Documenting the tales of ‘others’ among us

Report documenting the ‘State of Religious Freedom in Pakistan’ by Jinnah Institute spells out the plight of minorities


Review by :Shah Nawaz Mohal


Man, since time immemorial, is a creature busy in categorizing his species in groups and gangs. Humankind had divided itself in clans, kin, creeds, castes and nations as far as legend, fable and written history goes.. The motive behind such division and the practical function it performs may vary, but one thing is certain, we derive our identity from groups we hail from, we seek company and comfort from people who share something with us, be it color, faith, ethnicity or place of origin.

This is something that we’ve been doing since the dawn of time. The mighty, it is said, preached and believed, is all powerful, just and right. Might in our democratic age has been equalled with the majority. And majority, unfortunately in our country has turned brutally savage on minority, the ‘others’. The quandary our minorities find themselves in is not only deplorable, but downright criminal on our collective part.

To pay penance for the sin of division, we have people, groups and organizations in our midst who strive to articulate the concerns of voices that have been silenced and banished away to oblivion. Jinnah Institute is one such attempt to offer penitence for wrongs done in the name of mighty ideals by seething ire.

Jinnah Institute, a non-profit public policy institute presided by Sherry Rehman, launched their annual report titled ‘State of Religious Freedom in Pakistan’ here today. The report was the result of over 100 interviews and discussions by focus groups. It documents the plight of both religious and sectarian minorities. The report makes use of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to map and revisit the major incidents of discriminations and violence that took place in the country. The status of Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians and Shias and the religious freedoms they have been denied, the treatment meted out to them on daily basis and the testimonials by the victims make the whole report interesting and engaging.

The screening of the documentary ‘Strangers in their own land’ in the beginning of the session provided the much-needed context for the panel talks that followed. The testimonials by people hailing from minorities painted the life lived day-in and day-out by members of Christian, Hazara, Hindus and Ahmedis. The loved ones lost, the dear ones shushed. The documentary also presented the take of Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Mohammad Hanif and Dr. Khalid Zaheer among others on the issues faced by minorities. The short documentary shed the necessary light on what hell our children of ‘lesser God’ go through.

The panel comprised of Sherry Rehman, Senator and President of Jinnah Institute; Jennifer Jag Jivan, acting director at Christian Study Centre and researcher; Ali Dayan Hasan, editor of the report and a notable human rights activist; Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, MNA of PML-N and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council and Tahira Abdullah, social worker and renowned human right activist.

Sherry Rehman beside being the speaker also regulated the panel discussion. From the outset she reminded the audience of Jinnah’s 11th August speech and how he envisioned a democratic, secular country. She also emphasised the need to empower the vulnerable and talk about things that happen around us before embarking on long tirades against other countries and the acts they do.

Ali Dayan, told the audience that it is the second of two reports, first one published back in 2011. He necessitated the fundamental importance of human rights and the nuances of law being used as instrument to perpetuate abuse.

Audience enjoyed thoroughly the mellow-voiced Jennifer Jag Jivan and the way she sketched the dilemma faced by Christians in particular and minorities in general. Jivan, without even remotely sounding donnish or pedantic, pinpointed the exclusion practiced by our society and our innate bent to divide the world in ‘us’ and ‘them’. The prejudice, bigotry, bias, discrimination that is rampant in our society was portrayed rather concisely by her.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani corrected the mistake in the report by telling that there are 8 million Hindus in Pakistan and not 1 million. One million Hindus, according to Mr.Kumar, live in Thar Parker alone. He mentioned his contributions to improve the overall situation. According to him, we need to work on curriculum, religious education and legislation for minorities.

The last panelist, Tahira Abdullah, was told to be as brief as possible due to paucity of time. Miss Tahira started by chalking out the dire situation of Thar Parker where 4 to 5 babies die every day. She laid stress on go beyond the reported cases and protecting people who are vulnerable because of their belief. There is no change to reinvent the wheel and time is ripe that we change the hearts and minds of people, she said. Political will and commitment is all that is required to purge our society of the menace that abounds our surroundings.

