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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pakistan: the Land of Opportunity



A few months back, X’s mother retired from her government job. She served as a seventeen grade officer in a well known hospital for 30 years. As per government policy, after the retirement the property had to be vacated. They were given 4 months to vacant the residence allotted by the government during the service period. Their own house was still under construction, so they planned to look for a rented house temporarily.

The family started to look for an appropriate place on the same location, as the place, streets and the area was familiar to them.

Before that they used to reside in a majority Christian area and therefore had never experienced any discrimination being Christian.

They checked many places but it was quite shocking for them that when it comes to finalize the agreement, they often faced refusal just because the landlord did not want a Christian family in their neighborhood.

After a long search they found a house. X’s father was quite hesitant to talk about the religion because he was afraid that he might face refusal again, but this time their luck changed and the deal was done. The day both the parties were about to sign the agreement, the landlord added a clause; they cannot have any religious meetings at their house as his family was residing in the upper portion of the building and they were quite orthodox. They looked at each other surprised, but they did not want to give it a second thought. They signed the agreement anyhow and started moving house. One thing they realized that we need to be conscious about freedom of expression. What if someday they celebrate a religious festival?

With church hymns and worship songs, their landlords will surely ask them to vacate their home. Maybe  do not get any appropriate reason to get the house vacant.

Why it is so effortless to use the Blasphemy law than any other law in the country?

It reminds me of the incident of Rimsha Masih, a 11 year old charged Blasphemy 295 B, 295 C. She was unaware of what the word Blasphemy even means. Or the Badami Bagh Josph Colony incident, which was over a property and personal dispute, under the cover of such ‘law’.

Does being a religious minority mean no freedom of expression?

All these questions remain unanswered, because there is less tolerance for the religious minorities. It leads people living as minority to hide their identity in order to get their rights or avoid discrimination.

Blasphemy becomes Lynch law (the practice of condemning and punishing a person by mob action without a proper trial) in some cases, where the blasphemers find no judicial approaches or legal advocacy to prove them guiltless. The decision does not merely depend on investigation and in many cases investigation is neither completed nor heard. The person is either killed or faces heavy loss in some other manner i.e. property etc.

Once in a seminar during my presentation on minority women’s rights I was asked by a participant who I think is responsible for such prevalence of discrimination in the society.

I answered that the state is the one to be held responsible. ‘How’? The text books and education material which we teach in our schools is full of bias material, which leads a child to discriminate at the earliest stage, then we are surprised if any adult discriminates. We should not be shocked by such acts: he has learned to do so in his school.

Why can’t the UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights be the part of the education system? Change may not be as prompt through it, but it can bring change.

There should be no outcry to the international forums if the discrimination prevails in the blood of the nation.

I can raise my voice but what is the use of it if the basic education of children is the source of discrimination.

This is not enough; the curriculum of the Sindh and Punjab board is full of bias and hate material which is building hate in the mind of young people.

From pre-school to post graduation the educational material is only full of superiority of one religion leading hate for others, giving rise to a society which regularly violates basic Human Rights.

Many organizations make efforts to draw the attention of the government of Pakistan towards this education drawback but they have not responded. And why would they, as Islam has been declared the religion of the state as per constitution of Pakistan.

All we can do is to wait until we get our visas approved as this nation has no place for us as a minority in their hearts, no matter how much we claim we are patriots.



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