Wednesday, 1 March 2017

I Beg to Differ



Various cities in the upper parts of Pakistan were jolts by earthquake tremors on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. I heard one of my friend saying that God is angry with us and thus there are earthquakes and other natural disasters etc.  It is common practice in Pakistani society; especially Muslim prayer leader decry in Friday prayer sermon counting the possible reasons why God is angry and reasons of natural disasters. The major reasons quoted are: selling alcohol, committing adultery especially during Ramanza, Women going out for shopping in the markets, co-education system and youth using mobile phones and latest technology. These are botched up priorities and it is very painful to see the priority list of do’s and don’ts of the Moulana’s.

Looking analytically, what is agonizing is when mentioning sins, the sin of telling lie, cheating, hypocrisy, bribery, killing poor and innocent people, injustice from bottom to top, child abuse even in Madrisas (seminaries), adulteration of foodstuff and medicines are conveniently overlooked by the religious leadership and elders of the society. I am not supporter to those mentioned above but we can realize that selling wine would be one or few persons rest are teetotalers. Fornication would an individual act so how comes so grave a sin in the whole society. These could be sins but major sins are overlooked and moulana sahib straight away jumps to mention drinking, dancing, modern dressing and using cell phones etc etc.

For those who believe, actually God is unhappy because of our botched up priorities. Bribery is now accepted as norm, people give false testimony in sensitive legal cases like blasphemy and then proudly mention it to others. (It is pertain to mention that for giving testimony usually oath is taken on Religious books) Telling lies has become a regular affair and being truthful and righteous is considered a weakness. Discrimination and in-equality against special segment of the society. And thus God is unhappy and keeps warning us to sort out our priorities.

Superiority complex and force imposition have made this world hell. There is no peace, stability, security and equality in the society. Freedom of speech is merely seen in papers but claimed all over. The poor is becoming poorer and rich is more rich. Thus poor especially religious minorities are at risk. Hundreds of individuals have been falsely accused because of property disputes or personal vengeance. Blasphemy laws put Christians and other religious minorities at risk. Discriminatory laws restricted minorities’ representatives to grow in all avenues of life. Touching Quran or any other book of Islam, expressing or publishing atheistic opinions and preaching of other religion are consider as crime in Pakistan. Christians are often falsely accused of participating in these activities, but in and of themselves these laws are unjust constraints on religious freedom.


Christians and other religious minorities should be free to exercise their religion without fear of unjust persecution. This has to end, we must not rest until there is peace, security and equality for Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. This creates a stigma which condemns religious minorities to live under the permanent threat of death. The lives of poor hang on a very thin thread. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Power of interfaith transforms fear, anger & hatred into positive human relationship: Diplomats

ISLAMABAD: Diplomats based in the federal capital have highlighted the fact that prevailing world security situation has necessitated need of interfaith harmony to convert the world into a better living place. It is high time for power of interfaith to work effectively to transform fear, anger and hatred into positive human relationship”.
Mr. Piotr Opalinski (Ambassador of Poland) speaking at the event 
Addressing a seminar titled “World Interfaith Harmony Week 2017” organized under the banner of “Parliament of the World’s Religions” the Ambassador of Poland H.E Piotr Opalinski said that every person reserved the very right to manifest his religion or belief either individually or in community, with others and in public or private in worship, observance, practice and teaching without fear of intimidation, discrimination, violence or attack.

Piotr Opalinski reiterated that freedom of religion or belief was fundamental right of every human being.

Ms. Marshal Anne, deputy head of European Delegation

Ms. Marshal Anne, deputy head of European Delegation said that in the line with universal and EU human rights are committed to respecting, protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief within their borders.
Mr. Joao Paulo Sabido Costa, Charged' Affair of Portugal 









While speaking at the occasion H.E Joao Paulo Sabido Costa, Charged’ Affair of Portugal proclaimed that States have a duty to protect all persons within their jurisdiction from direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of religion o belief, whatever the reason advanced for such discrimination.

Mr. Shamim Masih, Ambassador of Parliament of the World's Religions





Ambassador of “Parliament of the World’s Religion” Mr. Shamim said that limitations to this freedom have to be strictly interpreted. He said that minorities have been increasingly targeted in hate in the country. Faiths do not bind in limits but allows social harmony and mutual tolerance for a better and progressive society. It is need of the day to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people from all faiths, he added.