In her conclusion, Sherry Rehman summed up the views of the panelists by saying that we need not to moralize and our need to muster up the will to translate all that is being said comes from within.

After the session, I sat in the empty hall and ruminated about the past.

Long ago, we started the division of ‘us-muslims’, ‘you-hindus’. Back then we didn’t take stock that once the process of division is set afoot, there is no stop whatsoever to it.

From then on, it was ‘us-west’, ‘you-Bengali’. Eventually, East Pakistan turned into Bangladesh. Then, we classified Ahmadis as non-muslims. And then the Shias were termed ‘Kafir’ openly and at rallies, and now the Deobandis and Barelvis are at loggerheads.

We, most regrettably, have reduced ourselves to bullies. And the psychology of a bully is to pick on those who are unable to defend themselves. A bully uses his might, his size to overpower weak. And we’ve endangered those who we’ve once promised to protect.

They are not free to go to their temples, their churches are burnt, their lives are taken, they are scared, and they live in the shadows of damocles sword.

We have massacred the vision of Jinnah’s Pakistan at the unholy altars of bigotry, hate and prejudice. And the end to this carnage is nowhere in sight.

  • Kamath

    Salad Hafiz , The regular contributor ( in recent days infrequent !!) has written an excellent colomn in today’s Newspaper Dailytimes. It deals with issues and history of inadeqvuacies of service and justice in so called religious states of today.

    Jinnah Institute should invite him to become an overseas member. He is a dedicated democrat, and a writer who can write dispassionately on controversial issues such as human rights.

    Read :

  • Raj Kamal

    Have the people who made this documentary ‘Strangers in their own land’ arrive at the real reason behind this hatred for ‘others’ ? If not, than this documentary along with many other such documentaries and similar articles will only adorn few shelves in libraries and some homes, without having any effect. Only effect will be that the people who are involved in making this will praised by their own liberal ilk. They be will called to give some speeches around the world, will be provided business class/first class tickets, will get to stay five start hotels, will win few awards but will have absolutely no effect on the ground. Minorities in Pakistan will continue to be subjugated, forced to convert, killed or few of them who can manage and afford will flee the country.

  • engrich

    after 800 rule on india, population of muslims in india was 20%only..this shows all ur caims are wrong.since nda has come to power millions of cows are eating the crops of hindu villagers.snan is destroying our water resources.

  • engrich

    for people like u ,hate is a duty and lie is a staple food.ashoka when hindu exterminated the entire population of kalinga,present day orrisa.parusram came to finish khatris from mainlland.budhdhist were eliminated by aadi shankaracharya,a dwarf from kerala.tariq fatah was eliminated by tajender of india.

    u are paid handsomely by enemies of india.

  • Shah Nawaz Mohal

    Raj Kamal Sahab, what do you think real reasons are to this whole minorities conundrum?

  • engrich

    bjp is party of rich rascist hindus.they have nothing to offer to common man of they raise issues which divide muslims with hindus.they perpertuate riots and take leadership of poor exploited hindus,without giving anything to them.

  • engrich

    tarek fatah and anupam kher says,
    The story of how Pakistan-backed jihadi terrorists ethnically cleansed Kashmir’s indigenous Hindu Pandits from their ancestral homeland and how the Indian government sat back and let this genocide take place just so that it may not offend India’s Muslim voters.

    jahil tarek,there was no genocide.very few hindu s were attacked by jihadis,muslims too were attacked by pakistan based jihadist.
    jagmohan,a rss man governor of kashmir .he converted the issue of more power to state in to hindu muslims issue.he or state of kashmir transpoted the bulk of hindus to jammu provided them with proper housing,saved them from torture of round the clock curfew.lot of women and children died during the pressure of curfew.still the houses and places of their worship is safe.many of them returned and left goverment new generation has come they prefer delhi to srinagar.old kashmiri prefer their blood brother.u are paid hate propagator.cannot see the things in right perspectives.kutch satyhiya bhee gaye ho.

