THE celebrations that mark Christmas and the Quaid-i-Azam’s birthday this time of year are also a reminder of Pakistan’s failure to rein in the religious intolerance Mr Jinnah advocated against. In 2012 an extermination campaign targeting Hazaras and other Shias took hold from Karachi and Quetta to Kohistan, Mansehra and Gilgit-Baltistan. The peaceful Bohra community was targeted in attacks that were perhaps the first of their kind. Mobs egged on by irresponsible clerics demanded that victims of indefensible blasphemy allegations be handed over to be murdered without trials. While stories of the mass migration of Hindus to India may have been exaggerated, the community complained of discrimination and forced conversions. Churches and Christian homes continued to be attacked and the Rimsha Masih blasphemy case turned out to be linked to a broader campaign to rid her area of Christian families. This month alone saw the razing of a Hindu temple in Karachi, the desecration of Ahmadi graves in Lahore and the lynching of a man accused of blasphemy in Dadu. Decades after being founded as a country in which each individual was meant to have the right to follow his or her chosen beliefs, Pakistan has failed to treat religious minorities as equal citizens of the state.

Nor is the intolerance limited to minorities. A broader divide has also taken root in Pakistan — that between peaceful religiosity and an extremism that violently opposes any practice it doesn’t believe in. Those behind the attacks on polio workers, Malala Yousafzai and Bashir Ahmed Bilour are out to annihilate anything and anyone standing in the way of their version of an ‘Islamic’ state. Muslims are more often than not the victims of violence related to blasphemy killings, carried out not by suicide bombers but by ordinary Pakistanis fed a steady diet of intolerance. Add to this the increasing brutalisation of Pakistani society, in which guns are plentiful, human rights unimportant and the legal system slow and ineffective, and intolerance translates even more easily into violence. More than six decades later the dawn we hoped for has not arrived, and any celebrations this time of year cannot escape that painful fact.

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Comments (6)

December 26, 2012 2:28 pm
Can anyone explain why is it you Muslims are at each other's throats due to differences among your sub sects in the belief of Islam? Other religions have their sub sects but live in peace. Why this mayhem in your religious beliefs?
December 26, 2012 7:50 am
Please stop harping at Pakistan. Instead put the blame on intolerant people.
December 26, 2012 3:41 pm
When ever there is absence of justice system, when ever justice is different for hapless and haves, such things are bound to happen. You don't criticize religion or blame religious sentiments, for all this is bound to happen in a failed state.
Jalaluddin S. Hussain
December 26, 2012 8:54 pm
I agree: Decades after being founded as a country in which each individual was meant to have the right to follow his or her chosen beliefs, Pakistan has failed to treat religious minorities as equal citizens of the state. Religion should be personal and not concern of the State.
December 27, 2012 3:23 am
We first of all need to understand that Taliban have nothing to do with Islam. They only use the name of religion for their political benefit. Actually they are the biggest threat to Pakistan and Islam.
Muhammad Hammad Quresi
December 27, 2012 3:45 am
I think you ought to write about who has created intolerancy.....Sir ! in your opinion the reaction on blasphemy is intolerancy...but ..what about those...who have started the conflict....please leave this double standard..
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