The bus is stopped. People are pulled out. Without asking any questions armed men start filtering the crowd. Almost everyone is asked to get back inside the bus but your family is left behind. You suddenly realize it is because you look different. As everyone else around you look of Turko-Mongol decent your family and you look Indo-Aryan. In a matter of seconds you feel like you are in a foreign country amidst alien people. But your father and your mother were born and raised here in Pakistan.
Gun Shot! You are too scared to look who fell but you know it’s a kin. Your only fortune is that you won’t have to feel that agony and pain for long as the gun barrel is now pointing at you. Reverse the ethnic equation and that’s just how the Hazaras are made to feel in Balochistan. A pre-dominantly Shia ethnic group, it isn’t hard to recognize them in a crowd because of their distinct facial features. Fair skinned, pointed cheek bones with oriental eyes and nose, the Hazaras migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan to escape the very discrimination and persecution they are suffering here.
They are being mercilessly killed not because they look different but it’s because their distinct looks gives away their religious belief. To those who got offended by the use of the phrase ‘gives away’ as if the religious belief of the Hazara is something they should be penalized for, it appears it is. Such is the horrifying state of freedom of religion for the Hazara in Balochistan and Shias in general in Nothern parts of Pakistan. 20 Shias were pulled off a bus in Mansehra and shot dead in broad daylight just for being Shia.
Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was also a Shia. Before I am accused of spreading a fitna in this Land of the Pure please refer to Fatima Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan’s sworn affidavits submitted along with the former’s Application (C. M. A. No. 54 of 1948) before the High Court of Sindh. It makes me wonder if Jinnah would also be scared of living in Quetta or Mansehra if he were alive today? Would he also be dragged out of the bus and shot dead in front of his family? Would the Government also display criminal silence on his murder?
Jinnah never used a single opportunity to try and shape the Pakistan or give it a religious model based on his personal school of thought. In his first address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan he said:
“If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you… is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. …We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities… Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on …will vanish.”
65 years later, the minorities are still co-operating, forgiving and burying hatchets as the majority keeps digging them back up. No, not every Sunni is picking a gun and killing a Shia but every Pakistani’s (Sunni) inaction on these atrocities is encouraging another Pakistani’s (Shia) murder. Jinnah was against the notion of a theocratic state, the very demon which we are turning into. An exorcism is not expected by the Supreme Court this time which appears more concerned with curing the ill of vulgarity on national television. Honourable Mr. Chief Justice, obscenity may corrupt us morally but this indifference of the state machinery towards the plight of the minorities is just inhumane.
The case here is not of lack of representation of the minorities. Pakistan’s all powerful President, for the past four and half years is a Shia Muslim. We do not need successful politicians like Zardari who believe in saving vote banks but brave leaders like Salman Taseer who died for the for the rights of the people he represented i.e. the people of Pakistan. Leaders who are willing to guard its people not just from the terrorists but even from the state's own manifested perversions such as the Blasphemy Laws, which is a man made law written and drafted and passed by the members of the National Assembly and not by God Almighty.
Furthermore, our mainstream media also needs to display some social responsibility. Sacrifice their ratings and discuss topics which may not exactly be the liking of the majority of the viewers. Nobody likes seeing in the mirror after all. There is a surge of dramas on tv channels where the female of male protagonist is a confused westernized youth who after having identity crisis for most part of the show becomes a born again muslim in the end. He/she starts to pray 5 times a day the apparent qualification of a good and complete muslim and the show ends. What about a show which goes beyond the ‘Jannamaz.’ Which actually shows a good muslim practicing actual Islam which teaches us that saving one human life is like saving humanity and how for a good muslim, Shias, Sunnis, Ahmadis, Ismailis, Bohris, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Atheists etc. are all equal humans with equal rights to life.
Moreover, a word to our celebrated news anchors dedicate endless hours of prime time television making us sit and get sermons from the likes of Mr. Zaid Hamid who tells us how our neighboring is a living hell for the Dalits, the Sikhs of Khalistan, the Naxalites, the muslims of Gujrat and the people of Assam. Not for any religious or political beliefs but purely out of the need of sincere and honest journalism do justice to the opportunity you have and use your precious analytical minds for making us more aware of the problems of the people of Pakistan and their respective solutions. Quit living in a state of disbelief and calling this country ‘Madina-e-Sani.’
As to the people, who believe in freedom of religion, Online Petitions may get the Government to take some positive steps for the time being but this country needs an overhaul. Take your passion to the polling booths next year. Encourage your friends to not just like your ‘status update’ about the vision of a better Pakistan but actually go and vote for one on Election Day.
I dedicate this blog to the memory and vision of Jinnah, a minority and the Father of this country (using the adjective of ‘nation’ seems misplaced at this time.)