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A new low

Published Aug 13, 2012 12:30am


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IN the matter of Pakistan’s treatment of its religious minorities, each week brings new shame.

The latest is Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s reaction on hearing a media report that several Hindu families from Jacobabad had chosen to emigrate to India to escape persecution: he termed the migration a “conspiracy” to defame Pakistan, ordered the FIA to investigate the situation before the travellers could be allowed to cross the border, and asked the Indian High Commission to explain why it issued visas to 250 Hindu citizens of Pakistan.

This reaction was disgusting, to say the least. Pakistan has sunk so low that it can cast itself as the victim when members of one of its minority communities potentially feel so persecuted that they take the harrowing decision to leave their homeland. This ‘conspiracy’ may be the most perverse incarnation of Pakistan’s persecution mania yet.

As it turned out, the families were only travelling to India to perform a pilgrimage and plan to return to Pakistan. But it is telling enough that the rumours of mass exodus — duly amplified by irresponsible media reporting — were sparked by the kidnapping earlier this month of a teenage Hindu girl, a resident of Jacobabad. Read between the lines of last week’s (incorrect) coverage of Hindu emigration, and a narrative emerges: of course they’re leaving; why wouldn’t they?

The treatment meted out to minorities, including Hindus, has been poor since Partition and has become progressively worse in recent years (and before I’m inundated with reminders of the maltreatment of Muslims in India or elsewhere, let me just say that one injustice does not justify another). In present-day Pakistan, Hindus find that their faith earns no respect, their businesses are looted or boycotted and many have complained that their daughters are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam through marriage.

Just earlier this year, we witnessed the dramatics surrounding Rinkle Kumari’s ‘marriage’. The Supreme Court intervened to determine whether or not she had been abducted and forcibly converted, but could reach no clear conclusions and left it up to Kumari to decide her own fate. Kumari chose to stay with her Muslim husband, but we will never know whether hers was actually a love marriage or a forced conversion — our society and justice system offer no opportunity for the truth of her circumstances to emerge and be upheld. Kumari’s family and civil rights activists maintain that she received threats from a local parliamentarian that prevented her from leaving her husband. While the mystery around Kumari’s circumstances endures, human rights groups report up to 25 instances of forced conversions each month.

Also earlier this year, controversy erupted around the historic Gorakhnath Temple in Peshawar, which was vandalised three times within two months. On the third attempt, the vandals were able to remove idols and burn pictures, leaving the Hindu community to wonder how hard it was for the authorities to provide security for their temple. The incident was a tragic case of one step forward, two steps back: the attacks occurred barely months after the Peshawar High Court ordered that the 160-year-old temple, which had been closed since Partition, be reopened.

In addition to such incidents, hatred against Hindus is enshrined in our public school curriculum. Government-issued textbooks repeatedly describe Hindus as intrinsically cruel and unjust, the eternal enemies of Islam.

To add injury to insult, our proliferating private media has decided that nothing can be more entertaining than the live, on-air conversion of a young Hindu man to Islam (or an inaccurately reported story about Hindus migrating, when they were only travelling to India for a pilgrimage — no doubt, this uproar will make life even more difficult for the Sindhi and Baloch Hindus on their return).

It probably doesn’t help matters that the mere possibility that Hindus might travel to India and complain about Pakistan — or, horror of horrors, deliver the ultimate snub by choosing to emigrate — can provoke a high-level FIA investigation and lead to the seven-hour-long detention at Wagah border of more than 250 Hindus, all equipped with required travel documentation.

Need I go on? In this context, how could Malik possibly suggest that an ‘external’ factor may have prompted a decision by Pakistan’s Hindus to leave the country? How far can we push our state of denial? This incident has made Pakistan seem simultaneously ridiculous and brutal in the eyes of the world. It has also reminded those who favour closer India-Pakistan ties just how tentative recent gains in the bilateral relationship are given the chronic paranoia that afflicts the powers that be.

