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Pakistan's 23% non-Muslim population during Partition is now 3%: Ex-advisor to Pak Prime Minister

Pakistan's 23% non-Muslim population during Partition is now 3%: Ex-advisor to Pak Prime Minister

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 23 Jul 2020, 01:43 pm

London:  A former advisor to a Pakistan Prime Minister said the non-Muslim population in the country has dwindled to a meagre three percent now from 23 percent during the Partiton of united India.

Farahnaz  Ispahani,  who  also  served  as  the  Advisor  to Pakistani  Prime  Minister,  said this at a webinar  rganised to discuss  the  plight  of  religious  minorities  in  Pakistan, where parliamentarians, academicians,  and  activists  came  together  in  the  UK  under  the  aegis  of ABHI-UK.

The webinar on “The State of Religious Freedom and Minorities in Pakistan” was held recently.  The speakers at  the event were Theresa Villers, Chipping Barnet, Farahnaz Ispahani, Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute; Dr. Waris Hussain,  Senior  Staff  Attorney  for  South  and  Southeast  Asia  with  the  ABA Justice  Defenders  Program;  Dr.  Rubina  Greenwood,  Chair  of  World  Sindhi Congress; and Jonathan Lord, MP Working.

She began by  sharing  her  observations  on  the  Gojra massacre of Christians in Pakistan.

She then argued that during partition, Pakistan got a share of around 23% of the landmass from united India and had 23% of the non-Muslim  population.

Currently, the total population of non-Muslims is meagre  3% in the country.  Besides being persecuted, minorities are seeking refuge in other countries  -  Hindus  are  moving  to India  and  Christains  to  the  US,  UK,  and Australia, she pointed out. 

Most  of  the  minority  populations  have  lost  their  leadership  and powerful  and  rich  people in  their  community,  which  means  that  they  are persecuted and marginalised in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, she said.

She  highlighted  that  the  last  month  has  been  one  of  the  worst  periods  for Pakistani minorities.

The Srikrishna temple project which was given a go-ahead earlier by ex-Pakistan PM Nawaz  Sharif  and  later  by Imran Khan, was abandoned after there was an assault on the boundary wall of the temple premises.

There are at least three thousand Hindus in and around the location where the temple was being created, where there isn't a single crematorium or a temple for Hindus.

 

She classified the marginalisation of minorities in Pakistan into inter-Islamic and intra-Islamic categories, as there is persecution even within the Islamic religion in  Pakistan.  There  is  an ongoing  project of  purifying  the  pure  land. 

The Constitution was earlier constituted and later amended to achieve this objective, leading  to constitutional  discrimination  against  Hindus,  Christians,  Buddhists, and Jains.

During the 1980s, the purification process reached the Ahmedis and Shias.

The militia promoted by Zia ul Haq to fight the Soviet Union was used for persecution.  Southern  Punjab  and  Sindh  have  been  a  land  of  Sufi  culture, similar to Ajmer Sharif in India.

The Pakistani population has been brainwashed too  and  motivated  to  persecute  the  minorities.  Only  Wahabi  and  Deobandi Muslims are immune in Pakistan. Even if they raise voices to support minorities, they lose their immunity, she said.

On being asked why did the Sikh pilgrimage to Kartarpur not get a pushback, which  is  opposite  to  the  protests  on  Hindu  temples  and  why  there  was  a difference  in  the  public  response  to  these  two  different  holy  sites,  Farahnaz highlighted that the Pakistani military is strongly involved in Kartarpur Corridor. It is clearly a military establishment.

Besides, when Prime Minister Imran Khan campaigned, he promised to uphold the blasphemy law when elected to power. He is personally strongly conservative and Islamist. But he has the habit of taking U-turns, over and over. The formation of the national commission on minorities reflects  this, she said.

"According  to  Justice  Jilani,  it  was  supposed  to  be  set  up  by  a parliamentary   committee,   free   from   the   judiciary   and   military.  To   please international organisations and watchdogs, Imran Khan formed the commission, but with appointed members,   without leaders  wanted  by  the  minority community.  Hence, it became an overhead commission."

The case of Sindh, which is relatively a progressive province, is a bit different from  the  rest  of Pakistan.

Sindh was the first state to propose the bill against forced  conversion  which  was  taken  back  under  pressure  from  the  Islamic commission.

Since Pakistan knows that Sindh is more secular, it started to put in  more  effort  to  take on it and promote Wahhabism, she said.

Earlier, there were 1500 Madrassas in Pakistan, now there are 24 thousand of those.  These madrassas are  stablished in Hindu majority areas, leading to increased conversions.

She argued that the only situation where Pakistan performs is under pressure.

"We  need to put tighter conditions on global agreements and mechanisms like GSP+  to  ensure  that  minorities  remain  protected  against  the  ever-increasing threat," she said.

She demanded that Imran Khan should grow a spine and make sure  that  Sri Krishna  Mandir and Hindu  crematorium projects go forward and are  given  protection. 

She  also  demanded  to  empty  the  jails  from  people  of minority communities facing fake blasphemy cases.

Finally, she recommended the  idea  of  an  international  petition/letter,  with  a  list  of  actionable  items, addressed  to  the  British  High  Commission,  the  Pakistani  government,  and international organisations. 

She suggested  the letter to be signed by parliamentarians, activists, and leaders from Pakistani minorities.

