How Pakistan is Treating Its Hindus

Source: geo.tv

It is an open secret that the hate against the Hindu community and the larger idea of Hinduism are well ingrained into the hearts and minds of people all over Pakistan. This is particularly true for Punjab where the percentage of Hindu population is almost non-existent with the exception of a handful of prominent active temples. Even in the school textbooks, the tone used against Hindus in history mentioning ironically the time of the Arab and Turkic invasions is often antagonistic if not on the verge of being purely hateful. This upbringing indeed has its consequences.

This probably should not be the case when it comes to Sindh where the Hindus make a majority of the population. But you don’t have to be an expert on Sindh to know how the community is largely treated over there. But things enter a different, surreal zone when it enters the realm of the federal government expressing its views on this community. Earlier this month during the confrontation with India, such an incident occurred.

PTI Information and Culture Minister for Punjab Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan has developed a bit of a reputation of being a loudmouth. In his state of fury and emotions, he forgot to censor himself enough during a public speech and ended up spewing insults against Hindus that many Pakistani Muslims like him casually believe.

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Now he ironically himself is from Hindu ancestry, as are most people living on the eastern banks of the Indus river, if he is really from the family with that surname (Chauhan as shared by the Rajput warrior Prithvi Raj Chauhan). He represents the converted native Hindu people who have become self-haters and have started imagining themselves a part of an invader’s foreign culture.

Pakistan used to be a part of the larger Hindu culture of India and many important Hindu sites are located in the country. The land occupied by the Pakistani state has undeniable Hindu cultural roots. But ever since independence, it is safe to say that the community has been systematically cornered and driven out of the country. Only a few years ago, mass exodus of dozens of families to India occurred due to the trend of abductions and forced conversions that target teenage Hindu girls.

So when Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chauhan says something like this, it is the reflection of the mindset of a nation which is effectively eliminating a people who are supposed to be a part of it. Chohan later apologized and Imran Khan’s ruling party PTI momentarily did some firefighting by immediately sacking the minister. People appreciated the gesture across the board but like most PR shenanigans of the party, this one had a short-lived effect too. Recently, Chauhan has been reinstated as a Minister, this time for the Local Bodies. This move should have people wondering, especially the morally constipated followers of PTI, whether the party was wrong to sack him earlier or was it wrong to “promote” him, in columnist Marvi Sirmed’s words.

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Meanwhile, the Hindus in Pakistan continue to be targeted by the majority Muslim community with forced conversions of young girls of the community. Recently, the case of Reena and Raveena will be the

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The sisters Reena and Raveena, who were allegedly abducted on Holi Day, appeared at the marriage with the men who had taken them. Apparently, it was a case of the girls eloping. Many of the social conservative and nationalist Muslims are saying that the conversion was voluntary. Nevertheless, people who have reported from the courts where they appeared and had the first contact with their parents have a different story to tell. But the problem remains that the girls are underage and their marriage remains inappropriate and legally dubious, to say the least.

But this was hardly a solitary case. Even since the Holi day, quite a few girls have been abducted for the same reasons too. And only teenage girls are targeted by Muslim boys. The Hindus of Pakistan have no choice but to find themselves at the mercy of the majority community and watch what happens next with frustration. And while people will invoke all the violence and intimidation the underprivileged Muslim population of India is facing these days in the Hindu Rashtra mania triggered by Modi’s administration, unlike the Muslims in India, there is no one to stand for them in Pakistan.

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The good that could possibly come from this situation is that the civil society and the Hindu community itself have decided to speak up and protest. They are pressuring the politicians to legislate a ban on forced conversions and underage marriage. They are letting Pakistanis know that they have had enough of the nonsense. So whether Pakistan moves to become a Secular State or start pursuing the mirage of the “Medina State,” the sort of mindset that has resulted in the culture of forced conversions, it needs to address the protection of the Hindu community. In an Islamic Republic, the Hindus will take any political deal they can get.

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What the Second or Ahmedi Amendment Means in an Islamic Republic

Source: The News

Most of the Sunni and Shia Muslim majority in Pakistan simply fail to recognize one simple fact of life. That an Islamic Republic is simply not compatible with secular democratic principles or, in other words, a fair social contract. They will simply refuse to even consider addressing the “settled” Ahmedi issue, the sort of vernacular that the Nazis used about the Jewish people during the Third Reich. The Ahmedi community, despite their absurd loyalty, to the state of Pakistan, has received little love from the people of Pakistan. However, recent incidents have even exposed the extent of bigotry to the staunch supporters of the Second Amendment that declared Ahmedi non-Muslims.