Confronted with the possibility of a mass exodus by one of Pakistan’s religious minorities, the best President Asif Ali Zardari could do was constitute a three-member parliamentary committee to visit Hindus across Sindh to express solidarity and order local authorities to submit a report on the grievances of the Hindu community (as if these need any further documentation). Rather than waste time and energy on barely cosmetic measures, why not form a committee to revise all anti-minority sections of the public school curriculum? Or arrest some leaders of extremist organisations who routinely incite hatred and violence against all Pakistan’s religious minorities? Or deploy some enlightened clerics to preach tolerance and genuine Islamic values of acceptance and coexistence in multi-faith communities?

The only conspiracy against Pakistan is the one being hatched by politicians who lack the strength, vision and credibility to bring about genuine social and economic reform in this country.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Twitter: @humayusuf


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (58) Closed

Envy Aug 13, 2012 12:52pm
Nice article and objectively written. In India, Muslims are a huge vote bank and are protected by politicians - even the so-called Hindu hardliners like Shiv Sena and BJP secretly appease the Muslim vote banks. The problem with Muslims in India, are not the non-Muslim politicans, who obviously see them as vote banks, but Muslim politicians, who also unfortunately see their communities as vote banks. The problem with Hindus in Pakistan is that they are not a strong vote bank, hence not protected. While we all can talk of minority development in our respective countries, in reality it is a mirage!
Mushtaq Anjum Aug 13, 2012 12:43pm
Dear Huma, you are great indeed; a true journalist who did her job in bringing the truth out of the ditch. Christians, Hindus, Ahmedis and other minorities are suffering horribly indeed. Our Pakistani Muslims (fundamentalists) need to relearn Islam; our politicians must be bard from running in elections and two PPP and Muslim League should be stopped too. The Constitution MUST be revisited and let all citizens be called Pakistanis and discrimination against any person should no longer be tolerated.
kart Aug 14, 2012 11:55am
wonderful article... am glad to see some sane humane comments following it... as an outsider, i have a few questions... wat % of population in pakistan are moderates such as urselves?? last year it was disheartening to watching a prominent politician like salman taseer being gunned down and the assailant lauded as a hero of the masses... am not sure how many voices rose against this brutal murder... add to this the many bombings against the shias, ahmadis, military etc.... rhetoric filled tv programmes.... so i am curious to know wat % does the moderate voice constitute... and how active or otherwise they r??... cos frankly, pakistan is circling the drain... one wrong move, it might just end up a failed state... and also, is there a sense of "too-little-too-late" with regards to speaking against the various attacks on minorities.. which i am given to believe has been happening since the time of ur independance??
IcedSpore Aug 13, 2012 08:33am
I cant think of a single instance in the past two decades where Muslims from India decided to migrate to Pakistan because of perceived maltreatment. Please do not equate the two countries on the treatment of minorities.
asif ali Aug 13, 2012 01:51pm
Hindus are son of soils . They are revered a lot by Sufi people living here in pak esp in sindh. This problem is too tiny to handle but religious extremism escape it from being resolved properly. Conversions have been an alarming thing for Hindus living here esp in rural areas, but again this is not a big issue as it can be resolved by encouraging people to live in metropolitan cities where there is no such threat. It would be completely unjustified part on Hindus if they are Leaving their own land just because of a small fractions of goons.
Falcon Aug 13, 2012 10:02am
Bravo Huma for saying it how it is.
Shafi Aug 13, 2012 10:25am
Huma, thank you for exposing the truth that is lacking in Pakistan. Muslims often quote Christian Inquisition period when Muslims were asked to either convert, leave or die. What Pakistanis are doing is not very different. I as a Pakistani Muslim am ashamed of what my country is doing.
touqir Aug 13, 2012 12:14pm