Ms. Sadia Rathor

Reference to the General Assembly resolution adopted on 20th October, 2010, the Parliament of the World’s Religions has organized “World Interfaith Harmony Week” to promote mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue to establish interfaith harmony.
Mr. Haroon Sarab (Hindu Rights Activist)


Members of civil society, religious leadership, media personal and diplomats have attended the event. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Strangers in the Town

Islamabad: Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947; and probably fourth generation celebrating its independence now. During the struggle for an independent country, the history is witness that Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Jews that lived in Muslim dominated regions of undivided India supported Jinnah’s vision and worked hard for a separate homeland, Pakistan. A prominent Christian politician Dewan Bhader S P Singha voted for Pakistan and thus this country can emerge on the map of the world. The most notable and influential Hindu figure in the Pakistan Movement was Jogendra Nath Mandal from Bengal. Jagannath Azad was from the Urdu speaking belt. Mandal represented the Hindu contingent calling for an independent Pakistan, and was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. Leading Indian Christian like Pothan Joseph had rendered valuable services as journalists and propagandists of the Muslim League. That means that all communities have played its role for a dreamland. But unfortunately the dreams didn’t come true for minorities of Pakistan.
During early days of founder of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah, every citizen had enjoyed equal rights but gradually things have been changed. Jinnah had repeatedly promised all citizens of Pakistan complete equality of citizenship, but this promise was not kept by his successors. After the independence, Mandal was given ministries of Law, Justice, and work-force by Jinnah in Liaqat Ali Khan’s government. He, however, realized his folly in 1950, when some lower caste Hindus were killed in clashes in East Bengal, generating a wave of refugees to India. He himself fled to India and submitted his resignation to Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Since then minorities of the country has been considered as strangers and bureaucracy and administration treated them as second class citizen of Pakistan. By time to time, legislators, bureaucracy and Mulliasm proved through their acts that they do not own minorities. Series of unforgettable attacks on minorities and discriminatory attitude pushed many of them to re-settle abroad.
During the past seven decades nobody ever realized to bring them on mainstream. Rather keep on persecuting physically and mentally. For example, making educational calendars has become quite a difficult job in Pakistan. One has to give careful consideration especially on religious occasions like Eids, Ashura, in addition to weather conditions and public holidays. Usually no such activities like examinations (semester, term or annual) are scheduled in these days.
Unfortunately no such courtesy is extended to minorities. Throughout the life of Pakistan minorities have to battle with school authorities for ignoring their festivals. At times minorities’ children had to miss term papers or monthly tests in order to attend their occasions. A sizable number of minority students appear in these tests and many of them represent from the remote areas. Most students especially girls, are accompanied by their family members while travelling to main cities. People who have travelled on Eid can understand painful is to travel on such festive days. Christmas, Eastor, Diwali, and other events of minorities are ignored since independence. The authorities concerned should make a better plan to help those who suffer on these counts.
Mandal’s support for Muslim League, his sacrifices for Pakistan, and his love for Muslims cannot be discredited. His ill-treatment at the hands of a bureaucrat is a dark chapter in our history. In Pakistan, there still exist many Jogendras who exhausted their energies in vain to prove that they as patriotic as everyone else.

In the present situation, I should say, it is not only unsatisfactory but absolutely hopeless and that the future seems completely dark and dismal. Confidence of the minorities in Pakistan has not been restored in the least.

