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Religious apartheid: Hindu Pakistani soldier denied ‘shahadat’ because of his religion

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By Rukma Singh

Ashok Kumar, the Pakistani Hindu soldier who sacrificed his life for the Pakistan army (while fighting in Waziristan in 2013) was recently awarded Tamgha-i-Shujaat on March 23, 2015.

But his name was suffixed with “late” and not “Shaheed” (martyr) as used for Muslim soldiers who sacrifice their lives. The fact that Ashok died while in Pakistan is a clear evidence of his loyalty towards the country.

But why was he not called a martyr just like the Muslim soldiers?

It was because of his religious identity, the fact that he was a Hindu. But the question is, does his religion make his life any less valuable than the others?

If he didn’t think twice before dying for a Muslim nation, why did Pakistan hesitate to consider him equal to a Muslim soldier?

It is unfortunate that his life wasn’t important enough because of the age old strained relationship between India and Pakistan; Hindus and Muslims.

Discrimination against Pakistani Hindus

Reports suggest that most of the 2 million Hindus in Pakistan are compelled to pay regular sums, as a type of ransom, to extortionists and local leaders in exchange for the physical security of their families and themselves. Furthermore, they’re even required to have some kind of contact with a Muslim, as a sort of protection, so as to be able to efficiently carry out any sort of business.

Instances of discrimination between Non-Muslims in Pakistan aren’t new. The biggest evidence of the unfavorable treatment meted out to Hindus is evident from the very fact that the numbers of Hindus in Pakistan have gone down from 15-24% during the time of partition in 1947 to 1.6% presently. Thus, religious apartheid happens to be a very prevalent practice.

Religious apartheid practices 

Hindus were not allowed to join the armed forces until before 2000. This is in contrast with the country’s Christian community whose members have been serving in the army for much longer with many of them having been on senior postings.

This goes to show that the discrimination isn’t against any ‘outsider’ but specifically, and much more strongly for the Hindus.

The practice of Dhimmi

Hindu minorities living under the influence of the Taliban in Swat, Pakistan, were forced to wear red headgear such as turbans as a symbol of dhimmi. Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma) to Muslim domination.

Using school textbooks to incite hatred

A very important evidence of the religious apartheid happens to be the ‘alleged Hindu hatred’ taught in Pakistani school. It is a part of the textbook syllabus for students.

A report recently published by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad said:

“Four primary themes that emerge most strongly as constituting the bulk of the curricula and textbooks…are that Pakistan is for Muslims alone; Islamiat is to be forcibly taught to all the students, whatever their faith, including compulsory reading of Qu’ran; the ideology of Pakistan (sic) is to be internalised as faith, and hate be created against Hindus and India; and students are to be urged to take the path of Jehad and Shahadat.”

Further, “Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus..”

The Islamisation of textbooks began under the US-backed rule of army dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who courted Islamists to support his rule. Fearing rebellion from Pakistan’s right wing polity, the State does not take up this issue so as to be on the safer side and avoid risks.

”Teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability, and global security,” said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

”The anti-Islamic forces are always trying to finish the Islamic domination of the world,” read one passage from social studies text being taught to Grade 4 students in Punjab province, the country’s most populated.

This inciting of hatred results in children growing up with closed minds and flawed mindsets. Teaching young kids twisted information to suit one’s political stance is an act of insensitivity and an effort to induce violent.

Unending instances of discrimination

The plight doesn’t end here.

Sandhya Das

According to a BBC Hindi report, on May 29th, 2015, Sandhya Das, a Pakistani national, was declined admission in the Peshawar University because she was a Hindu. Das had graduated from the same university.

Peshawar University

Sandhya’s family desperately needed money for the treatment of her father, who was suffering from an acute heart ailment. Even though she had the required qualifications, she was denied the job as she wasn’t a Muslim. The report also quoted human rights  activist Rakshanda Naaz as saying that the condition of Hindus living in Khyber Pakhtun area  is really bad.

Vandalism induced by religious intolerance

In July 2010, around 60 members of the minority Hindus in Karachi were attacked and ethnically cleansed following an incident when a Hindu youth drank from a water tap near an Islamic mosque.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan came out with a report in 2010 stating that at least 25 Hindu girls are abducted in Pakistan every month.

In January 2014, in an attack on a temple, the guard was gunned down.

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Guru Gorakhnath temple at Gorgathri, Peshawar

In 2012, Unidentified men stormed the 160 years old Hindu temple of Guru Gorakhnath and Lord Shiva in PeshawarThe Idols of Shiva and Nath Gurus were destroyed, holy books are set on fire, human excreta were thrown and so on.