Speaker Rubina  Greenwood  shared  experiences  of  her  childhood days in Sindh when she used to celebrate Holi and Diwali.

However, since the last 25 years, things have  dramatically  changed.  The  persecution of Hindu  Sindhis is hardly being raised  on  international  platforms. 

The  ongoing  practice is  deteriorating  the harmony of Sindh in the name of religion and politics. It has been estimated that at least 1000 women of minorities are abducted, married, and converted every year in Sindh, she said. 

Pakistani establishment supported by the Army, parliamentarians, and   judiciary is promoting these abduction practices of underage Hindu girls.

The idea is to make it a pure Wahabi land. Pakistan has signed treaties on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination  Against  Women, International  Covenant  on  Civil  and  Political Rights, etc.

"But it has always failed to abide by any of these. Imran Khan, who is on a mission to eradicate Islamophobia across the world, has himself failed to stand by international conventions that his country has signed.

"The opposition as  well  as the ruling  party, all are involved in the persecution and have been supporting  it. "

She further argued that persecution is programmed in Pakistani minds since their early days. The curriculum was changed under the Zia Ul Haq regime to erase the history of Pakistan and minority rights.

All the history before 1971 and East Pakistan was erased and minorities were shown as inferiors. It ensured the promotion of Jihad in adolescents and took pride in converting and marrying minority girls.

Rubina put forward the idea of an open discussion and parliamentary debate on the   persecution   of   young  girls  and  children  from  minority  commission  in Pakistan.

She said that the international community will have to ask Pakistan to demonstrate their performance on human rights in the last two to five years and then   decide  in  order  to  release  aid  and  funds  to  them. 

Also,  whenever international commissions and panels are travelling to Pakistan, they should not be  restricted  to  Islamabad,  rather  they  should  also  try to travel to the interior areas of Pakistan to get the real picture of persecution of minorities.

Speaker Waris  Hussain  said  that  the  appointed  judiciary  has  played  a  major  role  in promoting  abductions,  instead  of  checking  violations  by  state  and  non-state actors.

The  judges, instead of being objective, are supporting the majoritarian perspective.   

The    blasphemy    law  is  incredibly complicated to create second-class  citizenship  in  Pakistan.

The  electoral  laws,  family  laws,  trust property laws, etc are several other laws that are promoting marginalisation of minorities  in  Pakistan. 

"We  have  to  revamp  the  entire  system  to  solve  this problem.   State   and   non-state   actors   act   parallelly   torturing   minorities   in Pakistan.  You  have  a  mob  and  you  have  the  police.  The  mob  attacks  on minorities and police give the mob immunity against these," he said.

He  further  said  that  there  is  a  great  consistency  involved  in  inconsistency. Pakistan  says  something  else  to  international  community  and  then  takes  a U-turn  under  the  pressure  from  radical  Islamist  groups.  It  comes  one  step forward  and  takes  two  steps  back. 

He  also  shared  his  experiences  of  the condition  of  Pakistani  minorities,  while  working  with  USCIRF  as  a fellow.

For example, the US was unhappy with Imran Khan on the minority commission, so Pakistan just set up the commission to protect itself from US anger and at the same  time  continuing  persecution. 

Similarly,  to  receive  funds  from  the  US, Pakistan  agreed  to change the syllabus. They did so and after a year or two, reversed  those  changes. 

Hence,  the  Pakistani  government  is  gaming  the system.

There are two different leagues to play with the international community and  the  domestic  community. 

A  follow-through  by  the  US  and  the  UK  is required  to  ensure  that  anti-Hindu  and  anti-Christain  syllabus  gets  changed. However, the change has to be in a more comprehensive way.

Some  of  the  stakeholders  in  the  international  community  are  involved  in  the temple issues.

However, it is yet to get media attention. Else it will be too late to change the decision and pressurise Pakistan.

The EU and the US have to press PM  Imran  Khan  and  tell  him  that  we  will  continue  our  aid  only  if  you ensure construction of the temple.

He mentioned that the  job  of  the  international  community  is  to  put  a  mic in front of minorities to magnify  their  voices.  A  lot  of  efforts  and  research  is  required  to  ensure  that Pakistan does not just keep checking boxes on minority issues.

Speaker Theresa   Villers   talked   about   her   experiences   of   working  with  the  Hindu community  in  her  constituency. 

She  mentioned  that  according  to  Christain Solidarity Worldwide, the discrimination against the community is historical and institutional in Pakistan.

Hindus live in economic disadvantage that adds to their vulnerability  against  the  Muslim  majority  community. 

The  temple  controversy and    delays    and    blockages    including   fatwas   are   proof   of   systematic marginalisation of Hindus in Pakistan, she said.

She also expressed her concerns about the  education  system  of  Pakistan. 

Textbooks  promote  marginalisation  and alienation  of  religious  minorities.  Even  during  Covid,  Hindu  and  Christain minorities have been deprived of government benefit schemes.

She  expressed  optimism  to  get  more  opportunities  to raise minority issues in the UK Parliament. She said to raise the issue with a greater effort, especially, the gender issue - which is the most sensitive one.

The UK government has to recognise that as a former colonial power, involvement in internal issues comes with a lot of complications.

Seth Oldmixon from Liberty South Asia moderated the event.