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August 11, 2012

INTERIOR Minister Rehman Malik’s predilection for terming all negative developments in Pakistan as a conspiracy against the state was in full play on Thursday. In answer to a question on the reported migration of several Hindu families from Jacobabad to India, he said that approximately 250 visas were issued, by the Indian High Commission, ‘under a conspiracy’, a statement that led to several families — with valid documents — being stopped from crossing the Wagah border on Friday though they were later allowed to proceed. Reports of the intended migration have yet to be substantiated as a number of travellers are said to be pilgrims, and perhaps the media has sounded the alarm bells too soon. However, for all Mr Malik’s moralistic talk of the Pakistani citizen’s loyalty to the green passport, there is an escalating sense of insecurity within the country’s Hindu community. This has resulted in an increasing number of Hindus, mostly businessmen and professionals, leaving Pakistan in recent years, although the mass exodus depicted by the media is yet to take shape. Their persecution may not be as blatant as, say, that of the Ahmadis, who are routinely gunned down or lynched, or even of their poorer brethren in lower Sindh trapped in a class-based system. But increasingly, the kidnappings of Hindu businessmen, the looting of their shops, occupation of their prop-erty and the general environment of religiosity have isolated the minority community from the mainstream. Besides, they see no forum for justice and no openings to advance in national life.

Unfortunately, for all its so-called secular and democratic credentials, this government has responded to the challenge of insecurity and the culture of radicalism and fear like its predecessors. It has made no attempt to give back minorities their space or even to provide hope for a better future. Where are the mainstream parties and their declared commitment to looking after the interest of marginalised groups? As Pakistan’s minorities find themselves increasingly cornered — not only by extremist groups and an uncaring government but also by a society that shuns the ‘other’— the hands of those who reject a pluralistic culture will be strengthened.