Democracies must care for Pakistan’s minorities
Governments of the world’s leading democracies still continue to gloss over Pakistan’s minority rights violations
Shia Muslim men protest in Pakistan after a series of attacks on their sect. Photo: Reuters
One of the quintessential functions of a modern state is to foster the
multi-faceted development of all its citizens. Ironically, however, few states
fulfill this function in the world today.
Volumes have already been
written on the record of the state of Pakistan in this regard.
M.A. Jinnah converted this once-great land of ancient, composite culture into a
separate nation out of an undivided, secular India, selfstyled radical Islamists
have been on the ascent in the state.
Hell-bent on creating a feudal,
irrational order based on the fanatic Wahhabi-Deobandi version of Islam, these
obscurantist, reactionary forces have increasingly prevailed upon the state to
resort to policies that would make the lives of people of all other faiths and
values living in the country miserable.
In the process, the plight of
Pakistan’s minorities has gone from bad to worse over the years. Most of the
minorities in Pakistan – Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Baha’i, Buddhists,
Zoroastrians (Parsis), Ahmadis, Shi’ites and Mohajirs – non-Muslims and
non-Sunni Muslims both – have either resorted to exodus or conversion.
the undivided British India non-Muslims formed more than a quarter of Pakistan’s
population. On partition, they came to account for about 14 percent of its
population, albeit concentrated mainly in East Bengal. Today, Sunni Muslims
constitute 77% and Shias 20% its 175,646,000-strong
Non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and others – constitute
Recent reports and studies of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission,
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Society for the
Protection of the Rights of the Child, the US Commission on Freedom, the Jinnah
Institute and other such bodies suggest the minorities’ situation has darkened
further. The Pakistan Supreme Court has also confirmed this conclusion in some
of its observations.
It is unfortunate that the governments of the
world’s leading democracies still continue to gloss over Pakistan’s minority
rights violations. The agenda of Pakistan’s self-styled Islamists poses a great
threat not only to its citizens but also to the entire civilized world. The
world’s democracies have already suffered a lot on account of Pakistan-
supported radical Islamism. If Washington and other democratic capitals of the
world do not get tough with Islamabad and neutralize its radical Islamist forces
in time, many more terror attacks might revisit them.
citizens of the democratic world must assert themselves and make their
governments behave. They are subsidizing Pakistan with billions of pounds’ worth
of aid. They could tell their governments this money cannot be allowed to go to
Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. It has already ratified the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Pakistan must ratify the UN’s
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) assuring its
citizens all civil and political rights, including the right to life, freedom or
religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights
to due process and a fair trial.
Pakistan, like most of the states in the
Middle East, was born of Wilsonian ideas. It has claimed equality with sovereign
nation-states in the world today. But it has cared little for its minorities.
American citizens could impress upon their government the need to take
appropriate measures aimed at making the state of Pakistan respect the rights of
They could insist that if the establishment in Islamabad
does not cease oppressing Pakistan’s minorities, the country must be deprived of
its current status in the comity of nations.
The author is a senior
Indian journalist based in New Delhi. He is a consulting editor to the Power
Politics news magazine in New Delhi. The views expressed in the piece are part
of the paper titled “Predicament Of Minorities In Pakistan” recently written by
the author for the India Policy Foundation, New Delhi.