talk to them and that nobody gives a frog about the plight of discriminated communities across the Pakistan. 

Diffaa e Pakistan council, an alliance of mostly jihadi organizations comprising the leaders of banned terrorist outfits like Lashkar e Taiba (Hafiz Saeed), Allama Muhammad Ahmad Ludhyanvi (Lashkar e Jhangvi), Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Mulana Sami-ul- Haq, has launched a country-wide protest campaign against the passed law and  pledged to continue it unless the Sindh government revokes the law.

This council is an umbrella organization of around 40 religious and political parties.

Now the governor of Sindh province Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui has refused to ratify the bill.

The issue of forced conversions came into the spotlight after the media and rights groups reported an abnormal number of cases related to the conversion of mostly non-Muslim young girls to Islam.

These girls would vanish from their houses with no trace and their parents or relatives would be later told that the girls converted to Islam and were living with their Muslim husbands peacefully.

However, families of those girls would cry foul play as they would neither be allowed to freely see their girls nor those girls were allowed to move freely to their families or friends as if they were in a prison.

But those families would be given a “shut-up-call” by the local police and mullahs with the warnings that punishments for leaving Islam was death and their whole families and colonies would be burnt alive if any of the girls tried to revert or their families tried to make noise.

Whereas the media and the society also saw the parents or relatives of these girls claiming that their girls were abducted and forcefully converted to Islam.

The move initially took everybody with surprise as it came from the Party which is known for initiating discriminatory campaigns against the minorities with their Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1970s.

Bhutto is also accused of paving the way for other biased legislations against minorities such as the notorious blasphemy laws of the country and the Hudud Ordinance while widening the gap between the Muslim majority Sunnis and the rest of the citizens living across the country.

However, the same party lost one of their two key figures in the hands of the terrorists during their last rule under President Asif Ali Zardari.

The brave men who sacrificed their lives over a principled stance were the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti.

Their only sin was to bidding to amend the draconian laws in the Constitution of Pakistan and to right the wrongs, which Bhutto had initiated in order to please the radical mullahs of Pakistan in order to extend his rule.

Bhutto not only miserably failed in his attempt to keep ruling Pakistan but this naivety also cost him his life while leaving the country into a never ending loop of communal hatred and chaos.

Despite the fact that around 1,000 non-Muslim young girls and boys are abducted for forced conversion or alleged trafficking every year, yet lives of these poor people sound to become a mere bargaining chip for the PPP.

The scandal was so big that the MPs of the ruling party in Sindh such as Mian Mitho were reported to be spearheading the inhumane campaign as well as was also accused of running a child trafficking network and sold many non-Muslim girls and boys (mostly underage) to different buyers.

It seems that ex-President Asif Ali Zardari would be doing this favor for the mullahs in return for some kind of political support during the upcoming general elections or against the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN).

This is a smart political move on part of PPP while these religious parties are always seemed closer to PMLN. Recently the Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudary Nisar Ali Khan who also belongs to PMLN was reported for having close ties with banned extremist group Lashkar e Jhangvi, which is a wing of Taliban and is allegedly involved in local and international terrorism.

A scandalous picture of Nisar with the former chief of LJ raised eyebrows across the globe,yet Nisar seemed unperterbed by the scandal, which questions the credibility of National Action Plan (NAP) which was designed to counter terrorist organizations.

Pakistani political parties are seemed under crosshair of the religious extremists again as all the jihadi and hardliner clerics joined their hands and launched a country-wide campaign against the passed law.

Asif Ali Zardari has now assured the chief of Jammat-e- Islami that his party would think about using the majority of its MPs to repeal the recently introduced anti forced conversion law.

Majority of Pakistanis feel oblivious to the reality that the connivance between rulers and the extremist groups is all set to hijack their coming generations.

The percentage of non-Muslims living in Pakistan in 1947 was 15% which has now dropped to just 2%.

Majority of the country wants nothing to do with the forced conversions or abductions as that are not impacting them, ignoring the fact that empowering such evil feudal or rulers will not keep the majority safe for a long time when chicken comes to roost one day.

This phenomenon reminds me a poem written by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for socialists……

Then they came for the trade unionists………..

Then they came for Jews………..

Then they came for me………

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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