Chief Justice Shahabuddin once commented on Justice AR Cornelius that he was ‘more Muslim than a Muslim’. Cornelius referred to himself as a ‘Constitutional Muslim’. But when Yahya Khan in 1971 appointed Cornelius and GW Choudhry to draft a new constitution, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then foreign minister, objected, saying: “He is a Dhimmi. How can he make a constitution for a Muslim state?” Cornelius tendered resignation after this objection. Before partition, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah partition told SP Singha, the then speaker of the Punjab Assembly, that a time would come when Christians would bless the day they chose to be Pakistanis. Trusting Mr Jinnah’s words, Singha along with Fazl Elahi and C. E. Gibbon voted in the Punjab Assembly in Pakistan’s favour on June 23, 1947.Then in July, Singha, on behalf of Christians, told the Radcliffe’s Boundary Awards that Christians wanted to join Pakistan because they were ‘Muslimised’, trusted Muslims more than Hindus and their dress, poor economic status and religious belief were closer to Muslims than Hindus who were treating them as untouchables. Only a month after partition, the Punjab Assembly removed Singha from speakership through the motion of no confidence, saying that a non-Muslim could not be the head of the house. Once Pakistan was created, Christians opened doors of their educational institutions to Muslims. Two hostels in the Forman Christian College were vacated for the injured migrants coming from Wahga border. This makeshift arrangement became the most famous United Christian Hospital (UCH). The first open-heart surgery in Pakistan was performed by Dr Don Bomes here in 1965, and the first successful replacement of heart valves took place here in 1969, and the hospital produced best nurses in the country. If the pressure keeps mounting on Christians, either they will keep getting humiliated because of their faith, or they will convert to Islam as they earlier converted to Christianity to escape the shackles of Hindu caste prejudices Despite these services, hundreds of Christians were arrested in 1965 and 1971 wars over the charges of espionage, though none was proved true. A book, The Turkish Art of Love in Pictures, published in Britain in 1970, contained blasphemous pictures. Student demonstrations were held next year in Pakistan that vandalised several churches. Singha’s son DP Singh told an English magazine in 1971: “It has become a fashion in West Pakistan to accuse Christians of espionage and they are being told to migrate to other countries, particularly Canada and the United States.” In 1972, Bhutto nationalised most of the Christian educational institutions which were then the only source of quality education in the country and pride to the Christian community. On 21 Nov 1979, false news spread that the US had bombed the holiest shrine Mecca (actually few Muslims had besieged Mecca). Christian institutions and churches in Pakistan were attacked and damaged in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi. Catholic Bishop Pereira wrote to President Ziaul Haq that “Christians will no longer feel safe and secure. They will feel that international events which have nothing to do with Christians or their institutions will be used as an excuse to harass and harm them.” Such incidents continue to this day to make the Christians a scapegoat for whatever is done in the West. Migration to the West and conversion to Islam have become two ways to deal with the humiliated life Christians are leading for decades here in Pakistan. The Muslim ruling majority also has failed Mr Jinnah in fulfilling his still another promise he made to religious minorities. On 8 Nov 1946, Jinnah told Associated Press of America: ‘No civilised government can be run successfully without giving minorities a complete sense of security and confidence. They must be made to feel that they have a hand in government and to this end must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give it.’ The educated class of Christians was made to migrate the country while another class of Christians’– the Illiterate, poor, landless and unskilled peasants living in villages — was forced to move to cities and work as sweepers, rather than having ‘a hand in the government’. The data gathered by World Watch Monitor shows that Christians make up only 1.5 percent of the total population, while in all major metropolitans Christians represent more than 80 percent of the janitorial workforce. Scyld Berry, a cricket correspondence of the Sunday Telegraph, in his classic article on Yousuf Youhana, a star batsman who later converted to Islam, noted about his neighbourhood in October 2000: “The father of Yousuf Youhana used to be a sweeper at Lahore station. Youhana has a brother who still works there, and he would no doubt have been there too yesterday if he had not developed his talent for middle-order batting. Surely, no Test cricketer has come from a background so unprivileged.” Christianity in Pakistan was essentially rural during the British rule. Berry notes: “The majority of Pakistani Christians were low-caste Hindus who converted in the 19th century to escape their karma. They haven’t quite succeeded. Many of the bearers and sweepers at Lahore station are Christian, and they are the lucky ones. The unlucky are bonded labourers in the brickworks whose chimneys dot the landscape outside Lahore. They are bound to the wheel of lifelong debt; however hard they work.” They had converted from lowest untouchable caste Chuhra to Christianity and were mostly dependent on Sikh landlords in central Punjab. When Sikhs left for India, the evacuated land was given to Muslim migrants