Raza Habib Raja
A few days ago, news reached Pakistan of some Kashmiri students being suspended in an Indian University after celebrating Pakistan’s victory. Pakistanis were belligerent and media repeated the news for God knows how many times. There were talk shows on how intolerant India was with respect to Muslims. We used that opportunity to find comfort that if we are bad, others are not good either.
After Gujarat riots suddenly Pakistanis found a justification to point out as to how bad India was for Muslims.
During all this hue and cry, we forgot that how cruel we are to our own minorities. And yet in the recent years we have gotten reminded again and again. Christians have been attacked by both no state actors like TTP and also by angry mobs. Ahmedis have been attacked and their life in general has been miserable also. Shiites have literally been butchered.
And yet there has been a collective apathy on the part of our society. But when 67 students were suspended, there was an uproar and many found justification to feel comfortable in their own society’s weaknesses. The fact that suspension, though bad, cannot even remotely measure up to our bigotry and insensitivity never crossed our mind.
And now the latest incidence involving Sindh’s Hindus has occurred.
Sindh is known to be the most religiously tolerant province. There are many reasons for it. First Sindh by and large has a rich tradition of Sufism and mysticism. It is the strain of Islam which is often projected as more “tolerant” as it stresses more on individual’s direct relationship with God. It is claimed that due to this the need for organized religion with forceful laws and collective obedience ( to be ensured through force) to God is rendered unnecessary.
Another reason often claimed for its tolerance is that it always had a sizeable Hindu population. The presence of a sizeable minority, it is claimed, introduced an accommodative strain, and Muslims and Hindus learnt to coexist peacefully. This is not to say that there were never any problems but compared to the rest of Pakistan, Sindh was still considered way better in the sense that there were seldom reports of mob violence targeting minorities.
And the third reason is that Sindh is the political bastion of Pakistan People Party (PPP) whose political base cut across all the ethnicities and minorities. A party with a diverse base is often said to be more responsive to minority concerns.
Many liberal journalists have often cited Sindh as some kind of different place despite the fact that there have been reports of Hindu migration and forced conversions. But those have always been dismissed as isolated incidences.
In the last two days all the tolerant image has been shattered as a repeat of Gojra and Joseph Colony has taken place in Larkana, which ironically is the city of Bhuttos. At the time when young Bilawal is trying to define PPP as the party of tolerance and liberalism, his own base city has witnessed such incidence.
This burning is an administrative failure but also is reflective of increasing bigotry in the society.
It is a national shame and once again Pakistan has shown that it is not a country for minorities.