Following Captain Safdar’s recent comments aimed at inciting hatred against religious minorities, the ruling party found itself with its back up against the wall. Thus it was swift to don the mask that offers public proclamations of equal rights for all in Pakistan. Yet underneath, the face remains the same. The Prime Minister distanced the PMLN from the good captain’s poisonous words. Then came the turn of Nawaz Sharif to do the same, which he duly did. Yet, talk is cheap. Meaning that if the ruling party had been serious about taking one of its own to task over such inflammatory remarks — it would surely have revoked Safdar’s parliamentary membership, no questions asked. That it didn’t suggests that the latter was simply reading aloud from the real PMLN manifesto. It would not be amiss to say that the party represents the country’s most forceful political force, with an overwhelming majority of its members seeking to fulfil personal objectives at the expense of the masses, whom they repeatedly bulldoze into silence by way of the undemocratic wielding of wealth and power. Indeed, it was during its previous regimes as well as those of its political forefathers that crushing discriminatory legislation was introduced and the Constitution duly amended. This inevitably impacted both the social standing and the presumed moral worth of Pakistan’s minorities; in short, jeopardising their national civic life. It is, therefore, hard to take seriously this particular government’s lofty claims about providing everyone with a safe environment. Twenty years ago, Shanti Nagar, a traditional Christian village in Sindh, was attacked by thousands of Muslims, carrying placards that read: “Kill the Christians”. And they did just that. It was one of the worst incidents of spontaneous violence against this community. Some 1,000 Christian homes were razed as well as four churches; with around 2,500 fleeing for their lives. Both Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, who had just seen their party win a landslide victory, travelled to Shanti Nagar to show solidarity with the local Christians there. It was a most superb public relations stunt, with television crews filming the pair as they ‘rebuilt’ a brick wall. Naturally, they vowed to bring the culprits to justice. Yet this never happened. Fast-forward to 2009 and we come to the Gojra killings, whereby a group led by the banned sectarian outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba launched an attack against the Christians community there, when it burned to the ground some 40 houses; leaving eight dead and many more injured. The subsequent report into the incident pointed the finger of accusation at the PMLN over the performance of law enforcement agencies on its watch; which had not only failed to act on tip-offs prior to the massacre but had also booked a number of Christians on false charges of involvement in the violence. Almost as if to vindicate these findings, the suspension of two police officers proved to be a mere temporary measure. They were soon back on the force. Equally alarming was the election of the local PMLN leader for the area to Parliament in the 2013 general elections. Those Christians who could seek asylum abroad did so. Yet even here they faced persecution of sorts. Meaning that many were left stranded in Thailand with little assistance from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) following reassurances by a particular minority member of the government that Pakistan’s Christians faced no such threats to their very lives. The main issues of governance in this country are linked to the quality and equal application of legislation. Most of the time, our lawmakers tend to forget that Pakistan is also home to religious minorities whose security is the state’s responsibility Then in March 2013, came the next wave of anti-Christian terror. In Joseph Colony, a Muslim mob burned down some 200 houses, dozens of small shops as well as two churches. Unsurprisingly, false allegations of blasphemy proved the trigger for more murderous violence. The then president, Asif Ali Zardari, ordered an inquiry while the then provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah, pledged to take all necessary measures to secure justice for the Christian community. In reality, all that happened was that Sarwan Masih, the individual at the centre of the blasphemy storm, was convicted under the most brutal legislation that General Zia had ever introduced and that the PMLN has refused to do away with. The main issues of governance in Pakistan are linked to the quality and equal application of legislation. Most of the time, our lawmakers tend to forget that the country is also home to religious minorities and that these are almost entirely dependent upon the 97 percent-majority Muslim population for their very security. It may be true, in theory at least, that religion remains the cohesive force that unites all sections of this society. Yet minorities remain a distinct group with different religious affiliations; and for too long have successive governments failed to recognise this. Like Muslims, Christians, too, have deep-rooted religious dogmas which sustain their spiritual and social life. Yet from the cradle to the grave are they subjected systematic persecution. What is more, when then they do muster the courage to speak out against such injustice — they are aggressively silenced by certain selected — not elected — minority parliamentarians. Yet how many of these ‘representatives’ raised their voices to demand that Asia Bibi be released? How many of them stood up and called for action to be taken against the Islamabad Mosque imam who levelled false allegations against Rimsha Masih, a minor suffering from mental health issues? And then we come to the current year; and this government will find it has nowhere to hide from the ever-increasing list of those who have been violently victimised. Starting with: Nabeel Masih, a 16-year-old old Christian boy falsely charged with blasphemy simply for sharing an Islamic image on social media; Sharoon Masih, a young Christian student murdered by Muslim classmates over his daring to drink water from the same glass as them; and then Arslan Mushataq, another Christian boy, who was beaten to death by the Punjab police in Sheikhupura. Therefore, evidence of criminal negligence on the watch of this government flies in the face of claims of equal treatment of minorities. The human rights situation in the country is only getting worse, regardless of all the celebratory noises following Pakistan’s recent election to the UNHRC for the next three years. The Foreign Office responded by saying: “Pakistan’s membership to this Council demonstrates a strong vote of confidence of the international community in our role and contribution to the national and global human rights agenda”. It is worth noting that the Democratic Republic of Congo also secured membership to the UNHRC. A move that prompted US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to term it as “yet another example of why the Human Rights Council lacks credibility and must be reformed in order to be saved”. Pakistan, too, received similar censure from certain quarters. When it lost its bid to be elected to the Council back in 2015, Human Rights Watch contended that this was a timely reminder for Pakistan to ensure that it maintains at least the minimum protection for human rights as recognised by the international community. Our success this year is said to have much to do with new women’s right legislation, the National Plan of Action as well as various moves towards safeguarding the rights of the child. Nevertheless, the 2017 review of Pakistan’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) raises concerns over the ill-treatment of minorities, mentioning particularly the need to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws. “Kill the Christians” and other such slogans will not do Pakistan any favours at the 47-member UNHRC. For in no way can such instances be said to indicate minimum human rights protection for all. The writer can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, October 20th 2017.