Pakistani Christians with false hopes of refugee status


ISLAMABAD: Religious extremism has gone to its peak since Afghan refugees entered in Pakistan. Due to the terrorism Pakistan lost thousands of its precious lives and properties. Religious banned outfits attacked on schools, worship places, parks and even on law enforcement agencies and their places. In the past years those militant organizations have targeted the religious minorities especially Christians. In the latest episode four suicide bombers, wearing suicide vests and carrying latest firearms attacked on Christian Colony, Warsak Dam, Peshawar but due to the prompt action by the security forces they were saved.
The Army Chief General Raheel Sharif played aggressive role in combating terrorism in Pakistan and due his proactive approach the ratio has been decreased. According to the recent statement by DG ISPR Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa, “Pakistan Army has eliminated the militants groups in the country.” But the very next day, the spokesperson for TTP JA, Ehsanullah Ehsan said, “We have carried out the attack.” He said the attack was a response to the Army’s spokesperson (Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa’s) press Conference who said yesterday that militant groups had been eliminated.
Religious minorities in Pakistan are already persecuted under stringent blasphemy law. Since military dictator General Zia ul Haq added new clauses in the law, minorities in the country feel insecure. And usually this law is misused and resultantly many people including Muslims either being killed or suffering in the prisons. In this critical condition, militants groups turned to attack Christians. Twin blasts in the Peshawar Church killed more than 80 worshipers and left many injured. Two churches were attacked in Youhanabad, Lahore that killed dozens of worshipers and many were injured. Later on the occasion of Easter festivity, suicide bomb blast in Iqbal Park, Lahore killed many innocent people.
In this itchy living environment, four years back persecuted Pakistani Christians started reaching Thailand seeking resettlement in the West. Thailand was one of the few countries that allow Pakistani easy entry as tourists. And nearly 10,000 Pakistani have been gathered in Bangkok, and now most of them are living an underground existence. Alas, the UNHCR offered false hope. The typical refugee waits years just for an interview, the first step to receiving official refugee status. So far, no one among them has moved on to Europe, America or anywhere else.
In the meantime, Pakistan Today reported that the Hong Kong delegation had contacted the Interior Ministry to take up the issue of increasing number of illegal Pakistani immigrants sneaking entry into Hong Kong with false hopes of “refugee status”. According to the sources, Thai government did the same about the Pakistani immegrants. Religious minorities in Pakistan face persecution. Christians are disproportionately targeted by blasphemy laws, often as retaliation for commercial and personal disputes. Sectarian murderers are publicly supported and applauded. Public response after the hang of Mumtaz Qadri is common example. Government has failed to protect victims and a “deep-rooted climate of impunity.”
Discriminatory attitude, sectarian threats and attacks drove many Christians from their homes. Asylum seekers are struck in Thailand and other neighboring countries and endure a tenuous existence. On arrival the UNHCR typically gives them an appointment set a year or two in the future; the date often is delayed as the appointment approaches. Once the visa expires, the asylum hopefuls are unable to work legally and subject to arrest whenever they leave home. The Thai authorities stake out neighborhoods and raid apartments where refugees are believed to live. Hundreds of unlucky asylum seekers have been ended up in detention and some even died during the mean time.
Some welfare organizations do their best to help refugees, providing food, sundries and legal aid. But those can only assist a limited number of families. Many of the families flow ebbed after word returned to Pakistan that there is no easy exit from Thailand, those already arrived are essentially trapped. They have sold their possessions. But they see no path forward either.

The European and the U.S. have accommodated millions of Afghan, Syrians and Egyptian Muslims in their countries; resultantly facing terrorist attacks in their countries.  Why can’t they bear the people with the same faith and values? The only feasible solution is that the UNHCR High Commissioner is supposed to make a designation with 90 days and should take up this issue on priority bases. And the U.S. and other European Countries should admit people who are not only in desperate need, but “who share the same faith and values” as the people persecuted for their faith are among the best candidates to receive asylum. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Scorching heat, Ramadan and Pakistani minorities

