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Observance of 'National Minorities Day in Pakistan: Mummery with minorities
'National Minorities Day' was observed in various cities of Pakistan on August 11, 2014. This day is being observed since 2011. The day is supposedly observed to recall father of Pakistan, Mohd Jinnah's historical speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, in which he had assured complete religious freedom for Pakistani citizens irrespective of their religion and faith.

The day was also chosen by the previous Pakistani government of PPP under President Asif Ali Zardari to reminisce the role of minority communities in the formation of Pakistan and country's development.

In Lahore, on the occasion of 'National Minorities Day', the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) aired grievances of minority communities and made certain demands including to repeal all discriminatory constitutional provisions against minorities; bring changes in Christian and Hindu personal laws; implement five per cent quota in government jobs.

PPP's Punjab wing in its meeting took credit of being a genuine well wisher of minorities of the country and even claimed that PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto (son of Asif Zardari and late Benazir Bhutto) wished to see a Christian Prime Minister in his life time. However, an prominent Christian organization, viz. Pakistan Christian National Party observed the minority day as a 'black day' in protest against atrocities on Christian in Pakistan.

In Karachi, representatives of Minorities Alliance of Pakistan (MAP) also observed the day as a 'black day' alleging that minorities in Pakistan are being persecuted in Pakistan and demanded a separate electorate for minorities so they could choose their own leaders.

In Rawalpindi, Pakistan Hindu-Sikh Social Welfare Council (PHSWC), demanded that amendment should be made in the constitution for replacing the title of 'minorities' with the title of 'non-Muslim Pakistanis'.

Significantly, a function to mark the national minorities day was also scheduled to be held at Aiwan-e-Sadar (The President's House) in Islamabad, which was cancelled due to volatile political and law and order situation in around Islamabad due to some political parties planned rallies against the government.

The cancellation was criticized by a prominent minority leader and Member of the National Assembly, Asfanyar Bhandara, who incidentally also happened to be a prominent minority member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz,(PML-N).

Veritably, it was a political gimmick of the then President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari in 2011 who decided to observe nation wide the Minorities Day at the instance of federal government every year after one of his senior federal ministers, who incidentally also belonged to Christian community and happened to be Minority Affairs minister, Shahbaz Clement Bhatti was assassinated on March 2, 2011.

Zardari, who is a Sindhi and there is a major chunk of Pakistani minorities live in Sindh, played a master stroke of clubbing Mohd Ali Jinnah's assurance to minorities for their freedom of religion and faith and killing of a Federal Minister belonging to a minority community, to woo minorities votes for his Party viz. People's Party of Pakistan (PPP) in the general elections of 2013.

However, Zardari did not succeed in his political plan and failed to come into the power again. Yet it is PPP, which is in forefront in proclaiming itself as a sole and genuine well wisher of the Pakistani minorities.

Major religious minorities in Pakistan; Christians-Hindu-Sikhs make up to roughly over five percent of Pakistani's total population 0f around 180 million, as per the last census carried out in l998. This included about 1.96 millions Hindus over 2 million Christians, that is about 1.6 per cent each of Hindus and Christians population of the country.

However, Hindus claim that their population in Pakistan is 5.5 per cent and Christians claim that their population is above 13 per cent respectively of the total population of Pakistan. While Pakistan's 94 per cent Hindus are settled in Sindh province, majority of Christian population lives in Punjab (Pakistan). There are also about twenty thousand Sikhs in Pakistan and majority of them are in Punjab (Pakistan).

All religious minorities in Pakistan face discriminatory laws, forced conversions, shootings, violent attacks, rapes and burning of their properties and religious places at the hands of majority Muslim fundamentalists and radical groups and organization. The number of such anti-minorities violent incidents started increasing during General Zia's regime who had initiated process of ten year long Islamisation in the country. Incidentally, between January 2012 and June 2013, Pakistan experienced 203 instances of targeted violence against religious communities resulting in more than 700 deaths and 1,100 injuries.

Meanwhile, the United States Commission for Religious Freedom counted more than 200 attacks among the religious groups and 1800 killings resulted from the religious violence between 2012 and mid 20213. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported a rise in sectarian killings by more than fifth in Pakistan in the year 2013, that is the year of general elections when Nawaz Sharif led PML-N came into the power.

HRCP also asserted that Pakistan was becoming "a more and more dangerous country" for religious minorities and " increasingly intolerant of dissent". Despite the fact that Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Pakistan's Constitution guarantees every citizen the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion and to manage religious institution, minorities, especially Hindus and Christians are subjected to intolerance, discrimination and physical violence in the country.

Despite the fact Pakistan is party to various UN treaties, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and is obliged to ensure the freedom of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities living in Pakistan to profess and practice their religion, use their language and enjoy their culture.

The Pakistan government's record in this respect is more than dismal. While, since inception of Pakistan, Hindu and Christian communities remained main targets at the hands of radical majority population, of late, Muslim ethnic groups like Shias and Ahmadis are also being targeted at regular intervals in different parts of the country.

In recent times, Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan government's indifferent attitude towards atrocities and discrimination which religious minorities of the country are being subjected to, have also attracted adverse attention at the international level. While United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its meeting on June 6, 2014, urged the US government to designate Pakistan as a " country of particular concern", on July 10, 2014, Barbara Lochbihle, Chief of the subcommittee on Human Rights and Foreign Affairs of European Union (EU), expressed concern over religious issues in Pakistan. Earlier in May 2014, the issue of religious minorities' condition in Pakistan was also deliberated by some members of House of Lords of the UK.

Since inception of the Pakistan, suspicion and intolerance towards religious minorities have been main features of Pakistan's political and religious polity. The successive governments in Pakistan never handled the issue of religious minorities in the country objectively and silently allowed disgruntled radical elements to let loose reign of terror against Hindus and Christians as well as Muslim minorities of Shia and Ahmadis also.

The entire government machinery at federal and provincial levels handles this issue with biased and subjectivity and takes atrocities on religious minorities as a law and order issue. Unless religious minorities are included in the mainstream political life in the country, the religious freedom has no future in Pakistan and minorities would continue to be subjected to inhuman atrocities at the hands of radical majority, who enjoys silent and impelling support of governments of Pakistan.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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