Thursday January 18, 2018
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Religious intolerance in Pakistan past its boiling point

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By Arpit Gupta
As the news of Mumtaz Qadri’s execution spread in the dawn of Monday, the social networking sites are again alive with the views of supporters and criticizers of this execution. Due to the reaction of religious Muslim fundamentalists on the execution, the matter of religious intolerance in Pakistan is again on the top of the trending topics of debate.
The reason why this execution has brought the matter of intolerance in the spotlight is, that Mumtaz Qadri has been executed for killing Salman Taseer who was the governor of the state of Punjab in Pakistan and the supporter of the amendment in Blasphemy law. Salman Taseer also supported Asia Bibi, a Christian who was accused of insulting prophet Mohammad and was sentenced to death for this. Taseer’s assassination by his own bodyguard Mumtaz had once again proved the extent of religious intolerance in the country and after 5 years of this issue, the condition has not improved but has worsened.

The blasphemy law has been in the news many times in the past. Actually, this law was made to ban the insult directed against any religion in 1927 during colonial rule. But the so-called “Father of Intolerance and Sectarianism”, Zia-Ul-Haq amended it in 1986 to protect only Islam prophet during his dictatorship in Pakistan.

Since then, this law has been hazardous for many people who were accused of insulting Prophet Mohammad. One more politician, minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed in march 2011 just because he mentioned the need to debate about the law.

Pakistan, the only country in the world which was created on the basis of religion, at the time of its creation, announced that all citizens will be equal and every religious belief will be respected in the country. This announcement was proudly done by “Father of Pakistan”, Mohammad Ali Jinnah but religious tolerance was buried after his demise.

Today, there is no space for religious tolerance in Pakistan’s national and social polity. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also highlighted the extent of intolerance in the country, asserting that Pakistan is becoming a more and more dangerous country for religious minorities and increasingly intolerant of dissent.
Not only Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs are being assaulted and socially and economically discriminated in the nation but some Muslim communities like Ahmadis are also facing harassment. After every interval of few weeks, we hear a news of sectarian violence in  Pakistan. The most disappointing fact is that these shameful acts take place in connivance with the local police. The condition has been so critical that religious minorities of Pakistan are ready to become refugees in other countries rather than living in their country.

The death of Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and the decisions of courts in thes cases relating to the insult of Islam has clarified the ideas in the minds of Pakistan’s religious activists and it has shown that Pakistan is buckling under Intolerance and extremism from many years.

Since Pakistan is a politically unstable country without solid democratic roots, has a weak economic base as well as vulnerable to army rules, Sectarianism, fundamentalism and religious Intolerance are going to have the permanent place in country’s social, religious and political polity.

Arpit Gupta is an engineering student at IIT Roorkee. 

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump’s Tough stand on Pak

The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) issued a statement Monday welcoming Donald Trump's stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump's Tough stand on Pak
American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump's Tough stand on Pak. wikimedia commons

Washington, D.C.– The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Executive Committee issued a statement Monday welcoming the President’s stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

The AFB said President Donald J. Trump has called out Pakistan’s constant bluffs with the US and pointed out a big chunk of American assistance was used against people of Balochistan in a secret, dirty war instead of the Taliban.

Khwaja Wali Kirani in Balochistan. Wikimedia Commons

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” President Trump first tweet of 2018 reads.

The tweet was loved by nearly quarter-million Americans and retweeted 83,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The AFB executive committee said the US remains Pakistan’s top foreign aid donor, in addition to the money paid in expectation of cooperation in the Global War on Terror. Yet, for many years now, serving officers in the US Armed Forces have repeatedly spoken out about Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, which has cost the US lives, money and strategic credibility in the world’s eyes. Pakistan also remains a training ground for terrorism and a prime proliferator of nuclear weapons technology.

No country’s development and democracy have suffered more from Pakistan’s interference via state-sponsored terrorism than Afghanistan. US efforts to help the Afghans rebuild their nation are constantly sabotaged by reeling instability. India is another well-known target.

The AFB said Balochistan is a region rich in natural gas. It that has seen several bloody cycles of insurgency ever since Pakistan forcibly annexed the autonomous Baloch state of Kalat in 1948 in violation of a Standstill Agreement. A portion of historical Balochistan also sits on the other side of Pakistan’s border with Iran. Further, it borders Afghanistan to the north-west. Pakistan’s brutal record in this strategically located province that forms the northern lip of the key Straits of Hormuz has spiked in recent years.

“People of Balochistan tried their very best to work with Pakistan’s false promises of integration after forceful accession, but instead gave genocide to Balochs,” said the statement.

The AFB monitors the situation in Balochistan closely and is in touch with freedom and democracy activists on the ground. The AFB reiterated their call to the Pakistani government to cease violating the physical security of Baloch people, their freedom of expression, and end the policy of economic exploitation and genocidal violence.

A slow-motion genocide in Balochistan has claimed the lives of 35,000 Baloch people, 6,000 of whom were buried in mass graves while 21,000 are Victims of Enforced Disappearances, according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. “The enforced disappearances situation in Balochistan is no different than what it used to be in Chile and Argentine in the 1970s and 1980s,” the AFB executive committee noted.

The AFB executive committee chimed in with similar sentiments expressed by policy experts in academe, veteran politicians, diplomats, intelligence chiefs, and human rights activists. Among them were former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leading South Asia expert and former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, several Baloch freedom and human rights activists cutting across party lines, former head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh, and even normally fierce critics of President Trump’s administration such as Prof. Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The AFB executive committee consists of Jane Eastwood Weisner, Najeeb Khan, Krishna Gudipati, Soumya Chowdhury and Habiba Ashna. The organization was founded by veteran Baloch journalist Ahmar Mustikhan, who is the president.

Hope and doubt have been expressed on whether the US president’s tweet and words will translate into actionable legislation. Mustikhan published a survey of some of these thoughts in an article titled “Wave of joy sweeps across Afghanistan, Balochistan & India over Trump’s first tweet of 2018”.