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Minorities in Pakistan

By: Kashmala Jawaid Alam Khan

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Minorities play crucial roles in any country, contributing diversity, different perspectives, and unique experiences. Their involvement fosters a more inclusive society, enriching cultural, social, and economic dynamics. Embracing diversity can lead to innovation and a stronger sense of national unity. Minorities bring diverse cultural traditions, languages, and practices, contributing to the cultural tapestry of a nation. This diversity can lead to a vibrant cultural scene, promoting a more open and tolerant society. Minorities often offer different viewpoints and experiences, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of social issues. Minorities contribute to economic growth through entrepreneurship, innovation, and a diverse workforce. Minorities often play a crucial role in advocating for human rights, equality, and social justice. Their efforts can lead to policy changes that benefit not only minority communities but society as a whole.

Preaching of Islam (The Religion of the Nature)

The Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:256), affirming the principle of religious freedom. Islamic teachings encourage acts of kindness, charity, and support for those in need, irrespective of their religious background. This extends to minority communities.

Islam promotes the idea of treating all individuals with dignity and respect, regardless of their faith. The Quran instructs believers to speak kindly to people (Quran 2:83) and avoid ridiculing others (Quran 49:11). It’s important to note that interpretations of religious teachings can vary, and there may be different perspectives within the Muslim community. However, the core principles of justice, equality, and respect for diversity are central to Islamic teachings concerning the treatment of minorities.

Rights of Minorities in the Constitution of Pakistan

The Constitution of Pakistan provides several provisions safeguarding the rights of minorities. Key aspects include:

  1. Article 20: Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions
  2. Article 21: Safeguard against taxation for purposes of any particular religion
  3. Article 22: Safeguards as to educational institutions in respect of religion, etc.
  4. Article 25: Equality of citizens
  5. Article 36: Protection of minorities
  6. Article 37(b): Promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils

 

Status of Minorities in Pakistan

While the Constitution of Pakistan safeguards the rights of religious minorities, there have been reported instances of discrimination, persecution, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Efforts to promote interfaith harmony and protect minority rights continue, with some positive initiatives at the government and civil society levels.

It’s crucial to recognize that attitudes and experiences vary among individuals, regions, and communities in Pakistan. There are voices advocating for positive change and working towards a more inclusive and equitable society. Generalizations about the perceptions of women and minorities should be avoided, and a nuanced understanding of the diverse perspectives within the country is necessary.

 

The Status of Hindu Women in Pakistan

The status of Hindu women in Pakistan, like any diverse community, can vary based on factors such as region, socio-economic conditions, and individual circumstances. While it’s essential to recognize that many Hindu women lead fulfilling lives with opportunities, challenges have been reported that impact women in general in Pakistan, and these challenges can extend to Hindu women.

Women across communities in Pakistan, including Hindu women, may face challenges related to gender-based violence, including domestic abuse, harassment, and discrimination. In certain areas, limited access to quality education can be a concern. This can impact Hindu girls, as well as girls from other communities; forced conversion of religion is also very common.

Discrimination against Hindu Women in Pakistan

On January 4, 2005, 16-year-old Hemi and 18-year-old Marvi were kidnapped from Kunri village in Umerkot district.

On March 3, 2005, 14-year-old Raji was kidnapped from Aslam Town Jhuddo in Mirpur khas District.

On December 22, 2005, 13-year-old Mashu was kidnapped from Jhaluree village in Mirpur Khas District.

On July 23, 2006, 15 year-old Pooja was kidnapped from Lyari town in Karachi District. A judge ruled that she should be released and although she was, she was kidnapped again and has been missing ever since.

On August 2, 2006, 16-year-old Komal was kidnapped from Hawks bay in Karachi District.

On December 31, 2006, 17-year-old Deepa was kidnapped from Tharparkar district in Sindh province.

In 2006, a Hindu temple in Lahore was destroyed to pave the way for construction of a multi-storied commercial building. When reporters from Pakistan-based newspaper Dawn tried to cover the incident, they were accosted by the henchmen of the property developer, who denied that a Hindu temple existed at the site.

In 2011 religious intolerance was reported to be at its height, hundreds of minorities, women, journalists and liberals were being killed by Islamist fundamentalist extremists, while the Government remained mostly a silent spectator, often only making statements which condemned the ruthless acts of violence by the extremists but taking no real concrete action against them.

On September 23, 2014, Joti Kumari, a student of Electrical Engineering was kidnapped from Larkana City in Sindh District.

Hindu sisters Reena and Raveena became the face of forced religious conversion in Pakistan in 2019.  It prompted the Indian External Affairs Ministry to ask Pakistan to submit a report about it.

January, 2019, 16-year-old Anusha Kumari was kidnapped and the Indian High Commission took up the matter, but no action was taken.

In July 2021, over 60 Hindus were forcefully converted to Islam in the Mirpur Khas District and Mithi areas of Sindh.

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Recommendations

Pakistan should ensure that all laws, policy and practice comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It should take immediate steps to ratify and implement all of the remaining major human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

 

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