It has long been known that Pakistan does not treat its religious minorities well. There have been accusations of forced religious conversions, of misused laws, of unconcerned authorities and of denied justice. Under General Ziaul Haq’s rule, stringent amendments were made to blasphemy laws, which have made the situation worse.
According to a Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) report in 2012, since 1990, fifty-two people have been extra-judicially murdered on charges of blasphemy
Take Asia Bibi
’s (Aasiya Noreen) case for example. A farm laborer, Asia Bibi was asked to fetch water on a hot day. Since she had had a sip of the water, when she returned, her Muslim coworkers refused to drink it because she, a Christian, had touched it.
Asia Bibi, six years after the incident, now waits on death row. She is beaten by guards and Muslim inmates and reportedly has been left to rot.
After the water incident, complaints were made by the Muslim workers that Asia Bibi had insulted the prophet Muhammed. A mob then broke into Asia’s house and beat her and her family, including her small children. They put a noose around her neck and dragged her through the streets.
5 years ago, a mosque prayer leader offered $6000 to anyone who killed Asia. Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot by his bodyguard 27 times for standing up for her.
Qadir (right) was greeted with flowers by masses after he assassinated Taseer (left) mera-vision
With a number of 7 million followers, Hindus form the largest religious minority group in Pakistan. Attacks on temples have been increasing over the years. Jairam, a priest in Pakistan’s Wakf department, recently spoke to the BBC, saying that after 1971, Hindu culture has been destroyed.
Sanskrit and Hindi are not included in the curriculum. “If no law can be made to facilitate such issues, the day is not far when no Hindu will be left in Pakistan,” Jairam said.
The Jinnah institute, a think tank, has chronicled cases of attacks on Hindu temples in Sindh and arson attacks on Hindu places of worship as attempts to fan the flames of communal violence. These incidents have naturally made the Hindu citizens of Pakistan nervous.
Reports of kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls, kidnappings for ransom of Hindu traders have forced many Hindus to migrate to India and elsewhere.
Human Rights activists call for freedom of Hindu girl Rinkle Kumari and rights of religious minorities in Washington DC realcourage
According to the 2012 CRSS report, out of the 52 people who were murdered extra-judicially under blasphemy laws, 25 were Muslim, 15 were Christian, 5 were Ahmadis (declared a minority in 1974), one was Buddhist and one was Hindu.
From 1953 to July 2012 there were 434 ‘offenders’, among them 258 were Muslims, 114 Christians, 57 Ahmadis and four Hindus.
Homeless Pakistani Christians protest for the protection of Christian minorities in Islamabad on April 27, 2009. At least three Pakistani Christian men, who were protesting against pro-Taliban and Al-Qaeda slogans written outside their local churches, have been injured in a gun battle between law enforcement agencies and Pashto-speaking suspected militant Muslims. netdna
According to reports, the atmosphere in Pakistan is becoming more and more repressive, where raising voices against undemocratic and unethical practices has become as (or perhaps more) dangerous than committing actual crimes. On March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and Pakistan’s Minister for Minority affairs, was shot dead
by Taliban operatives.
Bhatti’s death was a foretold event even by himself. Despite being the only Christian in the Cabinet, a largely ceremonial post, he pledged to battle intolerance.
A major problem for minorities in Pakistan are its laws. Blasphemy laws require no proof, merely allegations. There is extreme sensitivity in any perceived insult to the prophet or the Koran. According to Islamic law, a non-Muslim’s word is not valid against the word of a Muslim, which makes blasphemy laws very easy to misuse.
Some of the incidents of blasphemy recorded are acts like throwing a visiting card in a bin, a pastor quoting the Koran, a child’s name, and a spelling error. With cases like these, Pakistan can’t be surprised about its international image being rather backward.