Clarion Call

Jawaid IqbalWhen it comes to minorities, particularly the religious ones, the track record of the South Asian region is well below the median by way of equity and just treatment. Be it India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, or even Pakistan, what these densely-populated South Asian countries have in common is the poor state of their religious minorities, devoid of most of their rights and citizenship privileges as enjoyed by those of the members of the majority, and without assets on which the minorities may depend upon for their social and economic well-being, that too without any fear of persecution and oppression. The tragedy that recently took place in Jaranwala, a small city located in the Faisalabad District of Punjab, serves as a grim reminder of how low the majority may stoop to invade and vandalise the sacred places of worship and put them on fire, together with scores of houses owned by the members of a particularly religious community, namely the Christians. The Jaranwala disaster cannot be referred to as merely a one-time reaction as violently shown by the specific religious majority; it is, in fact, an outcome of a host of interconnected factors and raises many a nuanced question about the decades-long state policies aimed at mollycoddling extreme and hate-fuelled majoritarianism, basking in the sunshine of off-base collective megalomania, a sense of the supremacy, or delusion of grandeur spoon-fed to the masses through the pulpit, along with mainstream media outlets.

One wonders why is the level of fanaticism and monomania, coupled with hatred against minorities, increasing as time passes by. This question has been in the minds of the minorities for a long time, and whenever there is an incident against them in the country, they are forced to think about how to convince the majority that they, too, are Pakistanis and have equal rights, dignity, and protection under the law, while the state is primarily responsible for ensuring their equality and religious freedom. In the recent Jaranwala incident, the same story as the past incidents was repeated and after the desecration of the Holy Quran, the Christian settlements were destroyed without any prior investigation and knowing the facts. On August 26, the state was missing from the scene when a violent mob of hundreds freely ransacked, vandalised, and torched all but two dozen churches. To make matters worse, they even attacked the residences of members of the Christian community and continued to do so until the issue hit the media headlines. When the mob was getting angry, then realising the seriousness of the matter, why weren’t more police and Rangers personnel called? In the videos related to the Jaranwala tragedy, one thing was even more regrettable that small children were also involved in the violent attack, vandalism and arson, which is a matter of concern that extremism has been instilled in the minds of these young children, despite that fact the majority of the country believes in a religion that teaches love, brotherhood and peace.

One can see that ever since Pakistan came into existence, the country’s minorities have been trying their best to prove their patriotic credentials. Even though the share of minorities is significant in every sector in the country, but still making them feel that they belong to a minority group and thus are weaker in strength, then the formidable majority can do anything with them with a ubiquitous license to kill. The Jaranwala incident speaks volumes of the fact that, certainly, the country is not a place to be, particularly if you belong to a religious minority. Taking this as a clarion call, adequate steps should be taken to protect the places of worship, houses, schools, and hospitals of the minorities, and every effort should be made to dispel the impression that minorities are insecure in this country.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal
President & Editor in Chief