Huma, Great article as always. Here is another subject you should write about. It is an issue of serious concern to overseas Pakistanis. Many of those who own some unoccupied pieces of property in Pakistan specially empty plots of land on which they plan to build homes for themselves are living in daily fear of the Qabza groups. Reportedly hundreds of such Pakistanis have written to the CJ that their plots have either been taken over or are facing such threats by the Qabza groups specially in the Punjab. This mafia is being openly patronized by politicians. What democracy! Touqir
MSS Aug 13, 2012 12:12pm
Huma, well done. A few months back PM Gilani said 'why don't they? I am refering to his TV interview and the question reagrading people wanting to leave Pakistan for whatever reaon. That must be Gilani's policy being contradicted by Rahman Malik. The connection is imaginary but the truth cannot be denied. Pakistani denials about everything must have become a second nature of politicians and some opinion makers.Pakland is beyond help.
John Aug 13, 2012 01:33pm
India has more number of Muslims than the whole of Pakistan. Indian Muslims will fight their way with Hindus and will not migrate anywhere. It is a complete shame on Pakistan government and also of the religious fanaticism which kills and persecutes their own people in their own land which needs a lot of sit and think situation at present for any civilized religious person!
Guest UK Aug 13, 2012 11:15am
My friends, Bhata khoors are not Islamic clerics, rather ordinary people collecting on behalf of Politicians, feudels and Criminals.
sam Aug 13, 2012 03:43am
Well written. It is time for us to stand for our minority citizens of Pakistan.
Ammar Aug 13, 2012 12:02pm
I completely agree with you Huma, but you have to look at the picture from the politicians shoes too. How do you expect politicians to take a stance when they have examples like Salman Taseer who was brutally murdered for asking much less than what you are suggesting? We can't change things over night. One baby step at a time is what I would suggest.
Iam Aug 13, 2012 04:11am
Huma well doen.However you have forgotton Yusuf Raza Gilani's premir reply to the question on Pakistanis wanting to leave the country. WHO IS STOPING THEM
s.s.verma Aug 13, 2012 04:38am
Salute Ms Huma Yusuf. The dreaded blasphemy law must be repealed...but if I am not wrond Salman Taseer was pumped with bullets for asking much less.
harkol Aug 13, 2012 05:06am
I keep seeing justification of kidnapping & conversion of minor girls. How can a girl of 14 or 15, even if she voluntarily converts be allowed to be away from her parents? It is against the international convention of pedophilia, and marrying them at that age can be nothing else than pedophilia. Besides, what are the legal protections available to any minority in Pakistan? Hindus have been systematically driven away in 60+ years, and rest will leave too.
Cyrus Howell Aug 13, 2012 05:18am
Pakistanis want Hindus to get out - but hey don't want them to leave. All very clear.
aviratam Aug 13, 2012 05:22am
Thank you, Huma. Is it too late to reverse this trend? As economic conditions become still more difficult, I see further harassment of the minorities.
shankar Aug 13, 2012 05:30am
Huma, your the new messiah of the marginalised people in Pakistan! May your tribe increase!
S. Subrahmanyam Aug 13, 2012 05:39am
Ms. Yusuf, thanks for a coherently argued and fair portrayal of what is happening in Pakistan to the minorities. I travelled to Pakistan in 2007 and while I did not meet any Hindu Pakistani as I was in Lahore, and there are not many Hindus living there anymore, I did meet Christian taxi driver who was bitter about the way Christians are treated in Pakistan. There are many enlightened and educated Pakistanis like yourself but the large majority seems to think of minorities as unwanted remnants of the past. Any criticism of Pakistan on this issue by an Indian is immediately refuted by citing the Gujarat massacre of Muslims. The Gujarat killing of Muslims was a tragedy for which many, over thirty goons by the last count, have been jailed for life. Modi is guilty of complicity if not direct involvement, but being a powerful politician he will probably get away with his crime. Gujarat was a one off in recent times and there have been very few religious riots in India in the past decade since Gujarat happened. However, there is a big difference between Pakistan and India. I would hazard a guess that a majority of Hindus, Christians, Parsees, Sikhs and Buddhists do not have anything against Muslims. In fact, Muslims are as Indian as anybody else and most of them are proud to be citizens of this country.They thrive in all walks of life; politics, movies, journalism, media, literature, sports and all other fields. Our Supreme Court judge a few years back proudly used his family name as Ahmadi! We do not have any blasphemy laws, we do not force Hindu or any other religious norms on other minorities. We prosecute citizens for their social crimes irrespective of their faith. In some cases, like Muslim Personal Law or the Parsee Panchayat, we allow minorities to follow they own social customs despite their occasional conflict with secular laws of the country. Social conflict will disappear to a large extent with education and active support of the establishment in forcing equality before the law of all citizens. The problem arises when the state makes discriminatory laws which are then used by the lumpen elements to settle personal scores.