Scorching heat, Ramadan and Pakistani minorities

ISLAMABAD: Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a Muslim dominated country, where, it is imposed to respect Islam and if any one talk about its force imposition, it can be consider as blasphemy. Minorities of the country are already living under the 24/7 threats and being dealt as second class citizen. Many people are being indulged in blasphemy laws and thousands have been facing such an insulting environment that made their life hell. Discrimination and hate are daily routine matters, at work place, public place, eating place and other areas. Though protection is given in the constitutions but ground realities are different.
This evening, when every Muslim was greeting each others for the blessings of Ramadan, I was thinking about the minorities of Pakistan because willing or unwillingly, minorities’ living in Pakistan have to fast with their fellow Muslims, means law of the country force everyone to go hungry during the month of
Ramadan. In Pakistan, it is unlawful to drink, eat or smoke in public places during Ramadan. You can be sent to jail, heavily fined or may even be beaten by vigilantes. Its peak heat wave in Pakistan during June, with temperatures rises in the different regions routinely around 40 and above degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and days at their longest of the year, governments are trying to alleviate the hardships of the month long sunrise-to-sunrise fast.
Last year, a brutal heat wave killed dozens of people in Pakistan. Many of them died of dehydration while fasting in sweltering temperatures. Even then the respect of Ramadan is mandatory for all citizens of Pakistan.
During the military dictator Zia ul Haq Ehtiram-e-Ramadan (Respect of Ramadan) bill was imposed that prescribes punishments of up to three months in jail and a fine for people who drink or eat publicly. According to the tenets of Islam, is under an obligation to fast shall not eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramadan, the law says.
Nearly every restaurant is closed from dawn to dusk, and shopkeeper can only sell take away food items.  And if you are hungry or thirsty the only place for you is home. At offices, public and private places are not allowed to eat.
Basharat Khokher, social activist said that the law is inhuman and violates the fundamental human rights. Those who want to fast have the right to do so, but those who don’t want to fast have equal rights. I am religious and respect Ramadan, but it also is not intended to make you sick or put you in danger. Sometimes it’s so hot, that we can’t touch the metal poles on the scaffolding without gloves. A laborer cannot work in these conditions without water, he added.
“We cannot allow the liberal people to secularize our country, our society,” said Omar Bhatti, a student of Islamic research. “The respect of Ramadan is mandatory for all citizens of Pakistan. There can’t be any compromise on it.” As for religious minorities; they live in an Islamic country and must have to obey its rules.”
Those who do not fast should behave as if they are fasting, Qari Abdul Qadir, a cleric said. “Non-Muslims and elderly or sick Muslims can eat but they should show respect for fasting Muslims and avoid eating or drinking openly” he said.
With the growth of Islamic outfits such as Taliban and it’s representation in the region, situation have become worse in the past years. Religious extremism and intolerance are on the rise in this region. Now even hospital cafeterias and bus stands don’t serve food during Ramadan. And if someone found around eating or drinking might accuse of blasphemy.
Maryam Khushi, a beautician, said forget about Ramadan, I have to be careful about what I do in public throughout the year. What I say, what I wear. People become more pious during Ramadan and I have to be more careful, she added.       
Ramzan Qadir, a liberal Muslim in Islamabad, said respect needs to be two-way street. “If the religious people can’t respect my rights, I am not ready to respect theirs. It is simple as that he told. “And when these people go to Europe and the US, they insist on their rights. They protest against veil ban in France, but they don’t allow Christians in Pakistan to live freely. I found it hypocritical.

The tiny liberal community in the country is not powerful enough to challenge the Islamic laws. Occasionally observed, it is not just involving Ramadan, fanatic Muslims have taken law into their hands and had punished Christians and Hindus for a perceived lack of respect of Islam. In either case, minorities of Pakistan have to respect Ramadan.  

Sunday, 29 May 2016

CII curtail women’s right

CII curtail women’s right
CII allowed men to beat women
Few days back, Islamic constitutional body, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has proposed its own women protection bill, recommending ‘a light beating’ for the wife if she defies the husband. This recommendations spark outrage though the CII chairman soften the tone stating ‘violence’ is not permissible in Islam. As he believes that light beating does not mean violence.
Earlier CII rejected Punjab’s controversial Protection of Women against Violence Act (PPWA) terming it un-Islamic and drafted its own bill and will now forward to the Punjab Assembly. However the parliament is not bound to consider its recommendations. The 20-members CII proposed that a husband should be allowed to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuse to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods. The bill also suggested that beating is also permissible if a woman does not observe Hijab; interacts with strangers; speaks loud enough that she can easily be heard by strangers; and provides monetary support to people without taking consent of her spouse.
In a bill of 163-pages there are several bans on women like ban on co-education after primary educations, ban on women from taking part in military combat, ban on welcoming foreign delegations, interacting with males and making recreational visits with ‘Na-Mehram’ (not known), female nurses should not be allowed to take care of male patients and women should be banned from working in advertisements etc….. The CII is a powerful body because of its influence on political system in Pakistan. It advises Pakistani legislature whether laws are in line with the teachings of Islam.      
I don’t know for how long blasphemy laws allow me to speak about Islam or its teaching, but let me tell you; there is difference between women, children and minorities rights and Islamic permission. There are no equal rights for women and other minorities residing in a nation in which the Quran and Sharia Law define culture and society and its rule of law. Women rights given in Islam are the same as recommended by CII. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran are clear examples and so much so Pakistan is another Sunni dominated Islamic country inspired by Saudi Arabia.
A Muslim apologist usually says that Islam is religion of peace and provide the rights for women, children and for the people of the Book like Christian and Jews. The Council must have given Islamic references in support of these recommendations. And I am giving few quotes from Quran about how Islam deal with other minorities, which one of my US friends quoted.   
Quotes of Quran from “The Quran and Christianity” (6/23/16):
In the Quran, Christians are generally referred to as “people of the book” and then in the various suras and ayahs (or chapters and verses) a number of references are made. In 2:120, “Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you till you follow their religion. Say: ‘Verily, Islamic Guidance is the only Guidance. And if you were to follow their desires after what you have received of Knowledge, then you would have against Allah neither any protector nor helper.”

