Friday, 14 August 2015

Independence Day

Independence Day
By – Shamim Masih
As Sunni majority Pakistan is celebrating 68th Independence Day, where religious minorities of the country are still living in fear. Pakistan came into being on the basis of odd two nation theory. In spite of living together for centuries, the Hindus and the Muslims were unable to co-operate and co-exist with each other on the basis of religion.  Thus the two nation theory was presented and pretended that there were two different nations living in the sub-continent, who have different religion, culture and social values and back ground and they can never merge with each other; whereas cultural and social values were mostly common other then religion. Therefore Muslim leaders demanded a separate homeland for them.
After years struggle, Mohammad Ali Jinnah succeeded in getting a separate homeland for Muslims of South Asia in 1947. On August 11, 1947, just three days prior to independence, founder of the country made a speech in the constitution assembly and called on Pakistanis not to interject religion into their public lives. The important role of minorities was enshrined in the national flag with a white bar. He said, you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.
Now you see, founding father has set other religions minorities’ free and mentioned religion, caste or creed has nothing to do with the business of the State. But after two decades, an ideological state established in the name of Islam lost its east wing. East Pakistan emerged on the world map as Bangladesh. Unfortunately Pakistan is not independent in true spirit yet; certain mindset person dominates and rule on it. After the partition of the Bangladesh later Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto started discrimination with religious minorities. He declared Ahmadis non-Muslims and managed to sideline the religious minorities nationalizing Christian’s educational and health institutions.
Later a military dictator Gen Zia made strict blasphemy laws and since then more than 1500 blasphemy cases were reported. Sources confirm that 51 blasphemy accused were murdered before their respective trails were over. How come, Pakistan is called truly independent when its religious minorities suffer? Asia Bibi, mother of five, Sawan Masih and Christian Couple in Gojra and many others are still suffering in jail death sentence accused of blasphemy cases. If the constitution gives equal rights to all citizens; why Christian colonies like shanty nager, Sangla Hill, Gojra and Joseph Colony and a church in Mardan city were set ablaze? Christian couple was burnt alive and churches in Bhawalpur, Peshawar and Youhanabad, Lahore were attacked where hundreds worshipers were killed and many were injured. Christians along with other minorities of Pakistan faces discrimination and persecution by the State and fellow citizens. They are routinely been accused of blasphemy and attacked or jailed. Their homes and worship places are burned down. Young girls are kidnapped / rapped and forcefully converted to Islam and married.  
Nazir S Bhatti, president Pakistan Christian Congress – PCC said Pakistan Christians are not free in true sense instead they are gone to slavery. They can’t worship freely and enjoy their life. He said rulers have bulldozed minorities’ basic rights and turned to second citizen of the country. Thus 14th August, does not represent true spirit of the freedom. Albert David, chairman Pakistan United Christian Moment - PUCM, while expressing his view on Independence Day said unfortunately the real freedom and real democracy could not prevail in the country. The government and private sector have failed provide equal rights to minorities in Pakistan. We can even see the discrimination in the legislation. Top most offices in the country are banned for minority representatives. Doors of the President house, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Chief of Army Staff and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are closed for religious minorities.
During Ramadan, all restaurants and other coffee shops are closed, not only this no minority member can eat or drink in an open space. The law is extremely hypocritical and prejudiced not only on a social level, but also on a religious level. It is been preached and guarantee equal rights to minorities in Islam and the constitution of Pakistan, then why religious minorities are deprived to eat in restaurants or at office or any other public place. When it not their religious duty to fast during Ramadan. Enforcing respect of Ramadan by an ordinance is violation of human rights. Isn’t it violation of human rights? Now the time has come that people of Pakistan and the government has to realize that religious observance is usually personal matter, not an insurance plan.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Justice delayed is justice denied

Justice delayed is justice denied
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court of Pakistan Justice Dost Muhammad Khan said during the local ceremony in the twin city, God would judge each person deeds according to His justice; therefore, judges should render expeditions justice to litigant public and earn the pleasure of God.
In June 2009, Asia Noreen, know as Asia Bibi lived in a village of Distt. Sheikhupura had arguments with Muslims women for drinking water in the same cup. She was subsequently accused of insulting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, although she denied but was arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, a judge sentenced her to death. Additionally, a fine of the equivalent of $ 1,000/ was imposed with the verdict and thus mother of five became the first woman condemned to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.  
In October 2014, her death sentence had been confirmed by the Lahore High Court – LHC. A month later, in November 2014, Asia Bibi filed an appeal in the Supreme Court as her final legal recourse, dashing hopes the conviction might be overturned or commuted to a jail term. After five year on the death row, in July 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has suspended her execution given leave to appeal. But no hearing date was set.
The execution of Asia Bibi has been suspended and will remain suspended until the decision of this appeal, her lawyer told media outside the court. However Asia Bibi will remain in jail between life and death. Bibi’s blasphemy case has become the most controversial blasphemy case in the world. Although Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy but some people accused of the offence in the past have been lynched by crowds. Lawyers, judges and those seeking to reform the blasphemy laws have been threatened, attacked or even killed.
Since General Zia ul Haq included the stringent blasphemy law in the constitution violence worsens in Pakistan. Thousands of the people have charged under this law since then. Prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported. According to sources, 51 people accused of blasphemy were murdered before their respective trails were over.
Christians along with other minorities in Pakistan face discrimination and persecution by the state and fellow citizens. They are routinely accused of blasphemy and attacked or jailed. Their homes and churches are burned down; young girls are kidnapped / rapped and are forcefully converted to Islam and married. If I do remember, since Shanti nager violence, Christians find it nearly impossible to get justice from the state when they are harassed or discriminated against.
Since then thousands of the Christians have fled to U.N. refugee camps in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and other countries. Where they are mistreated and see no future even. To acquire Thai and Malaysian visas is not difficult on the other hand European and US don’t allow any Pakistani Christian to entre in fearing they will go for asylum. Thus mostly are refused even if they are genuine.
According to report, the real motive behind the Badamibagh, Lahore incident was personal grudge. But Sawan Masih sentenced to death accusing of blasphemy. Many Christians are behind the bars accused of lynching of Youhanabad. There are many laws and social norms firmly in place to ensure that Christians don’t dare think beyond what is prescribed for them.
This is very unfortunate that judiciary, government and its law enforcement agencies are not serious to resolve minority issues and have failed to protect minorities while parliament had failed to end discrimination among all nations of the country. Is this the country, founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah dreamed for?