The Debacle of Minority Rights Day in Pakistan. By Saadia Haq
04 Sep 2016
Since 2009, Pakistan started celebrating August 11 as “National Minorities’ Day” to reiterate the country’s determination for securing the fundamental rights of minorities and paying tribute to their services. This particularity came into place after the struggles of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian minister of minorities that was shot dead in 2011 by fundamentalists in Islamabad.
The objective behind Mr. Bhatti’s efforts was to get a political will from government for taking steps to ensure fair treatment of minorities and he took his inspiration from the founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s views. It’s no secret that Jinnah time and again mentioned that in the new nation of Pakistan it would be ensured that there is no discrimination against its citizens on religious grounds.
But Pakistan soon drifted from Jinnah’s peaceful and progressive vision to a more intolerant present. And give rise to an era where “rulers and their cronies” decided to make religion a matter for the State leading us into our current mayhem.
When one observes the current situation of minorities, one cannot be help think that national minority day is just a cosmetic tool that is put into place to create a delusion that minorities rights are at the foremost importance to establishment.
Yet the State continues to remain unbiased and play lip service because if it took to heart seriously the principle behind the national minority day’s celebration we wouldn’t be seeing events like:
• Commonly occurring events where the minority faith religious sites and graveyards are desecrated and destroyed.
• Land grabbing mafias that demolish minority Churches, Mandirs and Gurdwaras on a fast rising pace.
• Common incidents of persecutions at work place and educational institutions faced by minority hailing citizens.
• Forced abductions of minority hailing girls and women that are converted to Islam and married off to their abductors.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we are becoming a highly polarized society and despite the fact that most Pakistanis oppose extremism our rulers have done little to uproot it.
One needs not look further than to the voice of conscience that asks as how can we go about celebrating National Minority’s Day with colorful activities while deliberately ignoring the abysmal and despairing conditions that Pakistani minority citizens live in? I do not think this is what Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti had in mind, when he called for a National Minorities Day. Because the reality is contrary to what he and many other rights based campaigners have envisioned.
Let us think in a creative and imaginative manner to what can be done at home to ensure the truthful spirit behind the National Minorities Day. And now that we have a special day for our minorities, why not use this medium for demanding our rulers to work on providing equal citizenship and promoting interfaith harmony and social justice.
Let us as make a promise to prosper as a nation in unity regardless of shackles of the usual me- Muslim, you- Hindu, me-Ahmedi and you-Christian.
Happy Minorities Day 2016!