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Pakistan’s minority problem

Imran’s rhetoric must square up with ground reality

For a country that will have the world’s fourth largest Hindu population by 2050, Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities, especially Hindus, Christians and even Sikhs, is certainly not kosher. For a Pakistani minister to term External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s concern over the recent abduction and forced conversion of two minor Hindu girls a ‘joke’ belied the ground reality of the daily harassment and mocking of Hindu girls in rural Pakistan. Statistics show that the minority population in India has risen but Pakistan’s miniscule non-Muslims wait for the first opportunity to jump the fence. Pakistan’s decade-long tryst with democracy has tempered its discriminatory impulses, but the fact remains that 5,000 unhappy Hindus migrate to India each year. The (mis)treatment of Christians also does not inspire confidence. Recently, a much married Christian woman was abducted, raped and forced to convert. Later, she was compelled to marry her abductor.

Pakistan was being ingenious and mendacious when it sought to equate the sorry situation of its minorities with that of India. For one, the biggest difference is that in India, equal treatment of all religions and ethnicities is a given; it headlines itself as a secular republic as against the Islamic nomenclature of Pakistan that inevitably exposes the minorities to the zealousness of proselytising Muslims. The spirit of the Citizenship Bill was meant to prioritise the accommodation of these miserable minorities, though it is now snared in the ethnic-religious complexities of the Northeast.

There is a perception of late about a gulf in the action and intention of the Indian state in safeguarding the minorities. But the Supreme Court has acted as an effective back-stopper and will continue to foil any unnoticed or unpunished outrage. The battle cry of ghar wapsi in India has largely been rhetorical. In contrast, abduction, conversion and forced marriages flourish in Pakistan due to the feudal stranglehold and the impunity embedded in religious majoritarianism. Imran Khan has sacked a minister for anti-Hindu utterances, unlike the condoning that has taken place in India. Khan, however, is pitted against Islamic zealots and a national temperament shaped by the stress on Islamisation. He needs to emulate India’s treatment of minorities, even if currently frayed at the edges, rather than enter into a mutually self-defeating slanging match.

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