The Ahmedi community has actually been receiving punches from both sides of the aisle, as they have been the recipients of abuse during the oath amendment controversy during the final years of the PML-N term. Now in Imran Khan’s reign, the inclusion of Harvard economist Atif Mian has become a matter of dispute and the opposition, including many in the PML-N and PPP, are resorting to raising objections on the nomination of an “enemy of the finality of Prophethood.” Even Sindh Speaker Shehla Raza’s twitter account tweeted messages criticizing the appointment with caustic bigotry, as usual taking claim for the PPP for executing the Second Amendment, which she deleted and apologized for in a very messy way.

Information and Broadcast minister Fawad Chaudhary has dismissed the bigotry and has condemned people citing the Ahmedi faith of the advisor as a problem as far as his appointment is concerned. However, the same minister was pretty much silent about the anti-Ahmedi bigotry that had become his party platform this election. I am sure his public opinion about the Second Amendment must have still remained unchanged as well. So will be the case with the rest of the socially conservative and pro-Islamic Republic followers of the pro-establishment party.

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Even the twitter account of Speaker Shehla Raza of PPP criticized the appointment, citing the “great achievement” of the Second Amendment materialized by her party. However, where the opposition is stepping up to bash Imran Khan for appointing an Ahmedi citizen, probably some of the staunchest supporters of the Second Amendment are coming to defend the appointment. The pro-military blog Defense.pk, which usually stands with all the filth that Pakistan stands for, also criticized the basis on which Atif Mian’s appointment was being objected to.

What we miss in the middle of Ahmedi citizens getting crushed in the political clash of PTI and PML-N is that this bigotry surfaces unabated because the state has legitimized it on a legislative scale. This is what the Second Amendment or the Ahmedi Amendment really means in an Islamic Republic, other than the murders of the members of the community and their mosques destroyed and burned.

Until and unless we face this reality as citizens of Pakistan, we will never be able to make progress.

Calling for Sharia in the Capital

Source: tanzeem.org/Twitter: @syousuf71

To most people in Pakistan, there would be nothing out of the place about demanding Sharia in a country which was made in the name of faith. While a lot of people don’t even agree with the statement that Pakistan was established on the basis of faith but on the basis of the protection of the rights of a community, the distinction does not even matter considering the established narrative in Pakistan.

Throughout the Muslim majority world, you would find Islamist groups blackmailing the local population for enforcing Sharia, the Islamic law that eliminates a likelihood of establishing a fair secular social order and is widely known for persecuting women and minority groups. Granted, you might call for Sharia while also asking for the abolition of any secular order in a country alleged to be created in the name of religion but not in a democracy. Because those calls are by very definition

For the entire past week and even on the day when I write this post, the citizens can see signs from the self-proclaimed revolutionary Islamist group Tanzeem-i-Islami or Islamic Organization with inflammatory messages condemning secularism and democracy and calling for the Caliphate and enforcing theocratic Sharia.

Source: Original

There are following posts in Urdu language, which hope to incite an already tired and frustrated population to rise up against the democratic order, which barely exists in a country with a ruling bureaucratic oligarchy. Messages would barely translate to:

“Secularism will only lead to slavery and humiliation while only the Sharia can deliver.”

“Denying the ideological (theocratic) state is tantamount to ideological apostasy.”

Here it is important to remind that apostasy or “irtidad” is an offense in traditional Islam that apostates, or those converting out of Islam, should be put to death. Many Western liberal Muslims will deny such a rule even exists but it is the majority consensus in the Sunni or orthodox sect of the religion and you often hear antithetical critics quote it during debates. Now, equating the denial of the theocratic basis of the creation of Pakistan to a charged word like apostasy is clearly a threat.

There are many more messages like this which you can find throughout the length of some of the most modern sectors in Islamabad. The Tanzeem,  founded by the late Dr. Israr Ahmed and led by Hafiz Aakif Saeed, calls it the “Strengthening Pakistan Campaign” and cites Jinnah’s irrational quotes about the religious law as the basis for their faith in a theocratic version of the Ideology of Pakistan. And clearly, they are no fans of democracy as their very message displayed as the cover image for this blog reads that the idea of the rule of people is counter to the monotheistic beliefs of the sole right of worship of Allah or God.

If you go through their statements, they essentially present the Ideology of Pakistan as an article of faith, as if disagreeing with it, as the likes of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad did, would qualify you for apostasy. This is the promotion of an extremely dangerous idea in a nation which has already been blinded beyond control in terms of their approval of violence for blasphemy.

In a democracy, extremist entities such as anti-democratic theocrats and Islamists can exist and possibly practice their politics. Another instance is the Neo-Nazis in the Western democracies. However, when their ideas are so clearly undemocratic that they lead toward the harm of the people and the democratic system of law that threatens the very fundamental rights and liberties that offer them the chance to thrive, it is going beyond that acceptable line.