  • Raj Kamal

    This is the bigger problem, that you guys don’t even realise the true reason behind this issue. Just introspect, with an open mind, hopefully you will find the reason.

  • Shah Nawaz Mohal

    Now, could you suggest something a little more concrete and a little less vague than immensely wispy process of ‘introspection’?

  • Raj Kamal

    Read your Book, Mr. Mohal.

  • Raj Kamal

    I am being mistreated because I am a Hindu. I am living on my last savings. Don’t know how long will I survive – Danish Kaneria

  • Shah Nawaz Mohal

    Dearest Raj Kamal, I don’t have a single book that is mine excusively. Books, all of them, are OURS,
    Can you elaborate a little more.

  • Raj Kamal

    You will find your answer in the Book, you revere most.

  • Shah Nawaz Mohal

    There are, dearest Raj Kamal, scores of books I revere in equal stead. The word ‘most’ doesn’t come in the equation.

  • Raj Kamal

    Feigning ignorance Mr. Mohal ?

  • Shah Nawaz Mohal

    Hahahaha, not at all, Dearest Raj Kamal. Just pinpointing the practice of over-generalization and pigeonholing at your part.

  • Raj Kamal

    Repartee is good for self satisfaction but it doesn’t addresses the issue in hand. Until and unless, you don’t attack the source from where this hatred for ‘others’ is derived, things will only worsen. Till than, please continue to write such articles which have been written millions of times before, without having any effect.

  • engrich
  • engrich
  • Raj Kamal

    Should Pakistan be broken up?
    Gul Agha

    The 20th century was a time of the collapse of colonialism — perhaps no event marked the collapse more than the end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent in 1947. A large number of new states were created in this period and the concept of international law was conceived. International law represented a compromise between powerful countries and their interests, and the fears of newly decolonized countries. Unfortunately, the idea of protecting existing boundaries between states — viewed as the principal means to maintain peace — took primacy over individual human rights as well as the cultural and historic rights of different nations. Since the end of the cold war, fortunately the idea of using international law to promote human rights has been gaining strength.

    The borders of many new states were drawn arbitrarily — ignoring the history, language and culture of the peoples affected. Pakistan is one such state — created by a colonial power, it is a state devoid of any historical or cultural basis. The current premise of policy makers in many countries is predicated on the notion that the continued existence of Pakistan can contribute to regional stability and promote global security. It is a premise that needs to be carefully examined.

    History of Pakistan
    In the 1930s, the Indian movement for independence had gained considerable momentum. As a means of postponing their day of departure, British colonialists promoted a Muslim leadership which encouraged religious divisions in the subcontinent. Later the British found it expedient — and apparently beneficial to their geostrategic interests — to create an oddly shaped Muslim majority state, separated into two “wings” more than a thousand miles apart.
    Pakistan had problems since its inception. One small ethnic group of migrants, Urdu speakers from Northern India who call themselves ‘Mohajirs’, initially dominated its bureaucracy and government. Another ethnic group, Punjabi speakers representing about 20% of the population, dominated its Military, while a third, Bengali speakers, constituted its majority. Power resided in the first two ethnic groups and their control of the state led to a rebellion among the majority Bengali speakers. After a quarter century of strife and ruthless attempts to suppress the Bengali majority, including a genocide, Bangladesh was created. Thus Pakistan was partitioned into two separate states, one of which retained the name.

    Pakistan’s Ethnic Groups
    The truncated borders of Pakistan consist of four major ethnic groups — Punjabis, Sindhis, Pushtuns, and Baluchis — and several other ethnic groups, Mohajirs in southern cities of Karachi and Hyderabad, Kashmiris in the North, and Seraiki speaking groups in the middle.
    Pakistan borders four countries, Afghanistan, Iran, China and India. The border with each of these countries is problematic. The border with Afghanistan is based on the so-called Durand Line — arbitrarily demarcated by the British in the 19th century. Pushtuns, who were historically united, live on both sides of this mountainous border. The border with Iran is mostly populated by Baluch tribes who live in a large sparsely populated desert on both sides of the border. The Baluchis in Pakistan demanded autonomy in the 1970s and thousands were massacred by the Pakistan military.

