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Home Media Reports 2004 The state of minorities
The state of minorities
DAWN - the Internet Edition

17 February 2004
25 Zilhaj 1424

Letters to Editor

The state of minorities

I found myself agape upon reading a news item in Dawn (February 5) which reported Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali as having told a group of non-Muslim legislators that minorities enjoyed equal rights in Pakistan.

Either, the prime minister is unaware of the major laws of the land, or he thought that his audience lived in a state of oblivion.

Under the law, a non-Muslim Pakistani cannot seek any of the nation’s top jobs such as president, prime minister and Senate chairman, in addition to a few other offices.

It is true that not every Pakistani wants or is capable of seeking these offices, yet placing such an impediment in the way of one’s dreams is highly unjust and amounts to a breach of human dignity. It hardly signifies equality for the minorities.

In the past, discrimination against minorities of Pakistan has also manifested itself in another aberrant practice, i.e. separate electorate.

The existence of discriminatory feelings in the hearts and minds of one segment of population against another is an unfortunate situation. It exists elsewhere also, varying from country to country. However, the silver lining in these clouds of darkness can be found in the fact that these feelings have their genesis in ignorance. Therefore, one can strive to dismantle these mental barricades by spreading knowledge.

However, the problem takes the dimensions of a tragedy when a country’s laws discriminate among the citizens on the basis of religion. Mr Jamali is not responsible for the existence of this statutory discrimination in Pakistan that was institutionalized by the Ziaul Haq regime. However, instead of pretending that it does not exist, the prime minister should try to eliminate it.

The seriousness of the matter is obvious from what transpired at the above-mentioned meeting between the prime minister and his visitors. While the prime minister spoke unhesitatingly as if the discriminatory laws did not exist in the country, his audience did not even raise a single question in response to his claim.

Obviously the victims of these laws have abandoned any hope of relief or even a sympathetic hearing from those who matter. In their hearts and minds, they must have laughed at the prime minister’s naivete and simultaneously wept at their helplessness. However, their silence does not diminish the existence of the unjust status quo that needs to be jettisoned before Pakistani leaders can have the moral authority to talk about equality among all citizens of Pakistan.

Oak Bay Place Louisville, KY., USA

© The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2004
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