But never do you ever see such extremist groups becoming active electorally and come even close to representing the people in the legislature to affect the law and the constitution, unless that nation wants to give an opening for it to become Nazi Germany or Islamic Revolutionary Iran.

Some progressive and conservative liberals actually advocate actively pushing back these groups because they are a threat to democracy and fundamental rights in whatever capacity they exist. However, it is important to respect the principle on sheer emotion. Nevertheless, it is time to think about seriously banning such an organization when they start threatening democracy by taking their hate speech to the mainstream and by threatening to take electoral seats away from democrats just because they enjoy the sympathy of theocrats in the public.

Tanzeem-e-Islami is doing its job. I don’t wish them all the best but I do respect that they are taking their message across peacefully, even though a very violent and brutal message. However. what I am astounded at is the Government of Pakistan, the ever-present bane of our existence. A Government that openly asks for people to report social media posts for blasphemy, but would take zero action against an organization that is openly talking about enforcing theocracy and eliminating democratic freedoms, the very freedom it is exercising to take away their freedoms paradoxically.

In such a scenario, you can’t help but think that indeed Pakistan was formed for establishing a theocracy and is ruled by people who want such a policy to be enforced, even including the elected democrats.

The Example of Shahbaz Bhatti

Source: Asianews.it

There are not a lot of countries which have to endure unpleasant occurrences such as the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, since which a year has passed on March 2 this year, but even rare are examples set with such crude nudity and such evident clarity that religious extremism can really plague a society like a cancerous tumor. Pakistan is one country that proudly boasts fundamentalism as a part of its dysfunctional constitution and law.

Like always, you cannot be absolutely sure about who did it but the evidence and the messages left at the spot clearly point towards the Pakistani Taliban, a separatist faction which wants to enforce its brand of militant Shariah in the country, which many argue is what the Shariah is, but that’s another subject. It is thought that Bhatti was assassinated for his criticism on the Blasphemy Law. Ever since he has been silenced, so have been most of the voices in the country who were outspoken about it.

In any case, this pretty much puts to rest any false assertions about the Islamic constitution and law, or at least an Islamic Republic, protecting minorities. Even if that is true in theory, it certainly is not in practice. This is usually what I tell Muslim Pakistanis, like many other people who support a Secular constitution and law, that no matter how much you are confident about the provisions in the Islamic law, or Shariah, to protect the minorities, that is not how non-Muslims see that law and that is precisely the reason why there should be an “agreed upon” and uncontroversial constitution and the law, which should not be disputed by any party. As a matter of fact, most of the non-Muslims will immediately raise objections as soon as they hear about the Shariah or the Islamic Law.

People may or may not agree with it, but Bhatti’s assassination has been an alarming point raising question marks about the kind of protection the law and constitution of the country offer to its citizens. I am not talking about communities and minorities here because it sort of disturbs me calling for the rights of this community and that community. Every citizen has their rights and we don’t really have to refer to people as minorities, as if they are not completely a part of the society.

The bottom line is that Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination has been a wake up call for the Pakistani state and especially the Pakistani people that only a secular constitution, which is not loaded with communal bias, is the foundation to the solution of the problems of the country regarding civil rights.

To remind you of the neverending need for protest and the great struggle for civil rights in Pakistan in the face of pointless religious extremism, leaving you with the best sign spotted in a Shahbaz Bhatti assassination protest.

Hope she gets heard some day.

One of the best signs ever seen in a Shahbaz Bhatti assassination protest rally. Source: Abid Nawaz/Express Tribune

Taseer Assassination: What Have We Learned?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

                                                                                                                          – Voltaire

Source: AllVoices.com

A year ago, on this very day, the Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by one of his guards. Allegedly, the guard killed Taseer for calling the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan a Draconian law and for advocating Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who is still under arrest on charge of blasphemy.

What have we learned from this shocking event so far?

Although nothing can make up for the loss of the person of Salmaan Taseer and his role in the Pakistani society as an entrepreneur and a leader but on the bright side it made a rift in the Pakistani society. Many among Pakistani people realized for the first time that the monster of religious fanaticism was getting out of hand, despite several incidents of violence against minorities over the years.

Why is Salmaan Taseer important? He was just another politician who was probably more hated than admired, so why his death should cause such an outcry?

The reason why Salmaan Taseer mattered, and still matters, is because as funny as he was in his witty speech, he ended up touching some of the most serious and sensitive issues in Pakistan. He was the only politician, apart from Sherry Rehman, who challenged the authority of the Blasphemy Law.

