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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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EditorialMinorities' plight

Minorities’ plight

Renewed pledges were made to ensure all citizens’ rights irrespective of their faith and religion on the eve of the National Day of Minorities in the country. The members of the minority community have paid a heavy price in the freedom struggle and they are still offering sacrifices in the war against terrorism. The issues faced by the minorities included forced conversions and forced marriages (often together), the misuse of the blasphemy laws, and a lack of employment opportunities.

There is a pattern of discrimination against members of faiths other than Islam, starting from schools and going all the way up to parliament. School curricula and teaching either ignore minorities or portray them in a derogatory way. This is particularly true of Hindus and Christians. The members of the minorities also face difficulties in even utilising their five percent quota of government jobs.

There is a need for the better implementation of the quota and its extension to the educational field and other sectors. The issue of flawed representation of the minorities under the present electoral system also needs a review, whereby minority members are elected at the will and whim of the parties in any Assembly on reserved seats. This deprives them, it is argued, of the right to directly elect their representatives, thereby making them answerable to their constituents, something missing from the present indirect system of election by the members of each Assembly.

The second main issue is that religion is used to set scores against minorities when they stand for their rights. Just a call is enough to make all so-called guardians of the religion to take the law into their hands.  Over the years, the minority Shia, Christian, Ahmedi, Hindu communities and even Muslims have been persecuted (often to death) due to the instigation of sick-minded scholars. Starting with General Zia’s manipulation of religion for political purposes, state and society have become increasingly polarised, intolerant and violent on the basis of the ‘othering’ of faiths other than mainstream Sunni Islam. There is therefore talk of bringing in safeguards against false accusations of blasphemy by punishing such motivated false accusers as severely as the law enjoins for blasphemy (death). There is no getting away from the urgent need to recast Pakistan’s state and society away from one bogged down in confessionalism and towards the kind of open, democratic and tolerant country Mr Jinnah envisaged, and in which endeavour we have failed him miserably so far.

 

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