Isn’t democracy already dead in Pakistan and the rule of the bigots surpassed the state? Why does Pakistan always have to prove that it’s no more a land of the pure but a land of radicals and extremists who are vehemently intolerant of other faiths and beliefs?
Even the birth of Pakistan was based on religious intolerance and the establishment of a secular state is a pipe dream to date. The two-Nation theory propounded by the guardians of Pakistan at the core was flawed and assurances made by Jinnah to its minorities were hollow. Since then, there have been instances of discrimination, violence, and social marginalization against religious and ethnic minority groups in Pakistan. These issues can be attributed to a complex interplay of factors, including historical legacies, socio-economic disparities, political dynamics, and the influence of extremist ideologies
The recent attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Pakistan are yet another example of Pakistan sliding into the pit hole of Islamist radicalisation. Religious minorities had seen no prosperity since the inception of the bigot state. The segregation was aggravated when General Zia took over Pakistan in 1979 making the minorities on the verge of political and social extinction. Zia-ul-Haq put an end to debate, discussion and imposed arbitrary and coercive Islamization over the masses. He silenced secular voices and changed school curricula to pass on his bigoted worldview to the next generation. Alas! Pakistani leaders like Zia succeeded in spreading a radical version of Islam where no one except the believers of Islam has a right to live let alone practice or preach their religion.
Since then, its top-down Islamization of Pakistan continues to have an impact on every problem tearing Pakistan apart, including sectarian conflict, terrorism, and breaches of human rights. As a result of Pakistan’s increasing radicalization and racial supremacy, along with the religious minorities Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs ethnic and linguistic minorities like Ahmadiyya, Baloch, Kashmiris, and Shia are no longer able to breathe in Pakistan. It appears that Pakistan is on the verge of Collapse due to various kinds of socio-economic issues and conflicts and to counter its disintegration, such constructed acts of violence take place time and again.
Blasphemy is just an olive branch of the radical version of Islam that is used as a tool at the hands of radical forces to either humiliate, threaten or persecute religious minorities. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, the persecution of minorities and their places of worship are indeed important and concerning issues that have attracted significant attention and criticism both within the country and internationally. It has been criticized for being overly strict, open to abuse, and disproportionately affecting religious minorities.
The Jaranwala incident in Pakistan which sparked on the pretext of blasphemy made Christian minorities more prone to violence and atrocities. After the reports of the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran spread across the masses, making the Muslim community outrageous about the incident resulting in the ensuing unrest. The incident witnessed attacks by the mob on the religious Christian minority, pillaging Christian homes, Churches and desecration of the Holy Bibles. A mere allegation or a rumour of Blasphemy in Pakistan can make mobs bloodthirsty and destructive to such a level that it undermines its ow legal institutions. At least 20 Churches and 86 houses of Christians were burnt down by the mob in Pakistan. One thing that made this episode very evident is that in Pakistan, vigilantes predominate above the state and minorities remain in the abyss. If Pakistani authorities had prioritized societal growth and education instead of encouraging radical and extremist thought processes in Pakistani youth, things may have turned out better. Vigilante Islamic extremists are infamous for entrapping religious minorities into blasphemy and Pakistani authorities and its judicial system have failed to contain such repeated attacks. Even after continued condemnation from around the world, the attacks on the Christian minorities are continued with impunity from the State. Late at night on 22 August 2023, a few days after the Jaranwala incident, Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) extremists attacked Christians and burnt Churches in Madina town, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
No one else but the Pakistani state itself is one of the main forces behind the oppression and persecution of minorities, in addition to the existence of an anti-Christian mindset among Jihadists, radicals, Islamist groups, and fanatics. Pakistan is undoubtedly a case of a failed state because the failure of the Pakistani state to defend the rights of its minorities is not due to a lack of capacity, but because of a lack of political will. In fact, one must categorize Pakistan’s persecution of Christians as an instance of state-sponsored terrorism. From the capital to the provinces, in both urban and rural regions, there is systematic discrimination against Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs throughout Pakistan.
Though violent attacks on Christians and other minorities by radical Islamists are quite regular in Pakistan, they frequently go unreported and the offenders escape punishment. Remember it’s not the rule of law but the rule of the murderous mob that prevails over Pakistan. Even if the security agencies are not personally biased against Christians, they are frequently too intimidated by the Islamic extremists and too afraid to assist the victims and instead quietly sit behind while watching the attacks as a mute spectator
Religious extremists have also previously burned down and vandalized churches and prosecuted minorities on charges of blasphemy.
Some of the recent violent attacks and hate crimes on the minorities of Pakistan are:
• One of the most prominent cases was that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was accused of blasphemy in 2009 after a dispute with Muslim coworkers. She was convicted and sentenced to death. Her case gained international attention, leading to calls for her release. After years of legal battles, her conviction was overturned by the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2018. However, she faced threats and had to leave Pakistan to seek asylum in a Western country.
• Rimsha Masih, a young Christian girl, was accused of blasphemy in 2012 for allegedly burning pages containing Quranic verses. The case generated outrage and concern about the treatment of minors in such cases. Ultimately, the charges against her were dropped due to lack of evidence.
• In 2011, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for advocating for AsiaBibi. His son, Shaan Taseer, continued his father’s advocacy and faced threats and harassment who was later forced into exile due to safety concerns.
• Around 3000 radicals stormed into Churches, damaged them, and attacked the local Christians in Sangla Hill in November 2005.
• Stephen Masih, a Pakistani Christian from Sialkot District, was detained for over two years for allegedly committing blasphemy. Pakistan also sentenced a young Christian man Shahzad Masih to execution by hanging over a false allegation of blasphemy. On November 22, 2022, a court reportedly sentenced Masih to death.
• A teacher was assassinated earlier this month in Turbat, Baluchistan’s southernmost province, after being accused of blasphemy during a class.
• In Nankana’s rural area in February of this year, a defendant was dragged and kidnapped from a police station by the mob and executed for allegedly defiling Quranic pages.
The prevalence of hate crimes committed against religious minorities demonstrates how these people’s freedoms and rights are being trampled upon merely because they hold a different set of beliefs. Outside intervention is absolutely necessary to protect the religious minority communities from such atrocities that pose a threat to basic human rights and freedom because the Pakistani authorities have demonstrated to the world that they are unable to protect the rights, dignity, and freedom of their citizens.