How Pakistan has weaponised Islam against its own minorities

Christian persecution in Pakistan

One of Pakistan’s widely respected and well-known human rights groups, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has accused the state of restricting religious freedom, encouraging extremists, browbeating religious minorities with impunity and suppressing minorities through draconian laws.

Titled “A Culture Of Hate-Mongering”, the report gives horrid account of how the government has restricted freedom of religion by passing new, retrogressive legislation, failing to enforce existing laws and turning a blind eye to increasing number of crimes against minority communities across the country.

Hundreds of Hindu women have been abducted, raped, and forced to convert and marry to Muslim men with the state remaining a mute spectator. Neither the police nor the judges nor the political leaders have come forward to help the hapless Hindu community which remains hostage to extremist clerics and Muslim leaders.

According to a recent research report the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), conversions saw a spike in 2022, with a total of 124 cases, of which 81 were Hindu, 42 were Christian and one Sikh; 45 of these girls were aged between 14 and 18, and 29 were younger than 18. Sindh had the highest number of forcibly converted females at 82, Punjab 40, and Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with one each. In 2023, the NGO documented at least 71 cases of alleged forced conversion in Sindh and Punjab. The HRCP, however, pointed out that these numbers were highly underreported and the figure according to local Hindu groups was much higher.

These attacks and humiliations are multiplied by a systematic targeting of minorities in school textbooks. An HRCP fact-finding mission to South Punjab in 2022 found that religious discrimination had led to an increase in school dropout rates among Christian and Hindu students.

Those who have taken up cudgels on behalf of the Hindus and other minorities are either attacked or charged with blasphemy laws, a draconian set of laws which calls for life imprisonment or death by hanging. These laws have been used by extremist groups like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to attack, convert and terrorise Hindu and other minorities through speech filled with hatred and vitriol.

The most bizarre blasphemy case occurred in July 2022 when a mobile franchise company in Karachi was attacked by a mob for allegedly insulting revered Islamic personalities by their usage of two wi-fi usernames. The manager and staff were arrested and the mob set fire to the shop.

The attacks on Ahmadis, a minority sect within Islam, are least reported. Several Ahmadi religious places have been damaged and destroyed with hammers and chisels by mobs wantonly across the country, most often with the police standing by and politicians silent. Their graves have been dug up in Sindh and Punjab regularly with the state refusing to help the frightened community.

The HRCP found a very disturbing report among the legal community against the Ahmadis. The lawyers, the report said, “amplified far-right rhetoric and become agents of persecution of religious minorities“. Few bar councils have asked lawyers to declare Ahmadis non-Muslim if they wish to practice in that province.

The HRCP report only confirms the trajectory of an Islamic Pakistan which is moving rapidly to become a rabid Sunni state with no respect for minorities.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024