Issues and State of Religious Minorities in Pakistan: A Systematic Literature Review


The health Pakistan is a hub of religious diverse groups. Some groups are comparatively greater in number than others. Population wise larger groups include Hindus, Ahmedis and Christians while smaller religious minority groups include Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis (see Population by Religion’table 1). These religious minority groups are living in a hostile environment (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2020). They are, as put by Raina (2014), ‘woefully small and powerless’ and have been experiencing a perpetual sense of fear (Zaidi, 1988). Percentages taken from Population by Religion’, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics Website (“Population by Religion”, n.d.) The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his famous August 11 1947 speech, said: You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State (Hasan, 2015). His speeches and conduct before and after the partition of the subcontinent are evident of his secular inclinations and intentions for the newborn state on the world atlas. He opposed the idea, given by Amir Ali Khan, the treasurer of the Muslim Leaguethat Pakistan would be a theocratic state. He stopped Khan from saying such things on stage as it might imply that he also shared the view about Pakistan being a theocratic state (Ispahani, 2017). Unfortunately, his dream of Pakistan being secular state was not realized. Just after his death, Liaqat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of the newly – established country, in his famous March 12 1949 speech said that creation of country was only half of work done. The other half would be done by making it a ‘laboratory’ of Islam (Bangash, 2016). Bangash (2016) states that religious minorities of the country realized this fact when the Objective Resolution 1949 was adopted. They came to know that the country’s energies will be directed towards advancement and protection of interests of the Muslims who
constituted overwhelming majority. As a result of this discrimination found in the constitution, the non – Muslims started losing hope in the shared future of the country when the leadership of the newly – established country started steering it towards being an Islamic state. For instance, the first law minister of the country JogendarNathMandal, told a reporter in 1950 that Hindus did not see a secured future in Pakistan. He told reporter: “I have asked them to wait for a few weeks more and that I too am prepared to accompany them to India” (Ispahani, 2017). Similarly, religious minorities’ members were frightened when the Objective Resolution was passed on 12 March 1949 (Bangash, 2016). On the basis of these historical facts, it is concluded that the religious minorities have been experiencing marginalization and consequent sense of fear from the very inception of the country (Muzaffar et. al. 2017) This discriminatory attitude towards religious minorities also become a part of all three constitutions – 1956, 1962 and 1973 – of the country. They prohibit non – Muslims from assuming the office of president (Article 32(2) of 1956 constitution; Article 10(A) of 1962 constitution; 41(2) of 1973 constitution). The constitution of 1973 prohibited the members of religious minorities from becoming the prime minister of the country too. (Article 91(3)). Furthermore, the Objective Resolution which spread the despondency in non – Muslim members at its very adoption was made preamble of the constitution. But the most glaring evidence of the discriminatory nature of the 1973 constitution of the country is article 260. According to this article, Ahmedis were pronounced non – Muslims via a constitutional amendment. It paved the way for further discrimination and marginalization of the religious minorities in the country. In short, all three constitutions of the country contain article which discriminate against religious minorities of the country.

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Content Courtesy- Ali Raza Shah- PhD Scholar, Department of Social Sciences, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan

Bela Nawaz- Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
Institute of Science and Technology, Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan