By: Kapil Dev
Some 65 years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah made a historic speech to the first Constituent Assembly, which was being presided over by none other than a scheduled caste Hindu, Jogendra Nath Mandal, also the first law minister of Pakistan, which many of us perhaps don’t know. Jinnah’s words ‘You are free; you are free to go your worship places. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state’ often reverberate in our ears on this day. It won’t be wrong to say that a person belonging to religious minority, be it a Christian, Hindu or Parsi, has crammed these historic words just to quote and justify their existence here and they rightly do so. In fact these words are an epitome of Jinnah’s vision of secular Pakistan which was hijacked soon after his death by right wing mullahs.
The State which Jinnah envisioned was transformed into Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the state shaped only for Muslims with little or no room for ‘non-Muslims’, which is their new identity. Jinnah had never thought of Pakistan which has been shaped up today where religious minorities are persecuted in the name of blasphemy, forcible conversion of young girls to Islam and kidnapping for ransom. Who else can better understand rights of minorities than him who himself was struggling for the rights of Muslim minority in the Hindus-dominated India. But William Butler Yeats rightly puts so that:
“Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution.”
These words seem to be aptly fitting in the context of Pakistan which is currently confronting the whips of religious persecution of minorities, escalating insecurity among them and growing intolerance in the society. The situation of religious minorities living in Pakistan has become quite miserable and pathetic that those have options to move to other countries, they don’t wait for any one’s sympathy. Take any report and you will find its facts and figures and findings showing miserable condition of minority living in the midst of fear and insecurity.
However, in current scenario the worrisome thing is that these all things are happening in the Pakistan’s most largest and so-called progressive party, PPP, government which has failed to protect not only minorities and but to those who raises voice for the marginalized segment of the society. Federal Minister Shahabaz Bhatti and Governor Salman Taseer, who raised voice to protect blasphemy alleged Aasia Bibi, are examples of such victimization.
The party has failed to protect Hindu minorities in Sindh and Balochistan and Ahmedies and Christians in Punjab. Incidents like broad daylight killing, e.g. Chak incident in which three young Hindu professionals fall prey to spree of bullets, escalating number of forcible conversion of young Hindu girls, and kidnapping for ransom, have forced Hindus to leave their land. Unlike, Mr Rehman Malik who smells conspiracy in every matter, MNA Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, sister of President Asif Ali Zardari and Dr Nafeesa Shah, daughter of Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, on the floor of House had stated that PPP MNAs are involved in these cases.
But, the PPP government did not even bother to suspend the membership of MNA Mian Mithoo , who is alleged for forcible conversion of Hindu girls, just because of the fear the party may lose powerful winning candidate.
Though, it ought to be crystal clear here that no one leaves his or her land with happiness and these emotional scenes and tears in the eyes of departing people are not of happiness but of sheer grief that they are leaving the land of Shah, Sachal and Sami, the three great Sufi Saints whose message is peace, love and tolerance, forever. But unfortunately, wave of growing extremism has overlapped northern Sindh where majority of Hindus live. It may be mentioned here that migration of Hindus, which constitute business class or educated professionals, leave economic setback to the economy of Pakistan in general and Sindh in particular.
There has been a growing debate among the Hindu youth on social media that they should flee their motherland in the aftermath of the recent forcible conversion issues and law and order situation. What I would suggest to my fellows that leaving your own land or escape is not solution to this problem. And of it is at all a solution to the problem, then it is not for all Hindus. It is solution for only handful families which are financially well-off and have relatives there in other country. But they don’t think about poor Hindus, particularly Meghwar, Bheel and Kolhi, who can’t even afford three times meal a day, how can they even think of leaving the land.
There is also persecution and maltreatment of sectarian minorities including Hazara Shias in Balochistan, Ahmadies in Punjab and others but it does not mean Shias to migrate to Iran and Barelvies to Turkey and to give up and lose the hope and leave the land in despair and pessimism.
If we want to reconstruct Jinnah’s Pakistan, then we have to make it a secular Pakistan the one which he thought of on this day.
Writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy: The Sindh Journal