Saturday, April 10, 2010

Religious Minorities in Pakistan

Not many Pakistanis know the names Dinshah Mehta or Jal Patel. They can be said to have played a very crucial part in the formation of this country, yet we are ignorant about them. These two gentlemen were doctors in Bombay, whose patients included one Mr. Jinnah. In 1946, an x-ray was taken of Jinnah, which unmistakably revealed signs of tuberculosis. Had his doctors decided to break doctor-patient confidentiality, and released these findings for all of India to see, it is very possible, indeed probable that Pakistan might never have come into being. They were both Hindus, yet they never acted in any untoward way. Another Hindu, who most of us do know is Justice Rana Bhagwandas, who took his place as acting Chief Justice in the enforced absence of Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, and presided over the court which restored the Chief Justice to his rightful position.
Dr. Abdus Salam hails from the Ahmadi community of Pakistan, and is a name Pakistani Muslims would really like to forget, for,as we keep reminding ourselves, he was not a Muslim, yet he remains the only Nobel Laureate this country has ever produced (for work done entirely outside of this country, mind you). People from the Parsi community include Bapsi Sidwa, a brilliant author, and Ardeshir Cowasjee, a columnist for this newspaper, not to mention the latter's father, who established the Cowasjee group, a shipping agency. (Former) Christians include Mohammad Yousaf, who used to be Yousaf Youhana before Inzimam-ul-Haq turned the cricket team into a missionary group.
In sum, these and no doubt many other people of these communities, our minorities, have done a lot to serve Pakistan, almost as much as our Muslims have, who are in any case more visible for their role in events resulting in death and destruction. Yet they live as second class citizens, at the mercy of mad mullahs and mad self-styled 'security analysts' and even madder Alims who can't wait to use their pulpits as a stage to give the call for murder without any reason or provocation. It is beyond me how Zaid Hamid and Liaquat Hussain can say the things they do and yet remain untouched by the state. Have they broken no law? Or are they simply immune to it? How these people have not already been arrested, convicted and executed is beyond comprehension. A while back, a brutal multiple murder took place while the victims were returning from work. Their crime? They belonged to a religious minority. And yet we continue to live in denial. They were somebody's son, somebody's father, somebody's husband, somebody's brother, but we do not care.
In Naudero on New Years Eve of 2007, there was a cry from the crowd by an average Pakistani, right before the reading of Benazir's will: Pakistan na khappay. I remember that voice today, because this is not a Pakistan I want to live in. Today, I am ashamed of being associated in any way with this country, where the majority sits silently and does nothing, where an extremist strain of thought has hijacked the country's most fundamental ideals, as a result of which it is becoming increasingly difficult for religious minorities to live in peace. Make no mistake, they don't reside here by choice.
All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. And when we do nothing, we are complicit in this evil, we enable it, indeed encourage it with our lack of opposition. I feel like I have lost my country, but the truth is I never had it to begin with.

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