Democracies must care for Pakistan’s minorities

Governments of the world’s leading democracies still continue to gloss over Pakistan’s minority rights violations

February 5, 2013 22:16
3 minute read.
Shia Muslim men protest in Pakistan after a series of attacks on their sect.

Shia Muslim370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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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.

Ever since 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.

In 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 population.

Non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and others – constitute 3%.

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.

Enlightened 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 tyrants.

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 its citizens.

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.

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