According to reports, the attackers burnt images and took away idols from the temple in the Gorghathri area, and fled the scene after the incident

Haroon Sarblal, a representative of the Hindu community, condemned the incident as ‘unacceptable’. He called upon the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to arrest the vandals and provide security guards for the temple.

“If the government wants the Hindu community to remain calm, it should arrest the vandals and punish them accordingly,” Sarblal told The News Agencies.

At a two-day workshop conducted by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pushpa Kumari broke down into tears as she narrated the incident when a body of a 17-year-old girl was taken out from a graveyard because she was buried in a Muslim graveyard.

Carrying a bunch of newspapers dated last week, she said, “There are five cases of sexual harassment of Hindu women in Sindh, including the gang rape of a teenager.”

With each passing day, evidences of religious apartheid are increasing. Religious minorities and those brave enough to speak out against intolerance have often been killed, seemingly with impunity, by militant sympathizers. Lack of cooperation from police and administration adds insult to the injury.

With such vandalism and discrimination dotting the landscape of Pakistan, the Hindus are left looking for a home.

  • Indian

    What else can be expect from terrorist nation “Pakistan”????

  • Gurkhaxxx

    Foolish Racist Paki Muslims!!!!

  • Hassan M Farooqi

    Shaheed is a Arabic word meaning “One who testified”. When a Muslim gives his life in the name of Allah, he is called a Shaheed, meaning he gave his life as a testimony to Allah.

    The word of respect for deceased non Muslims is “Aan-jahani”, meaning person belonging to the other world.

    The English word “Late” is a secular word, and is used instead of Shaheed or Aanjahani when avoidance of religious connotation is sought, and therefore used for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

    Translating the Islamic term Shaheed as the secular term martyr is inaccurate, and translating “Aan-Jahani” as late is also incorrect.

    You may continue with your ignorance, but my post is for only those who are curious about linguistic truth.

    • ramki

      We Indians call “Shaheed Bhagat Singh”.

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  • Indian

    What else can be expect from terrorist nation “Pakistan”????

  • Gurkhaxxx

    Foolish Racist Paki Muslims!!!!

  • Hassan M Farooqi

    Shaheed is a Arabic word meaning “One who testified”. When a Muslim gives his life in the name of Allah, he is called a Shaheed, meaning he gave his life as a testimony to Allah.

    The word of respect for deceased non Muslims is “Aan-jahani”, meaning person belonging to the other world.

    The English word “Late” is a secular word, and is used instead of Shaheed or Aanjahani when avoidance of religious connotation is sought, and therefore used for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

    Translating the Islamic term Shaheed as the secular term martyr is inaccurate, and translating “Aan-Jahani” as late is also incorrect.

    You may continue with your ignorance, but my post is for only those who are curious about linguistic truth.

    • ramki

      We Indians call “Shaheed Bhagat Singh”.

Next Story

The Errant Son: Mir Murtaza And Al-Zulfiqar

Would the Bhutto charm, have worked on India? And had it been so, would the map of the Indian sub-continent today, have resembled the idea of a free market zone in South Asia, with porous borders?

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Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

By: Tania Bhattacharya

India-Pakistan relations have hit a record low following the dastardly Pulwama Attack on a CRPF convoy in Indian administered Kashmir, on the 14th of February this year. Curiously, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, made a statement a few days ago, endorsing the Indian PM Modi, and suggesting, that in case there was a re-election of the latter, the Kashmir issue may be finally resolved. This scenario is significant, given that both Imran and Modi, are perceived hardliners in their respective nations. As some South Asian policy watchers have noted, it is hawks like the two aforementioned heads of state, and not peaceniks, who are more likely to take large risks over bilateral issues involving the two neighbours, since if any of them is required to acquiesce, they cannot be labelled as anti-nationals. Peaceniks, their good intentions aside, are looked upon with suspicion in their countries, which accuse them of selling out.

 

These are the heady days of jingoist patriotism in South Asia, where Right Wing organizations seem to be faring much better than the other political alternatives; but there was a time not very long ago, when Southern Asia was in a sweet spot between Dictatorship and Democracy, where conducive factors facilitated the spectre of Left-Wing radicalism, in both India and Pakistan. Between the imprisonment of Pakistan’s democratically elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the mysterious plane crash that killed President Zia ul Haq in 1988, a shadowy entity by the name of Al-Zulfiqar had emerged out of the pale, and rocked the Zia dictatorship, with its nuisance value. What were the origins of Al Zulfiqar, and who, was its chief executive officer?

