Duplicity of Pak Govt towards religious minorities
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: My article printed on June 20, 2013 at Daily Times, Islamabad stated that Pakistani Christians have thrown some of their political support to Pakistan Muslim League (N) in the election on 11 May 2013, even though they have reason to be wary of his return to power. Majority of the Pakistani Christians are not optimistic about Sharif’s government because of their religious approach and prejudiced mind set. In general, Pakistan is unable to achieve its desired status in the comity of nations despite have good natural and human resources; the reason is that there is injustice at the heart of all its systems on all levels.
The PML-N’s history of ruling over Punjab province is marked by several episodes of anti-Christian violence. Although blasphemy laws are being misused in the country widely but most of cruel incident against Christians happened in the Punjab province under Sharif’s rule. Present PML-N government has not only shown its duplicity in Punjab province but exposed at the federal level as well.
After the deadly blasts in two Churches of Yohanabad which killed at least 17 people and around eighty people were injured in the explosions, yet normalcy hasn’t returned. Many families haven’t returned to Youhanbad. The suicide bombings in two churches were timed to cause optimum damage since there were 2000 worshippers present in the Sunday mass. But volunteer security guards and policemen engaged the suicide bombers at the gate at the cost of their own lives. The angry mob burned the two suspects who were later found to be innocent. The media devoted more airtime to lynching and the mob’s vandalism than to the aftermath of the bombings. Thus the real image of Christians was forged. We heard Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, addressing the Parliament termed the lynching the “worst form of terrorism.” His outburst prompted the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to urge the authorities to exercise caution and “avoid giving the impression that they are keen to pursue the killers of the two men than they are in protecting the minority community’s rights against terrorists’ attacks.” No one has ever been punished for all the crimes committed against the Christian community but police have registered terrorism cases against hundreds of the Christians, identified through video footage and photographs of the mob attack. Each night since, said Pastor Ashknaz, plainclothes policemen arrived, “prop up ladders, break down doors and pick up the men on basis of more suspicion.” Residents claimed police have even targeted children. The authorities appear more concerned with Muslim victims than Christian ones.
Another discriminatory behavior from Punjab government is that with a population of 100,000 mostly Christians of Youhanabad are still deprived of the Metro Bus service at Youhanabad station. They use the bus terminal where they face systematic harassment each day. Especially Christian women of the area have been facing harassment after the incident. The very next day, people started pouring out of mosques to avenge the killings; the Muslim mob violence went public, several Christian boys from the area were beaten, allegedly in retaliation to the lynching. A church has also been vandalized, its windows were broken and doors marked with black paint. The attacks may be sporadic, but the fear they cause is very real. Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra and many others are still waiting for justice behind bars. In this cruelty Christian associates of PML-N have join hands with the sitting provincial government. The prominent member gets boots from the CM Shahbaz Sharif couple of years back. None of the responsible person from the government side has yet visited the heartbroken community.
Now when Interior Minister forced “Save the Children” to shut down its office in the country, then he added many other INGOs to follow strict new licensing procedures. Recently Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan canceled the visas of three Philippine nuns, prompting a lawsuit from the Catholic Church. Express Tribune reported that they were accused of “engaging in employment in violation of their visa category.” The nuns have been working in Pakistan for decades, but now they were told they must leave. Abid Nazir, an attorney said that these nuns are “missionary workers” and have devoted their lives to educating and helping impoverished children in Pakistan. He fears that interior minister has a personal dispute with principal. Nazir said Nisar Ali Khan’s wife used to work as a teacher at the school but resigned in 2011 after the dispute with principal.
Still, the controversy is another example of how Pakistan is again taking a more aggressive stance toward some foreigners trying to work here. When US missionary inquired about a months old travel request, a communications officer said the matter was being held up by the Interior Ministry. Pakistani government is practicing unannounced banned on international missionaries visiting Pakistan just because of personal liking or disliking. The recent crackdown is so surprising; there has been no known trigger for it. During the last visit of Secretary of State John Kerry, said both Pakistani and U S officials have been stressing that relations between two countries have greatly improved.
Its mind set of the present government, Interfaith Harmony Ministry is merged and all minority issues are held. This means, there is no minorities’ voice neither in the legislation nor outside the house. This government cunningly has sidelined all the minorities’ so called representative in the parliament house. It is noteworthy that if the democratic process in any state has to be checked then one must look at how its minorities are treated. No society can aspire to call itself democratic if it systematically excludes specific groups from the full protection of laws, provision of equal rights and opportunities.