Razia Aug 13, 2012 05:52am
Huma, thanks for being the conscience of this country. I hope at least a few people are moved by your compassion.
Komal S Aug 13, 2012 06:36am
To all those Pakistanis who think that Muslims in India go through same challenges as Hindus, please keep in mind the following does NOT happen in India:__ 1) Young muslim girl in India kidnapped and converted to Hinduism__ 2) Thousands of Muslims from india on visiting Pakistan extended their stay and not planning to go back to india due to atrocities committed against them 3) Live TV, showing Muslims getting converetd to Hinduism. While there are hardships faced by some Muslims in India due to their religion, understand that Muslims, Christians, Sikhs in India are very active in the plitical scene and have avenues to bring in their concern and get addressed.
waqar Aug 13, 2012 06:59am
you are 100% correct ...we need to get rid of the politicians in this country in order to have a well functioning society.these leaders needed to be bared from running again for ever including there families.and bare all the latest political parties. and make way for new ones.
Sheeraz Nizamani Aug 13, 2012 07:08am
Everyone has right to live life liberty. there should be not religious issue, The earth has generated By God. it's not someone's property.
rk singh Aug 13, 2012 07:18am
Excellent article, Huma. Last sentence says it all.
Anwar Aug 13, 2012 07:33am
An excellent account of the state of our denial when it comes to minority treatment and their rights in Pakistan. Unfortunately, Pakistan is becoming a progressively intolerent society with each passing day slipping towards the stone age.
Muhammad Yaqub Aug 13, 2012 08:15am
Pakistan needs an Ataturk. Unless it confronts and tames its clerics, it will not survive.
ashok Aug 13, 2012 08:19am
good to hear balanced voices.
tarun Aug 13, 2012 09:13am
Well its upto Pakistan to deal with its internal problems.Mistreatment of weak is against Islam.Pakistan needs to introspect and fight for weak and just in Pakistan before taking up international issues. The Pakistani Nation lacks moral right to speak for palestians or Burmese muslims.
only the truth Aug 13, 2012 09:18am
The writer makes some very good points, but I think it will be nothing more then wishfull thinking to expect the authorities to do something about it. The police for instance is suppose to be the protector but has actually become a robber.. lets be realistic and not expect the fox to watch the hen house. We need a whole new system from education to law enforcement etc. The way things are right now its only going to get worse. Its shameful to say the least that the citizens of a country are treated differently just because of their religious beliefs.
Laeeq, NY Aug 13, 2012 03:05pm
I do not understand why hatred and animosity against minorities goes sky high during the civilian governments? Can some one explain?
Laeeq, NY Aug 13, 2012 03:13pm
Very well said. Alas. Pakistan has followed the foot steps of the greatest democracies of the world. Or at least had learned some thing from their success.
SAR Aug 13, 2012 04:19pm
Brilliant as usual-- Wish more of the journalist community takes up real issues -Unfortunately, religion which should promote peace, love and harmony has become a curse in Pakistan because it is used for political purposes. All religious organisations must become accountable; they only have nuisance value
mr.chennai Aug 13, 2012 04:21pm
At this time we indians only can sympathize and can pray for pakistani hindus. but this will be an eye opening or wakeup call for all indian hindus .
Murthy Aug 13, 2012 04:27pm
Thank you Ms Huma Yusuf. If what you have written had come from a non-Pakistani writer, say, from an Indian, people would have raised a hue and cry in Pakistan. I think Pakistan has reached a new low in almost every aspect, social, political and economic. The sooner the country found a way to get out of the rut the better!
SAR Aug 13, 2012 04:33pm
