When Jinnah said that “religion and state should be kept separate”, he could not have more appropriately warned the people of present-day Pakistan where the constitutionally supported, man-made religious doctrines issued by fundamentalists continue, to ruin lives.
Persecution of religious minorities is not uncommon in Pakistan, however, year 2012 witnessed the height of injustices when a mentally unstable man was torched alive for alleged blasphemy and an 11-year-old girl suffering from Down Syndrome was arrested for alleged sacrilege.
Given the legal statuette and constitution of Pakistan, no one in his/her right mind would ever venture out to commit blasphemy publicly or otherwise which all the more proves that the aforementioned people were not in full possession of their faculties, when or even if they committed blasphemy.
Though President Asif Ali Zardari sought a report on the arrest of Rimsha, a minor girl, and took notice of the man killed by scavenging protestors — both accused of blasphemy — but no amount of investigation will ever bring back the man who died the most horrible of deaths. No amount of probing will secure Rimsha’s future. No amount of placatory words will reassure minorities that the blasphemy law will not be manoeuvred to hurt them in Pakistan. And no number of notices will ever empower minorities living an oppressed existence in our country.
There is only one solution to this ever-growing menace which lies in the amendment of the blasphemy law. Unfortunately most of our hopes were shattered when former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced in 2011 that “the government has no plans of amending the blasphemy law.”
The fact that the crimes committed by a select group of religiously intolerant people fails to grab the attention of our honourable Chief Justice, who is known for his human rights activism, is most unfortunate for all of us.
It is also most disappointing that the current ruling government is fully able to pass a quick bill to support and protect political agents against Contempt of Court, however, fail to address the blatant violation of human and minorities’ rights.
Even more disappointing than the negligence of the government and judiciary is the apathy of the general masses, living in absolute denial with respect to the current state of affairs.
The fact that most of us try to justify the brutalities by asking why people focus on the plight of minorities when Shias are being killed with equal ferocity in Pakistan, is sheer bigotry. The question is how can one prioritise the killings of any human being? How are Christians, Hindus or Ahmadis any less important than Shias or vice versa? Shouldn’t the focus be on culminating this barbarism rather than debating with words that pacify no one anymore?
We all stayed quiet when scores of Shia Muslims were pulled off the bus and shot dead. We maintained the same calm when a day later, a bus carrying Shia students was attacked in Karachi. We were in hibernation when Salman Taseer was assassinated for voicing his views on the blasphemy law. We did not care when Ahmadis were restricted from offering Eid prayers at Ewan-e-Tauheed. And we continued to mince words when harassed Hindus migrated from Pakistan.
Yet, we congregated and protested greatly for the welfare and safety of Muslims living in Myanmar, Kashmir, Assam and Gujrat failing to realise that our country is in a state of civil war, where the situation drastically deteriorates with the passage of each day. We also protested publicly and demanded the authorities to penalise Rimsha by pushing her to the gallows. How are we, a mob that is so fervently bent on penalising a minor girl any different from the forces responsible for killing people in Myanmar and Gujrat? Why such hypocrisy? Do we not owe just a little bit more to our own minorities than the Muslims of other countries?
The Pakistani flag comprises two colours; one of them to specifically represent our minorities. However, looking at the reprehensible situation of the country, white should be replaced with black for the bleak future we offer to them as citizens of this state.
It is important to understand that all that happens around is not propaganda, a conspiracy or a plan conceived and executed by foreign elements. People, who hold an opinion over the deplorable situation are not anti-Islam or Pakistan in any way. In fact, they are equally, if not more, concerned about the well-being of Pakistan and everything that Jinnah stood for. It is people like us who are perpetrating these crimes by comparing the atrocities happening in Pakistan with scattered incidents of discrimination carried out against minorities in neighbouring and western countries in a futile hope to placate each other.
We must wake up from our deep slumber and realise that it is getting too late for all of us. There was a time when Christians, Parsis and Hindus were considered minorities. Then they were joined by Ahmadis and Shias. And no one knows who the next blasphemer or victim will be. However, the one, definite thing we should all be sure of is that with every incident of blasphemy in this country, it is the noose around our own necks that is tightening.
The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com