    The border with India runs through three distinct regions. To the north is the former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir, a focus of much contention and dispute. The division of Kashmiris between India and Pakistan is against their will. The Pakistani-occupied part of Kashmir borders not only India, but also the Chinese occupied region of Uighurs. On the Pakistani side of the Kashmir border, there are also several other ethnic groups besides the Kashmiris, such as the Gilgitis and Baltistanis.

    In the middle of Pakistan are Punjabis, who now represent about 40% of the population, and constitute 90% of the military. Punjab was partitioned on the basis of religion, and Punjabis seem quite satisfied with this division. It is an area which saw many massacres on the basis of creed — and the bloodletting resulted in ‘ethnic’ cleansing on both sides of the border. South of the Punjabis live Seraiki speaking people, some of whom bear greater affinity to Sindhis.

    The southern border with India runs through Sindh. The majority of Sindh’s over 30 million people live in the valley carved by the once mighty Indus river. Sindh’s western region is part of the Great Indian Desert of Thar, through which a border was drawn more or less arbitrarily. Sindh’s southern boundary is marked by the Indian Ocean and Kutch, a region that has close linguistic and cultural affinity to Sindh, but is now a part of India.

    The Aspirations of the Sindhis
    Sindhis are predominantly sufis who believe in harmony and tolerance in the matter of religion. Before the partition of India, the majority of Sindhis consistently voted against candidates supporting Pakistan. Although the British colonialists used their considerable power and influence to support the pro-Pakistan candidates in 1946, such candidates succeeded in obtaining only about 40% of the popular vote.
    By gerrymandering the electorate, the colonialists managed the election of a majority in the Sindh Assembly which favored joining Pakistan. The Sindhi vote for Pakistan was also facilitated by the now famous ‘Lahore Resolution’ passed by the Muslim League — this resolution promised “autonomy and sovereignty of constituent units” and “protection of religious minorities”. Sindhis have strongly resented Pakistan, whose policies since inception have been the very anti-thesis of both these principles.

    The Current Situation
    Pakistan today is held together by a powerful military which directly consumes 70% of the its budget after debt payments. The military has gained strength by opportunistically aligning itself with the United States, China and Saudi Arabia. It has directly ruled the country for most of its history and has cultivated relations with the fundamentalist Islamist clergy to strengthen its hold on power. In fact, the military is a bastion of Islamists who are influenced by fundamentalist movements such as Wahabism and Deobandism — the same movements which hold sway among large numbers of Pakistani Punjabis.
    In fact, the Pakistan military is a key source of instability in the region. Internally, it has repeatedly destabilized elected governments. It was the primary supporter of the Taliban in Afghanistan, responsible for bringing them into power. Recently, an American official was quoted as saying that the U.S. did not realize how critical the Pakistanis were in propping up the Taliban — when that support was finally withdrawn four weeks after the start of the American bombing, the Taliban regime collapsed. ISI, Pakistan military’s intelligence service is believed to have been deeply involved in heroin smuggling operations — with such operations providing the bulk of its operating budget. And the ISI continues to sponsor terrorism against neighboring India.

    The Future of Pakistan
    Despite the diabolical role of the Pakistan military, it has been an axiom of faith among policy makers in the U.S., and even in arch rival India, that the continuation of Pakistan is desirable, even necessary, for stability in the region. Several reasons are commonly advanced for this position: the dissolution of Pakistan would encourage divisions within India; it would result in an uncertain future for nuclear weapons now in the hands of the stable Pakistan military, and a view among the U.S. policymakers that the Pakistani state can serve as a useful client or proxy in the war against terrorism. None of these reasons stands up to closer scrutiny.
    India has largely succeeded in its national integration through democracy, federalism, and building of strong independent institutions such as the judiciary and the media. Its future will depend on the continuing strength of these internal institutions in addressing its needs. No doubt these needs are many, some visible ones such as increased economic growth and improved efficiency in the distribution of goods, and some less visible ones such as cultural and linguistic protection for smaller ethnic groups.