Furthermore, his actions and especially his death has strengthened the beliefs of many that the remedy to Pakistan’s rapidly multiplying religious fanaticism is nothing but a secular constitution and brutal state action against hate preaching, something which most Pakistani politicians would give anything to block, even the so-called Pakistani secular parties.

There are people who would tell you that we should carry on the mission of Salmaan Taseer so that his blood does not go wasted. I would just say that Salmaan Taseer is not among us any more to care a little bit about what we think or do about what he stood for in the months before his assassination.

It is a matter of survival and progress of the Pakistani nation if it chooses or not to adopt the values that Taseer advocated pertaining to the Blasphemy law and Asia Bibi. As long as Pakistanis keep discriminating on the basis of religion and persecute its minorities, they will continue to build their society on the foundation of hatred, discrimination and inhuman values and further threatening the lives of its very own citizens, regardless of their community.

What we learn from the Taseer Assassination is that we have a long way to go as far as attaining civil rights is concerned. We have also learned that none of that would have happened if Pakistan had a secular constitution. We can prevent many more assassinations of brave persons like Taseer who would stand up against religious fanaticism if only we make a few adjustments in our textbook ruling the state, so that at least the state would offer protection to the persecuted.

But what has changed since Taseer’s assassination? Nothing. Actually, his assassin was garlanded. Asia Bibi is still in prison and perhaps it is better this way unless she finds asylum in a safe place where her life is not threatened. The Pakistani state seems least bothered about the Blasphemy Law, the persecution of the minorities and religious fanaticism. It is up to the Pakistani youth and teachers to take on this challenge and to propagate humanitarian values in the society.

The actual motive behind Taseer’s assassination can be debated but not most people’s insensitivity. Actually why be shocked if the assassin of Salman Taseer is showered with petals and hailed as a hero. That is all what we have taught our people and expecting them to act otherwise would be just like expecting a field of wheat when you have sown the seeds of poppy. When religious beliefs begin to overshadow humanitarian values, far worse things can happen. So what have we learned?

Maybe said a thousand times before.

The answer lies in humanitarian education and a bit of courage to question the absurdities of religion.

The answer lies not in despising people, but connecting to them.

Pakistan Needs an Ambedkar

B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956)

This is to offer a tribute to one of the greatest figures in the History of India, B. R. Ambedkar, who was a political leader, a scholar and most of all a legislator and thinker, on his birthday. He was one of the people whose vision combined the various ethnicities, states, languages and religions of India. There is not much you can say to admire this great man, except for the fact that you recognize his services for the Modern Republic of India.

Even if I am not an Indian national, it gives me great pride and joy to even know that such a man served India, and I would be as much proud had I been one. His work pertaining to the untouchables and underprivileged castes of India has played a phenomenal role in at least earning them their rightful status as equal citizens in a badly segmented and segregated society.

He was the Chairman of the Drafting Commission of the Constitution of India, a secular, socialist and democratic foundation of the Indian state, which combined its various castes, creeds, cults and states under the flag of the Union. Ambedkar can be the source of inspiration not just for Indians, but for anyone around the world who believes in secular values, equality, justice and liberty. And perhaps no other country needs thinkers and figures like Ambedkar than Pakistan.

Pakistan, struggling with its internal conflicts of ethnic and religious nature, has been plagued by a community-oriented constitution. While making such a change would not fix everything overnight, but it would offer just the right start and the foundation to build a stronger and prosperous country.

Pakistan needs an Ambedkar.

The Best Christmas Present Ever

So this is Christmas. And what have we done?

This Christmas, while I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to everyone around the world, especially the Christians in Pakistan, I cannot help but think about Asia Bibi. She is still in prison. And I am thinking about her little daughters who would still be waiting for her on this festive occasion.

I have personally been through an experience which involved waiting for a loved one not too different to that and I know how frustrating and disappointing it feels.

It really feels like the end of the world.

Do we want those kids to have those kinds of feelings?

No, I hope at least.

To tell you the truth, every person has his or her own joys and sorrow, and everyone celebrates their Christmas their own way.

But what if we make a difference to one more life? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The most wonderful Christmas present for those girls would be their mother returning home, more than anything in the whole wide world, I can guarantee you that.

Imagine Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer dressed up like Santa Claus and accompanying their mother to their home.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful sight?

Can’t we just learn to forgive, regardless of whether she is guilty of anything or not?

Why can’t we give life instead of death threats?

But what could be the most wonderful present Pakistani government could offer the entire community?

Maybe going for a Secular Constitution and repealing the Blasphemy Law.

We could offer them Security and Peace this Christmas, if we wanted to.

The Best Christmas Present ever!