It was just a few months ago that the news of Huma Younus, a Christian girl forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man, spread like wildfire. And while this specific case got a lot of attention – primarily due to confusion on what the Supreme Court’s decision was – this is not an isolated incident. Minority communities have been facing mistreatment in Pakistan for many years now and unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to be changing.
Everyone knows that famous Jinnah quote:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Many of us even put this quote up on social media when Independence Day rolls around. And while your heart might be in the right place, how much does that really help? The few of us who are educated, aware and liberated can’t really hold on to Quaid’s vision of Pakistan, try as we might. Instead, if a man like Jibran Nasir stands up for the rights of a minority, the word ‘Qadiani‘ is hurled at him – someone’s religion has been equated to a slur, a form of abuse. Instead, when Asia Bibi is finally granted freedom over a case that many people died for, there are throngs of people protesting and wishing her dead for a crime she didn’t commit. Instead, Hindu and Christian girls are abducted, forced to convert and marry old men, and Ahmadi homes are burned to the ground.
When there is injustice happening in the world, Pakistanis are quick to stand up for those being pushed down. The Uighurs in China, the Palestinian’s in Gaza, the countless Muslims harassed all over the world – we feel a responsibility to condemn the horrors happening to them all, as we should. But when it comes to our own home turf, we aren’t always the first to speak up. There is hesitance, often out of fear. We don’t want the extremists to attack us for speaking up.
But how are we supposed to change what is happening around us if we don’t speak up? When women are harassed on a daily basis, we need to speak up. When children are molested all over the country, we need to speak up. When minorities are murdered in cold blood, we need to speak up. Because there will come a time when we’re being attacked and no one will speak up.
Today, we live in extremely uncertain times. There is a global pandemic of epic proportions that has changed life as we knew it. We are forced into our homes – isolated and alone. And the only thing there is to do is think. Our perspectives have changed; material things that were so dear to us have lost importance. This is the time that we can make a change, if not externally then at least internally.
We are being faced by something that doesn’t understand race or religion. It sees no difference between someone living in a lavish house in Defence or in the slums of the city. As absurd as it may sound, we need to think that way too. At our basic core, we are all the same, equally vulnerable to this thing out there.
And maybe this virus has changed us a little bit. There are people out there who are making sure their differences don’t hold them back.
A group of Hindu volunteers have started a Coronavirus awareness campaign in Tharparkar, distributing ration bags to the needy. Government officials distributed ration bags and medical supplies to the Christian community and celebrated Easter with them. Sport personalities, Shahid Afridi and Jahangir Khan, are distributing ration and money to the Christian and Hindu communities. Countless churches and parishes have been receiving donations from all over Pakistan.
There are people out there who are trying their best to make sure equality prevails. There are many people who fight for minorities and their rights on a daily basis. And even after everything they’ve been through, these minority communities are willing to do whatever they can for their country.
So let’s try to spread more of that message and stand up for those who voices don’t get heard and are pushed down. Lets try to create a Pakistan that is more tolerant, free and fair to all its citizens.