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Survival of democracy and minorities in Pakistan rests with separating religion from politics

Survival of democracy and minorities in Pakistan rests with separating religion from politics

By Senge Hasnan Sering, Jun 10, 2020 21:56:01 IST

Hindus subsist at the bottom of socio-economic ladder in Pakistan. Religious apartheid in tandem with absence of educational and job opportunities makes their lives insufferable. The Hindu farmers are losing battle against dwindling resources, land erosion and encroachment. Making the matters worse, they lost major portion of this year’s harvest to one of devastating locust attacks in decades. A leading rights activist from Sindh, Sufi Munawar Laghari says that Hindus do not have much choice in the political scheme of Pakistan. They have to convert and leave ancestral lands to save lives. In many cases, the less abled elderly and infants are immolated inside homes and temples when Muslim brigades set fire to their neighborhoods.

Now, the coronavirus is adding insult to injury as many Muslim scholars in Sindh are targeting “immoral and filthy lifestyle” of Hindus and other religious minorities for the spread of pandemic. Hindus say the government has abandoned them with the excuse of lack of funds which provides space for predatory Muslim brigades and extremist officials to use food, water and virus protective and screening kits as tools of conversion.

 Survival of democracy and minorities in Pakistan rests with separating religion from politics

File image of Hindus at a temple in Pakistan. AP

They are forced to starve as pious Muslims refuse to offer food during the lockdown. Some Shia organizations which tried to offer food to Hindus are facing backlash after being accused of sacrilege by extremist Muslims. Many Hindus were injured and jailed by police for stepping out of their homes to beat famishment. In Sukkur, Muslim goons beat and severely injured more than a dozen Hindu women and children for drinking water from a “Muslim” pump.

The United States Commission for Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls these actions reprehensible and condemns Pakistan for linking food and medical aide to religion. The USCIRF asks Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure equal rights for religious minorities while leading the nation out of Covid-crisis. Media often goes for self-censorship in such conditions as reporting on incessant persecution of Hindus is construed as benefiting India and therefore a national security concern.

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In February of 2020, US Secretary of State reminded Prime Minister Imran Khan about his commitment to control violent extremism against Hindu, and restoration of their temples, which is yet to see the light of day. There are less than two dozen functioning temples in Pakistan and a large majority of Hindus have no access to crematoriums due to demolition of their temples. For the time being, no one is holding breath expecting Imran Khan to confront the influential Muslims who razed these temples and used the land to build offices and shopping malls.

Human rights organizations blame Pakistan’s anti-Hindu constitution and judicial system for Hindu-population decline. Dr. Lakhu Lohana of World Sindhi Congress attests that persecution and expulsion of Hindus from Sindh is part of Pakistan’s grand designs. He says, “As appalling as it sounds; all State institutions are in it together and there is no punishment for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims. It is not too hard to uncover the paradox in their moral standards as same Pakistani rulers will leave no stone unturned defending land and religious rights of Kashmiri and Palestinian Muslims”. He asks the members of the United Nations Organization to press upon Pakistan to stop gross violations against helpless Hindus and other religious and ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, the USCIRF in its 2019 Annual Report notes that Hindus “face continued threats to their security and remain subjected to various forms of harassment and social exclusion.” According to Pakistan Hindu Council, over five thousand Pakistani Hindus migrate to India annually to escape forced conversions and physical attacks. Hindus, who in 1947 formed over twenty percent of the newly created Pakistan now account for less than three percent of its population. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) writes that in the province of Sindh alone, approximately twenty-three Hindu girls get converted each month. The same source reveals that over one thousand Hindu Sindhi girls, some as young as eleven, were abducted, tortured, raped, and forcefully converted and married to Muslims in 2018.

The ruling party of Sindh, Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) is often dubbed as a bulwark against persecution of religious minorities. However, in five decades of its rule, PPP has given nothing but disappointment and pain to Hindus. Driven by vote-bank politics, the Sindhi ruling elite often succumbs to pressures from religious centers like Islamic Madrassahs of Bharchondi and Amrot which champion in forced-conversion. These centers use police and judiciary to provide shelter and legal aid to the abductors of Hindu girls and promote proselytism with impunity.

In 2016, the PPP government shocked many pro-minority voices when it turned down a bill to ban conversion of minors. In 2019, it once again rejected a bill criminalizing forced conversion. The government has done very little to implement Hindu marriage act thereby denying inheritance to Hindu women. A Hindu member of Sindh assembly, Mr. Nand Kumar Golkani, reacted to government policies in the following words: "I will suggest that they [PPP] stop staging drama of celebrating Diwali, Holi and other festivals of the Hindu community. They should stop proclaiming themselves as the champions of minorities’ rights. Our girls are being kidnapped and converted and I have been struggling for the past few years to pass a law against the menace but the Sindh government has proved that it is unwilling to address the issue."

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Dr Lakhu Lohana says that Madrassahs have become the source to formalize sex slavery in the name of serving religion. It is common for such Madrassahs to invite media and local crowds to cheer conversion ceremonies. Crowds celebrate the solemnisation rites with chants of Allah O Akbar to register Islam’s victory over Hindu religion and community. These converted minors often find themselves tethered to a man three times their age and already married with two or three wives.

Hindu girls who resist rape and forced conversion are at high risk of murders. These children are permanently severed from their families and roots. Those few who manage to escape to their parents cannot revert to Hinduism as leaving Islam is judicial execution under Pakistani law, often by stoning to death. Any attempt by Hindu parents to reclaim their girls is deemed blasphemous, which is also a capital punishment in Pakistan. Those accused of blasphemy walk with a death warrant and often face mob lynching and target killing before they make it to the court of law.

Like madrassas, public schools also aid in conversion where Hindu students, and have ample opportunity to rote-memorise myths on Islam’s superiority. Majority of Hindus cannot qualify for college after failing in Islamic studies and Arabic.

There is no room for religious co-existence under the Islamic constitution of Pakistan since a permanent co-existence with people of other faiths is synonymous to rejecting sovereignty of Allah. As part of core principle of Islam, a Hindu submitting to Allah’s sovereignty means abandoning ancient civilizations and cultures as dark and false Satanic practices. On the other hand, someone resisting or obstructing conversion is what the religious scriptures label as a defiant enemy or “Harib” who must be subjugated to establish Allah’s mandate.

Contrary to claims in Pakistan, western democracy cannot thrive under Islamized constitution since democracy requires sharing sovereignty and entitlement with humans which according to religion is a form of “Shirk” or polytheism and therefore punishable. In conclusion, survival of both democracy and minorities in Pakistan rests with separating religious from politics

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