Persecution Of Religious Minorities In Pakistan

One of the saddest consequences of the Cold War has been the relentless annihilation of minorities in Pakistan ever since its inception. The fanatic state abounding with terror that Pakistan today finds itself in is the culmination of seven decades of oppression of minorities, persistently overlooked by the West. In fact, violence against Ahmadiyyas, Sufis and Shiyas has made Pakistan a very dangerous place for even Muslim minorities. Ironically, Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a Shiya.
Persecution of Religious Minorities in Pakistan
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFlag_of_Tehrik-i-Taliban.svg)

A Sad Reflection on Islamic Societies

The state of rights of minorities, especially Hindus, in Pakistan, is a sad reflection on Islamic societies, global politics, and international media. It is a tale of horrors that has never found its expression and has been throttled, annihilated and buried alive.

Pakistan is a secular country as per its constitution. It was carved out of undivided India on the basis that the majority of people living there were Muslims. However, at the time of its formation, about 35% of its population was non-Muslim, comprising primarily of Hindus who were about 20%, Sikhs who were about

8%, Christians who were about 3% and other faiths. Today these religious minorities barely account for about 3 % of the population.

The Minority Muslims of Pakistan

However, what highlights the suppression of rights of minorities in Pakistan today, is the fact that the rights of even Muslims who are not belonging to the rigid Sunni sects or who do dare to have a difference with the Wahabi way of life that is increasingly getting talibanized, are also not considered Muslim, treated as second class citizens, sometimes persecuted by the state and at other times, allowed to be persecuted by the majority.

Where Did the Minorities Disappear?

At the time of its formation, the second largest community in those areas was that of Hindus, who had been living there for many thousand years. In fact, the land that hosts Pakistan today is where the great Indian civilization of ancient times thrived. The people, the ancestors of current Pakistan citizens, were Hindus or Buddhist, and so it was till the medieval period. At the time of partition of India, around seven million Hindus were forced to fled to India. Even then, the population of Hindus in Pakistan was around 20% of the total population. Today their proportion in Pakistan's population is only 1.8%.

Yet, nobody has ever dared asked the question till date, "where are the missing millions of Hindus and Sikhs?"

These missing millions have certainly not been killed. They have been gradually suppressed and suffocated to the extent that most have found conversion to Islam, or occasionally Christianity as the only feasible way of surviving in a country which is increasingly getting Talibanized, where being Hindu means being a 'Kafir' whose killing is an act of great religious loyalty for every hardcore Muslim. There are thousands of tales told by Hindus in Pakistan about young daughters abducted and forcefully converted and married by local goons, while administration oversaw silently. The perpetual Indo-Pak war like rivalry provides the Muslim majority with another tool to persecute any Hindu by holding him or her as an Indian spy or sympathizer, and the majority population remains aware and yet indifferent.

A Relentless Annihilation Wilfully Neglected by the World

This relentless annihilation of the millions that has taken place over half a century, in the modern era has gone absolutely undocumented, thanks to the political compulsions. With Pakistan being an ally of the Western world during the cold war, the whole world including Human rights organizations, the global media and the Governments conveniently closed their eyes to this modern holocaust which has continued unabated. Their indifference is one of the factors in the rise of fundamentalism in this part of the world, a factor which has severely constrained the rights of all minorities in Pakistan, not just Hindus and Sikhs.

The situation of Christians is slightly better, but not much. An interesting case is that of a contemporary cricket player, Yousuf Youhana, the only Christian player in the Pakistan cricket team in a long time. One day he suddenly converted to Islam and was re-christened Mohammed Yousuf. He was, in all probability, not forced to convert, but the very fact that he converted in the middle of his life shows how difficult it can be for a minority person to sustain himself in an increasingly vitriolic atmosphere.

In more recent times, Christians Churches have been frequently targeted by Islamic terrorists, particularly after the Global War on Terror under US leadership began targeted Islamic terrorists. One hundred and twenty five Christians were killed and over two hundred and fifty injured in one such attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar in September, 2013. Several deaths resulted in similar attacks in 2015 on Christ Church and Roman Catholic Church in Lahore.