    Nuclear weapons in the hands of Pakistan pose a danger to peace, not only in South Asia but elsewhere. Policy makers are lulled into complacency by the experience of the cold war where the doctrine of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ kept the superpowers from directly waging war. In fact, such analogizing fails to appreciate the psychology of the forces at work in the Pakistan military. During the cold war, the superpowers — fearful of a nuclear holocaust — avoided direct conflict with each other. On the other hand, emboldened by its possession of nuclear weapons, the Pakistan military not only increased its support for terrorism against India, it directly attacked India in Kargil — gambling that India will not want to escalate the fight by employing its conventional superiority in new theaters of war.

    It may seem far fetched to the rational mind that some Islamist faction within the military could seize and smuggle nuclear weapons or materials for use in ‘jihad’ against India, Israel or a Western power. In fact, given an understanding of the type of religious fanaticism common in the Pakistan military at all levels, it is likely not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’, left unchecked, such a scenario will unfold. The moral barometer of the military can be appreciated by observing that it is the very same unreconstructed and unrepentant military that massacred millions of people in Bangladesh and provided logistic support to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan.

    Those who believe that it is possible to bribe or browbeat Pakistan into a compliant client state have been missing the elaborate game of charade played for long by the Pakistani military. While it is a state that chose to support the international coalition against terrorism when and where it had no choice, in the long run the prejudices of its dominant ethnic group will be reflected in its covert policies. Sure, the Pakistan military provided visible support to the coalition — but in all likelihood, the military also covertly organized pro-Taliban, anti-U.S. demonstration to exaggerate its own role. And the Pakistani dictator General Musharaf, justifying his decision to support the coalition, implied that it was a tactical compromise on the way to securing an eventual ‘victory against the infidels and the Jews.’ It should be clear where the real goals of Pakistan lie, despite protestations to get increased aid from the West and strengthen its own institution while continuing to build Islamist proxy forces.

    What Replaces Pakistan?
    Dissolution of Pakistan will largely bring things back into their natural national and ethnic boundaries. The Pushtun areas of Pakistan belong with the newly liberated Afghanistan. Kashmiris in India already enjoy numerous unique protections, e.g. against encroachment by migration from other parts of India. A unified Kashmir will be able to negotiate ways of maintaining its identity in India. Distinct ethnic regions in the Pakistani occupied part of the former kingdom of Kashmir, such as Baltistan and Gilgit, could enjoy greater autonomy.
    A successor Pakistani Punjabi state would be far easier to contain. Bounded within plains that are easy to penetrate and police, stripped of 80% of the resources now consumed by its military, it would be far less menacing. Ironically, freed of its militaristic pretensions, it could enjoy greater economic growth and prosperity in the long run by embracing a more peaceful ideology.

    The Future of Sindh
    What about the future of Sindh and Pakistan-occupied Baluchistan? Baluchistan is a desert area, though rich in some mineral deposits. The bulk of Baluchi population lives on the border of Sindh and has enjoyed free movement and interchange with the Sindhi people. It is likely that the fate of these two regions is tied together, as it was in older times.
    Sindh is rich in agriculture, has deposits of oil, coal and gas, and a well-developed port. It is the most industrialized region in the neighborhood. Shorn of the huge subsidy claimed by Punjab and its military, Sindh is likely to see rapid economic growth. This growth will be aided and abetted by the large number of expatriate Sindhi entrepreneurs and industrialists, including some billionaires. Sindhis have an ancient mercantile tradition, and their emphasis on pragmatism, tolerance and harmony are all useful attributes in a modern economy.