The PIA Hijack drama
The PIA Hijack drama

We must retrace our steps to the early 1970s, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistan president. His eldest son, and second-born, Mir Murtaza, would build a lavish tent on the sprawling lawns of 70 Clifton, the Bhutto residence at Karachi. Inside the private sanctuary he had made for himself, the young lad would read the influential works of prominent Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara. The walls of his tent would be adorned with posters of world-famous figures, who had adopted Marxist techniques and applied them to their personal agendas. Murtaza had become deeply involved with the guerrilla warfare ethos of Socialist insurgents and quickly became a role model for his younger male sibling, Shahnawaz, junior to him by four years.

 

Sensing that the wayward, and obstinate nature of the older Bhutto was getting him into trouble with his high school officials and law enforcement, Zulfiqar had insisted, that Murtaza abandon his tent, and his Leftist reactionary literature, to concentrate on his school syllabus, so that the straight and the narrow could produce results for the latter. As soon as it became possible, and after consulting his wife Nusrat Bhutto, the President had packed off his enfant terrible to study in the United States, and then to England, where he hoped, that a new environment would change him. It was here, that Murtaza shone. A thorough academic, he researched upon and produced a dissertation, concerning the consequences of India’s nuclear program, on Pakistan. He developed the reputation of being a cad, and somewhat of a lady’s man as well, during his student years in London, where he was a regular sighting at nightclubs, with one or the other pretty girl, on his arm.

 

His father, had made the issue of the ‘Muslim Bomb’ an international one, arguing, that since the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Marxist political spheres had their own, ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it was only fair that the Islamic world follow suit. Israel though not openly belligerent with the bomb, was suspected of being in possession of the technology to construct one, in 1966 itself. Moreover, it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). Pakistan, under his leadership, he had sworn, would ‘gift’ the Muslim world with its first nuclear weapon. The president’s (and later, Prime Minister’s) son, would broach the topic on an academic level, and make its knowledge, widespread.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh.

Murtaza was yet abroad, when his father, by the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister of his country, was toppled in mid-1977, in a military coup, headed by General Zia ul Haq, who until the event, had been Zulfiqar’s handpicked Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces; and a man, that the confident, and arrogant premier, termed his ‘monkey general’. In a letter, handwritten to her brother, Benazir had advised him to travel to the United States, to meet with American leadership, that were friendly with the Pakistan Peoples Party, to plead for assistance in toppling the dictatorship of Zia. Interestingly, she had told him to steer clear of a top Bhutto aide, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. This is testified by Lt. General Khalid Mahmud Arif in his book Working With Zia. Khar, an uncle of PPP ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (2008 – 2013), had been a confidante of Prime Minister Bhutto, who he faithfully plied to the home of Bhutto’s first, secret mistress, and then, legally married third wife, Husna Sheikh, on a daily basis.

 

From the United States, Mir Murtaza had decided that it was not judicious to return to a strife-ridden homeland, which was experiencing its umpteenth military rule. Instead, he had flown to Syria and then Libya, to garner support from  Hafez  al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi respectively. The Assads and Gaddafi were supportive of the Bhuttos. Zia to them, was an American puppet that had been installed as a means to an end, that too, through an undemocratic and unpopular regime change. It was in Syria occupied Lebanon, that Murtaza had begun building up a guerrilla outfit, which he named, the PLA (Pakistan Liberation Army). Members from the PPP back in Pakistan, were herded off to the Middle East, for rigorous guerrilla training, that was imparted by the Leftist PFLP (Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine). When Mir Murtaza deemed that the time was ripe for ambushing Zia’s men in positions of power; the trained militia of PLA flew to Afghanistan, where they continued further arms training, awaiting an opportune moment, to cross into their homeland, using the mountainous, and lawless tribal routes of northern Pakistan, which flanked the Durand Line.

 

While in Kabul, Murtaza Bhutto decided to rename his outfit Al-Zulfiqar Organization, or AZO. Shahnawaz, the younger son of the jailed premier, joined his older brother and was imparted training in guerrilla warfare, and violent Marxist insurrection. When not wielding guns in army fatigues, the young volunteers and the Bhutto brothers, would watch Bollywood flicks to kill time.

 

Initially, all Shahnawaz wished to do, was to open a tourist agency in Pakistan, and live quietly with the Afghan object of his affections. But the restless circumstances that engulfed the young man, forced him to join Al-Zulfiqar, all the more so, as it had his older brother at its helm; a man he had much admired from the days of his youth.

 

One of the first acts of the AZO, was to try to blow up Zia-ul-Haq’s plane with a missile, from an Islamabad rooftop. It did not produce the desired result. Next, was the hijack of a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight. It was flown to Kabul, where the hijackers stated that the plane and its passengers would only be released if ninety-one political prisoners from the PPP, were set free from incarceration in Pakistan. Zia’s response initially, was a “No”. But once