Region

Suppressed Voices

The minorities in Pakistan continue to feel discriminated against and their sense of insecurity is increasing. Their deprivations are legal, political, religious and social.

By Hooriya Mujtaba | March 2021

Suppressed-Voices

Pakistan is a conglomerate of many ethnic communities with different beliefs and religions. It is a land rich in diversity. Yet, when we refer to Pakistan, we intentionally exclude a large section of Pakistanis. The irony is ever so evident as Pakistan is ranked foremost as a country where minorities are treated in contradiction to their secured rights laid bare in the Constitution under Article 36 protection of minorities and Article 14 right to dignity. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, conditions related to religious freedom in Pakistan continue to trend negatively. There is systematic enforcement of blasphemy, persecution and forced conversion of other religious minorities. The authorities fail to address these issues which severely restricts freedom of religion or belief.

The tragic plight of the Hazara community in Balochistan is one of many such incidents where it has been made clear that if you do not fall within the ambit of the accepted stronghold of representatives, you are marginalized. It’s a signal that they are not Pakistani because to be a minority is to be overlooked, unheard and unimportant.

Article 1 of the Constitution of Pakistan declares the State is to be known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Article 2 reiterates Islam as the state religion. As the country was made in the name of Islam, though created as a secular sovereign state influenced by a parliamentary form of government, Pakistan was placed in the precarious situation of addressing the role of religion within the state. The multiple attempts at reforms aiming to create a democratic state based on western ideologies but to retain fundamental Islamic principles have been ambiguous and intensely criticized. History has shown that we have slowly, but surely, slipped into a spiral of attempting to reassert our religious stance over all else. The result of this has been a source of vehement conflict for religious minorities.

The censorship laws and regulations in Pakistan are one such source of oppression. Though guised as a democracy, such laws elude to a fa√ßade which practically tantamounts to authoritarian rule.‚ÄúCensorship reflects a society‚Äôs lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Ginzberg v. the United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966). Censorship can be formally defined as the ‚Äúsuppression of ideas and information that certain persons ‚Äď individuals, groups, or government officials ‚Äď find objectionable or dangerous.‚ÄĚ

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