Out of the frying pan into the Fire. By Shamim Masih
11 Jan 2016
Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim country with its 97 percent of population adhering to Islam and the religious minorities make just a fraction of the population with varying estimates few percent of the total population. Constitution of country guaranteed the rights and protection of the all its citizens. Founder of country, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, apparently promised freedom for other religious minorities in his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 and Christians along with other religious minorities agreed and believed his promise. But unfortunately it didn’t come true and Pakistan is now not known as a responsible democracy. Recently many banned organization have been openly speaking against the rival sects, and other religions, resultantly killing of many innocents from religious minorities. Pakistan has been a growing hatred problem and most of it is being driven from within the urban/semi urban centers. Though Article 20 of the constitution deals with the “Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions and 36 is about the protection of minorities and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities but reality is unfortunately has gone to worse because of the growing violence against the religious minorities in Pakistan.
Based on the 10 incidents which took place in one month (October 2015) only in Punjab, USCIRF urged the U.S. State Department to enlist Pakistan among nine nations as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) – a designation for those nations considered to be the worst violators of religious freedom. These include government that “engage in or tolerate” systematic ongoing, and unspeakable violations of religious freedom.
In the recent years, attacks on religious minorities have increased though Pakistan Islamic persecution of Christian’s may not be on the level of ISIS; nonetheless it is still quite horrific. The long sufferings in the country have been worsened by a sense of deprivation among the locals, and an inclusive political system is unable to achieve sustainable peace and stability. Thus many Christian families like Hindus have fled to other countries seeking protection and rights to live like other human beings. But this is very unfortunate that Pakistani Christians are not being welcomed in Europe like EU welcomed million Muslims.
According to BPCA, Samina, a Christian woman who had fled violence-ridden Karachi and sought refuge in Thailand, died on Christmas Eve after she was arrested after her visa expired. She was arrested as part of an ongoing wave of arrests of foreigners deemed to have overstayed their visa and was detained in horrific conditions. Most Pakistani Christians, asylum seekers who have given that status by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) but because Thailand refuses to sign the relevant Refugee Protocols that most other nations have, it does not recognize that status, and treats such Pakistani Christians as illegal immigrants. Therefore thousands of Pakistani Christians are either living in prisons or hiding places and if found are badly treated.
While I am writing story, another man, Bashir Masih, reportedly died there. Sources confirmed that there are more than 200 people still in the lock ups. And many more are living miserable life in hidden places fearing of being arrest at any times. Australia, Canada and many European countries have granting immigration visas to thousands of Pakistani and Afghans in the recent years. But Christians’ visa applications are turned down in thousands in the last year, 2015. In fact these applications are rejects without citing any convincing reasons, in fact many of them on frivolous grounds, which surprisingly cannot be challenged at any forum. Will the situation remain same for Pakistani Christians?