All Pakistanis are equal, but some Pakistanis are more equal than others,
especially if they’re Muslims
Literary folk would have a field day explaining the stuff that a good irony is made of, if they could see the potential that Pakistan has as the poster child for all that is ironical. The nation that was created to protect the rights of a minority i.e., the Muslims in India, but has some of the worst statistical data to its name for crimes against marginalised groups (specialising in the persecution and demolition of minority rights).
Adding to the pretty paradox that is Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed (amongst others) has now offered Shahrukh Khan – not a mistreated common man, but a Bollywood giant – refuge from his harsh life in India. He’s looked into the biggest and most comfortable spots in his dust trodden and bug infested heart and opened his arms to Khan, promising comfort, security and respect. Hafiz is joined by a number of Pakistanis chanting their alhamdullilahs and astagfirullahs in Khan’s favour. But before Khan can actually make a decision on whether or not he wants to live in Pakistan he will first have to figure out just what kind of a Muslim he is. And while in India his biggest problem is being a Muslim, within Pakistan he will have to declare what sect he’s from – being a Muslim in Pakistan is no small affair. It would be interesting to see who protects him from people like Hafiz Saeed if he declares he’s Shia or Ahmedi.
Minorities in Pakistan have been living a scared life for a while now. It’s bad enough if you’re in the wrong sect as a Muslim, it gets much worse if you’re not Muslim at all. From being passed over for well deserved jobs to simply being burned alive – if you’re a Christian, Hindu, Parsi etc, you’re in for one brilliant ride of horror in Pakistan. So, it’s great that Shahrukh Khan is being welcomed with open arms, but what of his extremely Hindu wife, and his daughter who is more inclined towards the Hindu faith?
Instead, why hasn’t anyone thought to offer help to the dozens of families that migrate from Pakistan on an annual basis because of persecution? Within 2012, it was reported that on average over 8-10 Hindu families try to run away to India every month. And rich, well established families at that. And that’s just Hindu families, there aren’t any accurate numbers on the other minorities we manage to squash on a daily basis. If help was to be offered, were there no persecuted Muslims on the other side, just like the people we manage to alienate?
I’m sure Pakistani minorities can relate to Shahrukh’s plight, just as Hafiz did. It has to be hard to be that rich and comfortable, to have the vast majority of a nation love you endlessly. It isn’t everyday that you end up giving your children generic names so they aren’t singled out because of their religious heritage. Here in Pakistan, we’re extremely against giving generic, pan-religious, or pan-ethnic names to children born to minorities. We are instead in favour of calling them by names which are oft painfully obvious as Muslim names. We’ve known many a Christian “Yousuf” and a couple of Hindu “Danish” boys in our lives. And we don’t stop at names – we try to purge minorities of any faith they have whatsoever. There are numerous cases of abducted people from minority groups resurfacing to announce their “miraculous” conversions. Christian/Hindu, unfortunate one day – Muslim, bewildered and confused the next. We’ve even made a circus out of faith completely. In 2012, Maya Khan had a fantastically monstrous show where she documented the conversion of a Hindu boy on live TV. Had a Muslim willingly converted to another faith, we would’ve screamed bloody murder and chanted our regular “off with his head, her head, every non-Muslim head” slogan.
This is the same country which, although created by a Shia leader, was able to ignore more than a handful murdered Hazara Shiites and their protesting families, who sat in the dead cold for four days decorated with the 86 coffins of their dead. But the Hazara Shiites had it easy compared to the Ahmedi population. It was only in 2012 that over 300 of their graves were desecrated for absolutely no productive reason whatsoever. Till death don’t us part – in Pakistan even the dead have to answer to atrocity, it’s not enough that we punish the living for being alive on our soil.
From the outside it seems almost as though we hate any religious minorities that walk the earth within our borders – how amusing that we’ve decided to extend help to wounded Muslim brethren without realising where we’re going wrong. Without realising that, forget non-Muslim minorities, we can’t even protect the marginalised Muslims in this country. Without realising that we have to be forced to care about Muslim minorities in other countries (remember Syria? Probably not). The country which was created by a man from a persecuted minority, it cannot stop itself from persecuting its minorities. And the people who we believe most need our help are not the persecuted Muslims and non-Muslims in our country, but Shahrukh Khan.
The writer is a journalist based in
Lahore. She tweets @luavut, and can be emailed at: [email protected]