Religious Minorities in Pakistan

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Faraz Ahmed Jalib
We need to ask ourselves as a nation where do we stand at when it comes to providing religious freedom to minorities in this country? A country that was founded on the ideology of protecting rights of minorities, is witnessed curbing the right of freedom to profess any religion. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in his famous speech of August 11, 1947 while addressing the constituent assembly said “You are free; you are free to go to your temples; free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state”. Furthermore, in his press conference in Delhi when asked to make a brief statement on the problem of minorities as Pakistan’s governor- general-designate, he said: “I shall
not depart from what I have said repeatedly with regard to the minorities. Every time I spoke about the minorities, I meant what I said and what I said I meant. The minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or their faith or belief will be protected in every possible way”. The Constitution of Pakistan,1973 guarantees the rights of minorities. Article 20 of the Constitution states that “Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion and every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and
manage its religious institutions.”. Article 25 of the Constitution states that “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”. Article 36 of the constitution states that “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities”. Additionally, Pakistan has international obligations to comply with since it is signatory to multiple treaties and declarations by United Nations General Assembly. Most importantly, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR 1948) recognizes freedom of religion or belief, as does Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966). The latter states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of
thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”. In 2012, according to the government of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the population of officially registered religious minorities in Pakistan as Hindus: 1,414,527, Christians: 1,270,051,
Ahmadis: 125,681, Baha'is: 33,734, Sikhs: 6,146 Parsis: 4,020 Buddhists: 1,492 and Others: 66,898, and that makes them about 4 percent of Pakistan’s total population. Moreover, Attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan have claimed hundreds of lives of religious minorities, number of religious places like temples and churches have been demolished, women belonging to minority communities have been targets of forced conversions and marriages. Forced conversions, rape, and forced marriages of Hindu
women have recently become a very controversial issue in Pakistan. In the present-day World, Pakistan is one of the few countries where minorities are considered dreadfully unsafe. In international rankings, Pakistan is the seventh most dangerous country in the World for religious minorities. The minorities are harassed and tortured by the majority and they feel like they live in a society which has lost its own identity and do not know where they are destined to go. Therefore, It is urged that the state needs to address these critical issues by enforcing its domestic laws and fulfilling its international obligations that
protect the basic and fundamental rights of minorities.

(-The writer is a graduate of Law from International Islamic University, Islamabad.)­