Brilliant as usual-- Wish more of the journalist community takes up real issues -Unfortunately, religion which should promote peace, love and harmony has become a curse in Pakistan because it is used for political purposes.
Shujaat Ayub Khan Aug 13, 2012 04:36pm
If Indian Govt allowed today for Pakistanies to live and work in India, there wolud be millions moving today. Thanks Huma for taking up such topics.
Rajiv Kumar Aug 13, 2012 05:10pm
It's good to see balanced and logical analysis of an emotive issue. All the more impressed by the comments which are equally mature and sensitive. I am an Indian and came here just to see how Pakistani media is handling this sensitive issue. I must say I am impressed. What I am wondering is that is it so difficult to provide a sense of security and belonging to this miniscule minority of Hindus in Pakistan. Islam I believe is a tolerant religion and it's followers should be able to tolerate the small minority which does them no harm.
Deepak Anand Aug 13, 2012 05:20pm
Too little and too late....
EmMoosa Aug 13, 2012 05:48pm
Very true. Islam does not allow forced conversions. Islam was spread all over the world by messages. In Indian subcontinent the sufis, religious scholars and other learned people taught Islam to the non muslims. If it was not so, we could not see billions of muslims around us. Today's muslims are facing difficulties due to not properly following the teaching of Islam. Those true sufis and religious scholars are no more now. Only mullahs have taken the responsibility who themselves need proper teachings. I remember when the Babri mosque was demolished in India people of Pakistan protected the Hindus homes and their temples and did not allow any body to demage them. Govt should take action against those culprits who are involved in the forced conversion or other unlawful activities. I am sure the PPP's parliamentarians are behind those evils. Nobody can dare to do that without their nod. Why we do not have such a single incident in the cities where great number of Hindus are living beside other non muslims? All non muslims are living peacefully beside their muslim citizens. Their children going to the same schools and the elders are working and doing businesses together.
EmMoosa Aug 13, 2012 06:19pm
Pakistan had tolerance and peace before the Soviet's invasion into Afghanistan. As soon as that disaster happened the extremists all over the world entered into Afghanistan. The religious fanatics (they are in all religions) had taken over Pakistan too. Pakistan is suffering the after effects of that Soviet's episode. I hope that If the democracy goes on in the country and we are able to get the true leaders from the middle class, the present face of Pakistan will be changed again and the extremists will be defeated. Still in the cities it never happened that the non muslims have been teased because of their religious belief. But your portrait of India being a country of peace and hormony for non hindus is also not true. International news papers are full with stories of hindu atrocities against non hindus on daily basis.
abbas Aug 14, 2012 12:24pm
BUT THEY HAVE BEEN LEAVING SINCE 1947!!!!! YOU NOTICED THAT TODAY BECAUSE NONE BOTHERED TO WORRY ABOUT THIS. As this papers editorial mentioned... you have a vibrant color and also a business class that is efficient in trade. But is islam not greater than all this stuff? Why worry.
allaisa Aug 13, 2012 07:10pm
You do not see Muslims in India converting to Hinduism for the simple reason that Hinduism does not recognize conversion. As far as I know there are NO rituals prescribed to become a Hindu. One simply becomes a Hindu by subscribing to its beliefs and leading a life as a Hindu. People like actress Julia Roberts consider themselves as a practicing Hindu but have you ever seen a single news item about her conversion?
allaisa Aug 13, 2012 07:16pm
Do you have any statistics to prove that point? It could be because that during military rule there is very little media freedom and so these crimes are not reported.
VKD Aug 13, 2012 07:55pm
True but unfortunately the masses of Pakistan are not ANYMORE of the views your wrote.
Salim Aug 13, 2012 09:41pm
Martin Luther King Jr said “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Thank you Ms Huma for being a voice.
Silajit Aug 13, 2012 10:56pm