    Should Sindh be a Part of India?
    There are a number of arguments in favor of Sindh joining the Indian union. India is a secular, democratic country which is well-suited to the psyche of the sufi-minded Sindhis. Four months after the creation of Pakistan, 20% of the population of Sindhis was forced to migrate to India when hordes of refugees were encouraged by the Pakistani government to riot in hitherto peaceful Sindhi cities. Many of these Sindhis have settled in India and, after a long arduous struggle, they have prospered. While the diaspora Sindhis no doubt enjoy the moral and legal right of return, it is unlikely that a majority of them would now opt to migrate back to their ancestral homes. Under the circumstances, the unification of Sindh with India would allow the two groups of Sindhis to easily interact and support each other.
    Unfortunately, Sindh cannot afford to unify with India in the near future. The greatest threat to Sindhis is demographic — up to a quarter of those living in Sindh are Mohajirs, Muslims who migrated from Northern Indian provinces such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The population of areas where they immigrated from continues to increase rapidly while the economic growth of those areas remains stunted. The linguistic, cultural and religious affinity of Mohajirs with their brethren in North India could make Sindh a magnet for further immigration unless Sindh is able to exercise vigorous control of its borders.

    An independent Sindh will serve as a natural conduit for oil and gas pipelines from energy rich Central Asia to energy starved South Asia. Without an entrenched bureaucracy, Sindh will rapidly lead the way to economic expansion in South Asia. Most significantly for the rest of the world, given its long peaceful sufi tradition, an independent Sindh will provide a bulwark against fanaticism and promote peace and prosperity.

    Policy makers would do well to focus their energy on the unenviable but inevitable task of dismantling Pakistan as expeditiously as possible.

    Gul Agha is Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a faculty affiliate of the UIUC Program in South Asian and Middle-Eastern Studies. He is active in Sindhi-American organizations. Copyright © Gul A. Agha 2002

    My Pakistan

  • Raj Kamal

    Pakistani Shia student beheaded by his friends for wearing jacket of Imam Ali name

    A Pakistani shia was beheaded by three of his takfiri friends for wearing a locket with words ‘Ya Ali Madad’(as). According to information, Muzammil Abbas was killed in Bhal Syeda.
    A Pakistani shia was beheaded by three of his takfiri friends for wearing a jacket with words ‘Ya Ali Madad’(as). According to information, Muzammil Abbas was killed in Bhal Syeda.

    Muzammil was missing since three days and his beheaded body was found today. His family and neighbors protested at Kohat road, Attock till the FIR was registered under the terrorism act after which it was ended.

    Muzammil’s neighbors told that a school named Anwar e Sahaba o Ahl e Bait, located in Fatah Jang, is involved in the incident. The school is famous for spreading extremist ideology, they told.

    Accoridng to Police, Muzammil was a student of 10th grade and was killed by three of his friends due to an argument that took place in school over wearing a jacket with the name of Imam Ali (as).

    After killing Muzammil, his friends buried the body in a deserted area. One of killers’ father whereas brother of the second is associated with the takfiri school and the father of third person is the prayer leader (Paish Imam) at the same school. The information was revealed by a person arrested by the police from the school.

    This incident shows that the extremist ideology has penetrated even inside Pakistan educational institutions where friends are killing each other. Use of force is now strongly needed to deal with these terrorists.

    Funeral prayer of Muzammil Abbas was offered in Attock.

  • Raj Kamal

    Innocent Muslims are forced to clean streets by police in Germany.

  • engrich

    cases like this happens everywhere in world even in india daily.why u give religous cplor.

  • engrich

    send him some help.

  • engrich
  • Raj Kamal
  • Majumdar

    Ramesh Kumar Vankwani corrected the mistake in the report by telling that there are 8 million Hindus in Pakistan and not 1 million.

    I guess those who wrote the report confused 1 crore with 1 million, a common enough mistake.


  • dunkirk

    The number of hindus in Pakistan would have been 40 to 50 million if the muslims had not carried out the genocide against them under the vigil of Jinnah in 1947. Pakistan’s irrevertible jump into the abyss of islamic-arabic fascism-arabic-colonialism is due to this genocide on hindus. Jinnah never did anything to undo it. He profited from it.

  • engrich

    tommorow germans will clean their shoes

  • engrich

    50 million was total population of pakistan at the time of partition..under islamic rule minorities are always protected.

  • engrich