who made the life of Christian peasants agonisingly difficult. SP Singha told the assembly that 200,000, out of 434,000 total Christian population in the country had become homeless in villages. Singha stated that the minister for refugee settlement and the revenue minister had approved three to four acres of land for each homeless Christian family in villages, but the file containing these state documents disappeared from the secretariat. On 15 August 1951, Punjab Resettlement and Colonies Department Deputy Secretary Chaudhry Nabi Ahmed allotted five chaks (villages) through a notification in south Punjab for Christians and scheduled caste “athris and sepis (landless peasants), who had been dislodged on account of the migration of non-Muslims (mainly Sikh landlords)”. But this generosity was too small, too late and was never realised. CE Gibbon, member of the Punjab Assembly, said on the floor of the assembly in April 1952: “the grave situation arising out of the policy of the government in respect of the wholesale eviction of Christian” landless peasants in the villages has rendered “nearly 300,000 Christians homeless and on the verge of starvation, the consequences of which are too horrible to imagine.” Poor Christians were beaten for wearing pressed clean clothes. Their women were considered maal-e-ghanimat, war booty. They were told that Pakistan was made for Muslims and Christians should either leave the country or be prepared to lead the life of servitude. In several instances, they were killed when they refused to pick up garbage, Singha informed the assembly. “The crux of their plight is humiliation and hunger,” SP Singha told on the floor of the assembly on April 20, 1948. “There are only two ways to deal with the issue of the Christians: either we dig trenches and bury them alive, or we send them to refugee camps, due to having no food and shelter.” Elisabetta Lob in her doctoral thesis for the University of London tells how communal tension between Muslims and Christian over the agricultural land culminated in violent clashes including the famous August 1951 Matta incident: ‘Over there, 72 Muslims were charged with murder, attempted murder, arson and dacoity in connection with a communal flare-up with a death toll of 11 Christians.’ Migrant Muslim landlords disposed of these Christians because ‘Refugee zamindars instead had to hire their relatives, friends and members of their extended families.’ These starving Christians moved to cities where they were expected to become city sweepers and fill the vacuum created after Hindu Dalit city sweepers left for India. Today, such hundreds of small illegal Christian neighbourhoods exist from Peshawar to Karachi. It is one such neighbourhood where Yousuf Youhana was born and raised in Lahore. “Youhana was born and brought up less than half a mile from the (Lahore) station in a house — well, a Westerner would never call it a house. When talking at the Gaddafi Stadium, Youhana had referred to the place where he grew up, and his brother Irshad now lives in: ‘railway cottages’. In reality, it is more like an out-house, a few bare brick walls covered with corrugated iron,” Berry notes about Yousuf’s house. The Capital Development Authority submitted similar notes in the Supreme Court in December 2015 regarding illegal settlements created by Christians who were unskilled, unproductive ‘land grabbers’, who have erected ‘ugly villages’ on the scenic landscape of Islamabad. Now, these poor Christian sweepers are under massive pressure for these ugly patches they are living in. Be it Gojra incident in 2009 that left seven Christians burned and about 100 houses set on fire, or Joseph Colony incident in March 2013 that left more than 100 houses of Christians set ablaze, the accusation of blasphemy has the underlying motivation for the communal strife to acquire their pieces of land. The recent incident in Shahdara, in which a Christian sweeper Patras Masih is suspected while his cousin Sajid Masih, also a sweeper, allegedly forced to have sex with Patras, had acquired the land from a landlord who hadn’t legally transferred the land while asking the Christians to build their houses. Now the houses are built, and they are pressured to leave the place, using religion to scare them. Conversion to Islam can be the option to deal with this rising tide of extremism against them. In 2005, Youhana converted and became Muhammad Yousuf. Shaheryar Khan, a diplomat and former chairman of the cricket board, in his book Cricket Cauldron: The turbulent politics of sport in Pakistan explains why Hindu cricketer Danish Kaneria would not convert and how societal prejudice towards Christians due to their lower caste status played a significant role in Muhammad Yousuf’s conversion to Islam. The law enforcement agencies torture them with impunity; their neighbourhoods are ransacked, looted and torched and no one is ever brought to justice. Their graveyards are consecutively desecrated and encroached, and no state machinery gets into action. Their churches are pelted with stones and set on fire, and no one ever gets punished. Thousands of Pakistani Christians are stranded in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, awaiting their applications for refugee status with the UNHCR. Their applications are taking years. If this pressure would keep mounting on Christians, either they would keep getting humiliated because of their faith, or they will convert to Islam as they earlier converted to Christianity to escape the shackles of Hindu caste prejudice. The writer is a freelance journalist, focuses on religious minorities and marginalised sections of society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, March 3rd 2018.