It's too late. The horse has already bolted. Shutting the barn door now is meaningless to Hindus. So while this article may be about Hindus and Gilani may not care about them, Pakistanis need to learn from history where this road leads: Hindus had been cast as the bad guys even in government documentaries up thru 1971 when they were particularly targeted (along with Bengali liberal Muslims). Most Pakistanis agreed. After that "problem was solved", it was the turn of the Ahmadiyas who were declared non Muslim by Bhutto (a popular elected PM whose paens are sung to this day) in 1974. And now the majority Sufis are also under attack by the TTP for not being Muslim enough. And for the first time, the majority of Pakistan is being considered fair game by the hate machine. You would think there would be a reversal of some of this hate politics but while Pakistanis may hate the TTP, they are completely comfortable with the sister organization - the Afghan Taliban managing fellow Pashtuns in their neighboring country. Guess where THAT is going to go!
Rup Aug 13, 2012 11:38pm
Kudos Huma! Sane and sensitive coverage. Not being defensive, the genesis of the Gujarat carnage - though completely inhuman, was in the Majority community rightists burnt alive in the train! If a similar thing could happen in Pakistan all the minorities will be massacred. Huma you are a legendary voice for the progress of a tolerant Pakistan.
beg Aug 14, 2012 02:56am
What a hypocrite human is making mountain of any hill.pakistan is the only country where minorities have more privileges than the majority. They get to the highest positions.they have quotas and even in national Assembly they have reserved seats but huma like people always show bad instead in India and even in West now the muslim minorities are subjected to all kind of prejudices and even killed brutally but no body write about an obvious but keep on bringing minor issues of Pakistan since their agenda is against pakistan and Islam and muslims
abbas Aug 14, 2012 03:00am
Somebody said to little too late...that maybe the tragedy.... Pakistan's problem has been like a family that has protected its son who is a thief all the while until he stole his family' wealth. For many many Pakistanis-The definition of human being begins with muslim and ends with muslim. This is the real problem and this is a serious one --thats why you see tons of muslims shouting for Rohingya muslims but not for thousands of ahmadis and hindus who have perished or left over the years.....August 14th is a good day to remember the hypocritical promises made on the pretext that muslims need a seperate nation (it is ironical that not one of the 6 other religions demand this) Huma will be called a liberal out of her mind anyways and the story will repeat
shalin Aug 14, 2012 03:15am
and make India the next pakistan? no thanks. we are fine
p1845 Aug 14, 2012 04:45am
Good unbiased analysis, but i want to align with someone's comment "too little, too late", however even if it is too little, it is at least something. Simple question (and no history buff): In 1947 there were 10% Hindus + Sikhs + christians, and today there are closer to 2%. What happened, they stopped procreating? In 1947 There were 10-11% Muslims in India and today there are about 13-14%. Can anyone explain the radical difference? I really would like a logical reply from an unbiased Pakistani thinker. Thanks.
vijai Aug 14, 2012 05:15am
I really don't know what hindus and sikhs are doing in an islamic country. They should have migrated long before. I request all minorities in Pakistan to migrate to the land of their choice and let pakistani muslims decide their fate among themselves.
Vijay Dixit Aug 14, 2012 06:01am
India should accept all Hindus,Sikhs,Buddhist Jews,& Parsis from Pakistan while sending an equal number of Muslims back to Pakistan who decide to emigrate.This may solve all problems for the minority of Pakistan.
NASAH (USA) Aug 14, 2012 09:38am
Huma you need to forgive and forget Mr. Rehman Malik -- the gentleman suffers from foot-in-mouth disease every time he talks to the press. I was against the judges sending Gilani home but grateful they sent Malik home even though temporarily. Pakistan record for the treatment of minorities is abysmal -- but with writers like you there is hope for the future. We Muslims are notorious for mistreating the minorities be they Hindus, Sikhs Christians or women
Jane Aug 14, 2012 06:12pm
This is good to hear -when Muslims like you speak out their liberal views, it helps to ensure that non Muslims like us don't judge all of you based on the bad applies of your religion. Kudos.
Digvijay Singh Aug 15, 2012 07:25pm
have you heard any Indian muslim fleeing and immigrating pakistan? please dont compare india with your pakistan by mentioning hindu atrocities against non hindus on daily basis.
Digvijay Singh Aug 15, 2012 07:29pm
demolition of babri masjid was truely a trajic incident. but things got handled well later on and no muslim was forced to leave the country (despite of communal rights) .. so please stop blaming indian and hindus which indirectly justify fleeing of hindus from pakistan