Recent Targeting of Muslim Minorities

Ironically, persecution of religious minorities is not limited in Pakistan to non-Muslims. It extends to certain sects and religious groups among Islamic practitioners too, who find themselves in minority. In fact, some of them have been a frequent target of extremists.

Persecution of Ahmadiyyas

Even the Muslim sects that are not in conformity with the majority are not able to enjoy the rights of citizenship. The


Ahmadiyyas, a sect of Islam that has thrived in India for a long time, and which has some different practices especially in being more tolerable to other faiths and being less rigid, is not allowed to call themselves Muslim. These people, constituting about 2 to 2.5% of Pakistan's population are not allowed to participate in Islamic functions or even speak the verses from Holy Quran. Their tolerance is seen as a major threat to jehadi culture and they are systematically persecuted. While the persecution of Ahmadiyyas has been going on in a systematic way since 1970s, when Jamair-e-Islam began targeting them, their situation has become particularly miserable after an Anti-Ahmadiyya ordinance in 1984 prohibited them from calling themselves as Muslims. In the last decade, they have been repeatedly targeted in religious terrorist attacks. One of the worst of them was an attack in Lahore, claimed by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which killed nearly a hundred persons, and left hundreds injured.

Targeting of Sufi Shrines

The same has been the fate of other Sufi sects, which are an important stream of Islam that dominated in India and is marked by its belief in universal brotherhood of mankind. Their ideology does not allow the hatred towards other communities, and so they also often find themselves targeted by the powerful religious leadership of Sunni Ulema. More than fifty people were killed and over two hundred injured in Lahore in a terrorist attack on a Sufi Shrine in June, 2010.

Worst Target of Religious Violence are Shiyas

A little less than 20% of population of Pakistan consists of Shiya Muslims, which thereby constitute a reasonably large group. In spite of being Muslims, they have faced one of the worst forms of religious violence at the hands of Sunni extremists, who consider Shiyas ‘non-belivers’. This is ironical if one recalls that Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who is considered the founder of Pakistan was a Shiya. According to data compiled by the SATP (South Asian Terrorism Portal), more than two thousand Shiyas have been killed in over four hundred attacks on them between 2003 to 2016, in addition to several thousands injured in these attacks. Lashkar-e-Jhanvi (LeJ) and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed many of these attacks.

The Saudi Connection in Persecution of Muslim Minorities

The persecution of Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs was particularly severe in the earlier decades after independence, and hardly attracted any attention in Media across the World that had little sympathy for them. The persecution of Muslim minorities has, however, attracted greater attention, and is widely believed to have been influenced by the Saudi Arab propagated Salafi-Wahabi philosophy that considers all other Islamic schools and sects as a threat. As per a revelation by Mubashar Hassan, a close aide of the then Prime Minister Bhutto, the hardening of Government stand against Ahmadiyyas in 1970s was due to the pressure by the Saudi King, King Faisal bin As-Saud. Similarly, the violence against Sufis and Shiya Muslims is also believed to have links to terrorist funding from Saudi, as an extension of Wahabi’s quest of supremacy in the Islamic universe, and their proxy wars with Shiya Iran.  

Human Rights are the Casualty, showing the dangers of Communalism

Overall, the state of rights of religious minorities in Pakistan is not a very bright chapter in its history. It is also a story gone wrong that has allowed it to become a haven for fundamentalist elements including Taliban and other terrorists. Non-Muslim minorities like Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs suffered from growth of religious persecution and terrorism ever since Pakistan came into existence, but today, even Muslim minorities are suffering.

The rest of the world, including the Western countries which purposefully remained indifferent to this tale of persecution and injustice, for their vested interests, are also forced to pay some price today for their indifference. Finally, President Trump has given a positive signal in August, 2017. Unfortunately, it may have come too later to control the Frankenstein monster of religious terrorism that is threatening the whole of humanity today from Pakistan soil.

Had Jinnah known that in the twenty first century, Shiyas will be safer in India than the country he got created in 1947, would he still gone ahead with partition of India?



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