Half Citizens,
Shamim Mehmood
Shamim Masih
Islamabad: Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947; and probably fourth generation celebrating its independence now. During the struggle for an independent country, the history is witness that Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Jews that lived in Muslim dominated regions of undivided India supported Jinnah’s vision and worked hard for a separate homeland, Pakistan. A prominent Christian politician Dewan Bhader S P Singha voted for Pakistan and thus this country can emerge on the map of the world. The most notable and influential Hindu figure in the Pakistan Movement was Jogendra Nath Mandal from Bengal. Jagannath Azad was from the Urdu speaking belt. Mandal represented the Hindu contingent calling for an independent Pakistan, and was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. Leading Indian Christian like Pothan Joseph had rendered valuable services as journalists and propagandists of the Muslim League. That means that all communities have played its role for a dreamland. But unfortunately the dreams didn’t come true for minorities of Pakistan.
During early days of founder of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah, every citizen had enjoyed equal rights but gradually things have been changed. Jinnah had repeatedly promised all citizens of Pakistan complete equality of citizenship, but this promise was not kept by his successors. After the independence, Mandal was given ministries of Law, Justice, and work-force by Jinnah in Liaqat Ali Khan’s government. He, however, realized his folly in 1950, when some lower caste Hindus were killed in clashes in East Bengal, generating a wave of refugees to India. He himself fled to India and submitted his resignation to Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Since then minorities of the country has been considered as strangers and bureaucracy and administration treated them as second class citizen of Pakistan. By time to time, legislators, bureaucracy and Mulliasm proved through their acts that they do not own minorities. Series of unforgettable attacks on minorities and discriminatory attitude pushed many of them to re-settle abroad.
During the past seven decades nobody ever realized to bring them on mainstream. Rather keep on persecuting physically and mentally. For example, making educational calendars has become quite a difficult job in Pakistan. One has to give careful consideration especially on religious occasions like Eids, Ashura, in addition to weather conditions and public holidays. Usually no such activities like examinations (semester, term or annual) are scheduled in these days.
Unfortunately no such courtesy is extended to minorities. Throughout the life of Pakistan minorities have to battle with school authorities for ignoring their festivals. At times minorities’ children had to miss term papers or monthly tests in order to attend their occasions. A sizable number of minority students appear in these tests and many of them represent from the remote areas. Most students especially girls, are accompanied by their family members while travelling to main cities. People who have travelled on Eid can understand painful is to travel on such festive days. Christmas, Eastor, Diwali, and other events of minorities are ignored since independence. The authorities concerned should make a better plan to help those who suffer on these counts.
Mandal’s support for Muslim League, his sacrifices for Pakistan, and his love for Muslims cannot be discredited. His ill-treatment at the hands of a bureaucrat is a dark chapter in our history. In Pakistan, there still exist many Jogendras who exhausted their energies in vain to prove that they as patriotic as everyone else.
In the present situation, I should say, it is not only unsatisfactory but absolutely hopeless and that the future seems completely dark and dismal. Confidence of the minorities in Pakistan has not been restored in the least.