DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN PAKISTAN: AN ANALYSIS OF FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL LAWS

Introduction

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, address to the Constituent Assembly, August 11,947:
“You are free: you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or
to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion,
caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State… We are starting with
this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. Now I
think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of
time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not so in
the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the
political sense as a citizen of the State.”
The vision of Pakistan at the time of partition was very different to what Pakistan has
become. A country, which was envisioned to be a home for all, without regard to one’s
caste, creed or religion, to provide equal rights to all citizens of the state, and a state that
was not to interfere with the religious beliefs of its citizens has failed miserably in
honouring the very principle on which it was founded. Pakistan now ranks as the 7th most
dangerous country in the world for religious minorities.
The Objectives Resolution introduced by Liaquat Ali Khan in 1949 attempted to establish
nationhood in Pakistan through religious conformity. This meant that the laws and
regulations would be framed in accordance with Islam, exposing the vulnerable
communities of the new state to religious exploitation. The ulema who felt empowered by
this ‘Islamic’ way of running the state, made their first unreasonable demand for
declaring the Ahmadiya community as non-Muslim and removing the first Pakistani
Foreign Minister, Sir Zafrullah Khan, who was an Ahmadi, from the cabinet. The
violence that ensued led to the very first martial law in Pakistan. Among others, Abul Ala
Maudoodi, founder of the Jamat-e-Islami was arrested and sentenced to death- a sentence
which was commuted shortly after. This was the first major event in the ever increasing
polarization between the orthodox and moderate Muslims.
From here on, the appeasement of the religiously oppressive began, leading to increased
discrimination against religious minorities. When the 1973 Constitution was introduced
by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Objectives Resolution was retained as the Preamble to the
constitution, which also declared Pakistan as an Islamic state. It restricted the offices of
prime minister and president of Pakistan to Muslims only. Article 260 of the constitution
unequivocally declared the Ahmadiya community as a non-Muslim minority. General  Zia-ul-Haq’s regime changed the entire continuum of policies for minority rights. Zia’s
own religious inclinations further empowered parties like the Jamat-e-Islami and the
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. During his tenure Zia introduced several amendments which
significantly altered the 1973 Constitution.
Since the Islamization during the Zia regime, polarization in society has increased.
Violence against religious minorities has been escalating over time, with the highest
amount of violence instances recorded in the years 2011 and 2012. The Ahmadis, Hindus
and Christians have all fallen victim to the controversial Section 295-C of the Pakistan
Penal Code (PPC), 1860 dealing with blasphemy. Though this section should only be
applicable to Muslims, religious minorities continually fall into this black hole. The
Ahmadiya community has been under constant threat from Muslim extremists, with mass
attacks being carried out in their prayer houses and target killings taking place in various
parts of the country.
The Christian community is also victim to discrimination and violence by Muslim
extremists in the country. The year 2012 saw a sharp increase in violence against
Christians in Pakistan. Churches in various parts of the country were set ablaze and
looted and worshippers were seriously injured. Joseph Colony, a Christian community in
Lahore was recently burnt down by these extremists. Christian girls are not only victims
of rape but also of forced conversions and marriages to Muslim men. Children from this
community have continuously fallen victim to Section 295 of the PPC, with false cases
being registered and pursued against them. The Minorities’ Minister, Shahbaz Bhattti was
also assassinated in 2011.
The Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead in 2011 by his bodyguard.
Mr.Taseer had only stated that the law on blasphemy was a ‘bad law’ and had shown
support for a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been convicted of blaspheming. Such
has become the state of affairs that this act of cowardice was applauded by showering
flowers on the assassin and was condoned by some religious parties and Muslim
extremists.
Hindus also face forced conversions; young Hindu girls are abducted, forced to marry
Muslim men and converted to Islam.

For the entire article click here- discrimination in pakistan against religious minorities

Content Courtesy- the Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Catholic Commission for
Justice and Peace (CCJP), Simorgh, Faiz Foundation Trust, and Centre for Civic
Education (CCE).

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