In 3:56: “As to those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe torment in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers." In 3:85: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” In 3:118: “O you who believe! Take not as your helpers or friends those outside your religion since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed we have made plain to you the verses if you understand.”

3:178 states: “And let not the disbelievers think that our postponing of their punishment is good for them. We postpone the punishment only so that they may increase in sinfulness. And for them is a disgracing torment”. Hardly encouraging for the basis for a peaceful co-existence and a comfortable pluralism

Muslim love of the Quran that tells them to physically coerce non-Muslims through humiliation to convert or to kill them if they insult Islam or its prophet Mohammad is a dooms day promise toward Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.
CII recommendations could rightly be according to Islam but legislature is not bound to obey it. Religions is one’s own dealing with his creator but State deals with every individual’s matter and have to protect every citizen. Today, anyone can construct mosque, synagogue or temple in US or any Christian majority country and can worship according to his faith but not in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even if someone says that constitution of Pakistan protect the rights of minorities but on ground situation is totally different, Jews cannot even proclaim their faith in Pakistan. And we are witness to the number of attacks on churches and temples and on minorities in the country.         
Decades back, Christian majority countries have separated Church from the State matters. First amendment to the United States Constitution includes a clause that calls for the separation of church and state. Many people now espouse the belief that American government was designed to include “an impenetrable wall” separating church and state. Reason would have been same the domination of religious leadership supervision over the state matters. One should learn a lesson from the history, and may be tomorrow we will come up with the conclusion to do so, if we want to survive.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Join hands to save the lives of Pakistani Christians Way out to long sufferings


Join hands to save the lives of Pakistani Christians
Way out to long sufferings

Islamabad: 7 And the Lord said:  “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 1:7-10)

The world has seen surly seen the oppression of Christians living in Pakistan. Since Zia’s regime, there are more than 1400 blasphemy cases registered and thousands of the Christians girls have faced force conversions and huge numbers of persecution cases were registered against religious minorities. According to the sources more than sixty people accused of blasphemy were killed before their respective trails were over though the death sentence has never been implemented.
Infect before partition of Indo-Pak, this section was introduce in 1860 and was meant to prevent religious violence. Prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported. But later it is being used to settle personal secures. And thus minorities of the country have been facing persecution under this unsympathetic blasphemy law.

To me persecution of Pakistani Christians is aligned with other issues as well like poverty. There are different options to get rid of long sufferings. Being an optimistic, here are few recommendations, and I feel this is workable and can minimize the level of persecution. Major portion of this marginalized community lives in outskirts under below poverty line. Ninety percent of poor girls work as maid and thus become victim of domestic violence or being rapped and thus being forcefully married and are asked to convert to Islam. Major portion of youth is unemployed or work as laborer with low salary or bounded labor. Practically speaking, any Christian working under Muslim bosses face discrimination in/on regular bases. Even Isfan Yar Bhandara (minority parliamentarian) confessed that minority parliamentarian receive discriminatory development funds in the lower house.

Education is the first and foremost priority, go to school is right of every child and to ensure the provision of education facility can fix the problem. Church based institutions and other buildings can be used to educate the Christian community. Big donor agencies can take this initiative and I assure you after fifteen years, things would miraculously change. Drop out ratio has gone to higher ever since because standard of the public school education cannot meet the required result and education at private sector is much expensive.     

So provision of better employment opportunities to the marginalized segment of society is the only solution for better future. There are number of measures one can take to save the skin. For example; providing small loans in establishing their own businesses in livestock, petty trading, agriculture, stitching, embroidery, handicrafts and small scale rural manufacturing can raise living standard of the poor population. This will help them start earning on their own instead of relying continuously on cash grants by some donor agencies/church based organizations. Any interest free loan scheme can alleviate unemployment and poverty from this marginalized segment.


There may be some organizations working on the same issues but we need to take as a challenge and start working at broader level. Otherwise there are number of options youth can chose at their own, that may be destructive not constructive. So I suggest constructive measures can save Pakistani Christians as sense of deprivation is prevailing among the Christian youth in Pakistan. And its alarming situation.