A clip of a talk show aired on a private television channel has been going viral on social media, particularly Christian users, living both inside and outside Pakistan. Despite having telecasted a few months earlier, the recording has garnered considerable attention largely because of the depressing comments by one of its participants. Talking about the situation of minorities in Pakistan, the show had invited the former bishop of Lahore, Rt Rev Dr Alexander John Malik, as well as Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General, LiaquatBaloch, along with other panellists. When asked, the bishop argued with blazon competence that ever since Objectives Resolution was passed in 1949, minorities had been pushed from an equal citizenship to the second-grade citizenry. He further said that merely because of his faith, he could not ever become the president or the prime minister of Pakistan.
An instantaneous yet appalling response from Baloch suggested him to become a Muslim and then become the prime minister. Instead of listening to his grievances and finding a solution as a politician, an unrealistic solution was advised to a person who had served the country as one of the top Christian clergymen. The rather unanticipated, unworthy and villainous response shocked the bishop, who for a moment found himself in a mayhem.
Emphatically, whenever any Christian watched this programme on the social media, his/her nerves would have stretched. The first time I had watched the particular programme, I found myself in a fluster. I started thinking about the role of minorities in the formation of the motherland and many glories examples that had come to my mind encouraged me to reclaim the heritage of minorities’ remarkable accomplishments and their patriotism, which was denied by Baloch. There is an old joke in journalism which proclaims writers to “not let facts come in the way of a good story.” However, against the ever aggressive approach of the fundamentalists, it is imperative to remind them of the key role that minorities had played in the creation of Pakistan. The present Punjab, the national hub of JI, is the result of the decisive 1947 vote of DewanBahadur S. P. Singha, the-then Christian Speaker of the Punjab Assembly. After partition, Christian missionaries, doctors and nurses worked day and night, providing care to Muslim migrants, entering Lahore and Punjab. In the Quaid-e-Azam-led first Assembly of Pakistan, Sir ZafarUllah Khan, a Qadiani, had served as the foreign minister whereas Joginder NathMandal, a low caste Hindu, was appointed as the law minister of the country. The glorious tradition of minorities’ sacrifices can be traced back to the forgotten history of Pakistan when in 1965, General IftikharJanjua, a Qadiani, had laid his life for the country as the first military general of the Pakistan Army. Air Vice Marshal Eric Gordon Hall, a Christian, was the founding Chairman of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy. He had modified C-130 to a war plane and used it himself during the war to agonise the enemy.
Pakistani minorities have not only served in Pakistan but across the world as well. Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat, a proud officer of Pakistani Armed Forces, had fought against Israel in the 1968 Arab War. In a letter written to his wife after his martyrdom, the King of Jordon, Shah Hussain, had said,
“Sister! The death of Commander Leslie is my personal loss. It’s my wish that when the body of Leslie will be wrapped in Flag of Pakistan, for the funeral, please put the Flag of Jordan under his head.”
Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius (A. R. Cornelius), the fourth Chief Justice of Pakistan was amongst the freedom fighters. Even the present Pakistani cricket owes to his services as he was amongst the founding members of the sport in Pakistan. Education is another field where Christians have led the country in producing proud progenies like Quaid-e-Azam, AllamaIqbal, General Zia-u-Haq, Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and even the present premier, Nawaz Sharif. Christian nurses and doctors are shining stars of the region’s history and are still serving with their typical Christian fervour, energy and faith. Unfortunately, after the death of the founding father, the Objectives Resolutions became the first constitutional discrimination against minorities that barred them from exercising their rights as equal citizens of the state. Article 2-A of the constitution situates minorities in a particular column as lower human beings. Articles, 22, 26 and 27 are safeguarding rights of all citizens belonging to all faiths and creeds, their intuitions and worship places but their implementations were never ensured. Blasphemy Laws, the mother of all discriminatory legislations, puts every individual from minorities’ community on the highway to gallows. Despite incessant efforts, these laws were never repealed or even amended. Pakistani minorities had voted for Quaid-e-Azam because of his ideologies that said, “In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims—Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”
Because of Quaid’s fair-minded narrative of a progressive state.he was considered favourably disposed towards ‘secularism’. His mantra of love, respect and equal treatment for all citizens of the state, irrespective of colour, caste, creed, gender and faith, attracted all citizens. During the passage of the Objective Resolution, Sri Chandra Chattopadhyay had said, “In my conception of (the) state where people of different religion live there is no place for religion in the state. Its position must be neutral: no bias for any religion. If necessary, it should help all the religions equally. No question of concession or tolerance to any religion. It smacks of inferiority complex. The state must respect all religions: no smiling face for one and askance look to the other. The state religion is a dangerous principle.”
Another Hindu politician, Bhupendra Kumar Dutta, explained, “The resolution would lead to discrimination against non-Muslims and to internecine battles among Muslims Politics.” Later, history also proved that the Objective Resolution was the brainchild of MaulanaAbulAlaMaudoodi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He believed that Sharia Law was the only solution to the country’s problems. There is a clear constitutional and social demarcation between the majority and the minority populations in the country. However, instead of inviting minorities to embrace Islam, it would have been better had the Muslim rulers practised ‘true Islam’ themselves. They should not have allowed the torching of Shanti Nagar in 1997, Gojra in 2009 and Joseph Colony in 2013. Extra-judicial killings in the name of blasphemy, forced conversions of minority women and the ever-growing minorities persecution only continue to exist because of the constitutional discrimination. The only solution, hence, would be fair legislation, which is workable for all citizens of the state. However, would it be ever allowed to work its magic given the present despondency?
The writer is a freelance columnist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org