On Christmas this year, my heart goes out to the families, relatives and friends of those innocent Christian Pakistanis who suffered death, destruction and gross injustice at the hands of misguided fanatics brandishing batons, clubs and guns all over Pakistan. They attacked the Christian community in Gojra, Toba Tek Singh, resulting in seven deaths and causing severe damage to property. This was the bloodiest in the series of attacks on Christians and their neighbourhoods and villages across the country, particularly in Punjab. In March, a woman was killed in Gujranwala when the community was protesting against the encroachment on a piece of land owned by the local church. In April, Karachi witnessed the death of a young man in Taiser Town. In September, Robert Masih, a poor teenager, was found dead while in jail.
In other attacks, people were wounded and their belongings were either looted or set on fire. As far as I could recall, this happened in Chak 90 of Sahiwal in May, in village Bahmianwala of Kasur in June and in Korian in July. There was an incident in Quetta also where four Christian young men were killed but apparently it was the result of the ethnic-based violence. There are frequent reports of Hindus being treated shabbily in some parts of Sindh although the incidents are not as bloody and widespread as against Christians in Punjab. Sikhs were dislodged by extremists in the north-west of the country and besides the killing of two Ahmadis in Sindh, some students of the Ahmadiya community were rusticated from an educational institution in Faisalabad.
There is no denying the fact that Shia-Sunni strife has caused many more deaths than those of non-Muslims. Indiscriminate terror attacks made more than 11,000 Pakistanis lose their lives in the last four years. Brutality and terrorism have to be condemned in all shapes and forms. But the violence against non-Muslim Pakistanis has another dimension. The discrimination is now embedded in our constitution and law books besides the dated and prejudiced curriculum taught in schools and colleges. This relegates them to being second-class citizens. Not only what is being legitimised in Pakistan is against the spirit of any faith, including Islam, but also against the thinking and wishes of the founder of this country whose own birth anniversary falls on the Christmas day. On many occasions he clearly spelled out the right of non-Muslim Pakistanis to be equal citizens in the state of Pakistan.
It is a fad among the liberals and the semi-literate intelligentsia to castigate Jinnah for all our ills rather than the perpetual failure of the ruling elite to govern in this country since his death. On the other hand, religious right tries to appropriate Jinnah and doctor his progressive ideals. He is misquoted and misinterpreted by many observers, whether from the bigoted right, progressive left or those waging just struggles for the rights of provinces. Like any other politician he committed mistakes and one may not agree with all of his positions. But that man of integrity is continued to be betrayed by our elite.
The dilapidated Quaid-e-Azam House Museum in Karachi, which I visited last week with a colleague, is a reflection of what importance Jinnah really enjoys. Neither there is water to maintain the lawn nor does the building structure is lit up in the night. Remember, we do have resources to build lush green parks by the sea in posh neighbourhoods and maintain a palatial Governor’s House in the vicinity.
The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: harris @ spopk.org