Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sherry Rehman highlights discrimination, inequality & violence against minorities

Jinnah Institute has published a 70-page report called 'A Question of Faith', which was released by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Jinnah Institute is a think-tank headed by the former information minister and a parliamentarian Sherry Rehman, she emphasized the need to reinstate the model of inclusive citizenship envisioned by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The report compiled over the period December 2010 – April 2011 documents the deterioration in the political, social and economic status of members of religious minorities in Pakistan, particularly the rising tide of vigilante violence against them and criticizes President Zardari's government for backing off from repealing, or even discussing, the country's controversial blasphemy law.

The report highlights that violence and extremism is threatening Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis,  and growing incidents of mob violence against minority groups providing examples of abductions and forced conversions of minority women.
The report warned extremists posed a serious threat to Pakistan's stability.
The report calls for repealing the country's controversial blasphemy law and urges the government to urgently undertake political and judicial reforms to ensure equality for Muslims and non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan.
The institute has listed 23 recommendations, including the removal of impunity for prayer leaders in mosques, police and judicial reforms and clarification of the status of Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology. It also calls for an appointment of a “Special Ombudsman” to protect the rights of women and minorities.
The research team of the Jinnah Institute interviewed 125 people including minority representatives, victims and non-governmental organisations’ workers all over Pakistan between December 2010 and April 2011. 
Interviews with Christians of different age groups and professions revealed that many of them felt they “are treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against in all aspects of life.” Moreover, most of those who can, do move away from Pakistan. Those who choose to stay back do so because of a strong sense of commitment to the country and being ‘Pakistani even though they are persecuted on the basis of their religion.
Christians in rural areas have to deal with instances of their land being grabbed by local Muslim residents and in some of the more serious incidents, the Christian residents are then unable to return to their homes.
Eighty per cent of the Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh, and “are victims of caste and wider religious discrimination,” said the report. They do not own lands and work on daily wages, a consequence of them not having any permanent settlement. The report said, “One day, they are with one landlord, the next day with another. And this is how they spend a life of debt, with no accountability or education.”
Their castes have translated into daily life. For instance, Hindus from a lower caste might be restricted to a separate water well in a school, “from which even the Muslims will not drink”.
Higher caste Hindus have their own set of problems to contend with. They live in a state of insecurity and are frequently kidnapped for ransom. For instance, 82-year-old Lakki Chand Garji, a prominent Hindu spiritual leader, was kidnapped on December 21, 2010 and his whereabouts are unknown to date.
Then there’s the matter of Hindus being suspected of having sympathy for India. Some Hindus said that “they dealt with the repercussions of the destruction of the Babri Masjid across the border in India in 1992.”
Violence against the Ahmaddiya community has also been on the rise in the past three years, it was reported.
The report attributed the increase in violence to maulvis “promoting such attacks and inciting violence in their sermons and in the media.” 
We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.- Mohammad Ali Jinnah, August 11, 1947 – Address to Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly

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