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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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Vow To Hold Peace Talks With India: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan prepares to speak at the opening of the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following elections in the neighbouring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed.”

Khan made the announcement during a speech at a Saudi Arabian investment conference where the newly minted leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payment crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the crowd at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to upcoming nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

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Imran Khan, wikimedia commons

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Delhi has stationed about 500,000 soldiers in the portion of Kashmir it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Khan’s call for peace talks comes as his administration is desperately seeking funds from “friendly” countries, including Saudi Arabia, to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, surrounded by host country representatives and other participants, attends an investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

The prime minister’s attendance at the FII comes as leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs shunned the conference in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

During his address at the FII Khan confirmed that Pakistan was also in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a new bailout.

Also Read: Pakistan Fears Economic Turmoil, Re-thinks ‘Silk Road’ Project With China

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.

But help has been in short supply and economists’ warnings have grown increasingly urgent. (VOA)