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Minorities bear the brunt in Pakistan

Anita Joshua
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Targeted:Candles are lit in Lahore in May 2010 for victims of an attack on an Ahmadi mosque in eastern Pakistan that killed 93 people.— Photo: AP
Targeted:Candles are lit in Lahore in May 2010 for victims of an attack on an Ahmadi mosque in eastern Pakistan that killed 93 people.— Photo: AP

In a telling statement on the growing intolerance, the State of Human Rights in 2011 report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) shows that 389 members of various Muslim sects were killed last year. This includes 100 Hazara Shias in targeted attacks in Balochistan alone.

By virtue of being the biggest non-Sunni Muslim sect in the country, Shias accounted for the largest number of those killed but, according to the HRCP report released here on Thursday, Ahmadis — declared non-Muslims by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto — remained the “target of hate speech, violence, discrimination and, when their faith was known, of social segregation”.

Billed by HRCP as the most vulnerable of all minority groups — Hindus included — the report noted with concern the inaction by the authorities to evident efforts to incite hatred toward Ahmadis. Referring to the posters and wall-chalking slamming Ahmadis and their faith, the report states: “This occurred to such an extent that it was impossible for the authorities to not notice these campaigns and yet they failed to act.”

As for the Hindus, several incidents of violence and intimidation were reported including abduction and subsequent forced conversion of girls. As per HRCP count, 151 Pakistani Hindus — often referred to as ‘Indians' — sought asylum in India claiming that their lives would be in danger if sent back. “They had been arrested for staying in India after their visas had expired. In December, the Delhi High Court sought a response from the Indian Government by the end of February 2012 and asked it not to deport the Hindus to Pakistan until then.”

What reflected a “new low in intolerance” in Pakistan, according to HRCP, was the case of a Christian class eight student being accused of blasphemy for a spelling mistake in her examination. “The spelling error led to her expulsion from school and had the local clerics howling for her blood.”

Besides flagging the incidents, the HRCP report laments the failure to do away with discriminatory laws including the constitutional provision barring non-Muslims from key government positions. Stating that the only voice on the blasphemy issue was that of the extremists, the Commission noted that instead of abandoning the promise of revising and improving the law, the government should create consensus on the need to reform it.


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