On 19 June, 2014 the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered for the constitution of a national council of minorities’ rights. It was proposed that the council monitor the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the constitution and law. Furthermore, the apex court also ordered the formation of a special task force to protect minorities’ worship places.
9 months down the line, it would be safe to say that the situation has never been any worse for the minorities in the country. The outrage that was caused in the aftermath of the burning of the two men by a Christian mob in Lahore in response to the Church bombings is a perfect illustration of the predicament we face as a society. Though there is no way one can justify the loss of innocent lives, one needs to view the actions of the minority community through the social construction of persecuted groups in the country. For far too long these minority communities have been socially excluded by the state and its people. Be it a gurdwara, church, imambargah, or temple, none of these places of worship is considered safe anymore. The failure to protect minorities and ensure that they be able to safely visit their places of worship as promised by Jinnah is a failure of the state for which it needs to be held accountable.
Why is it that the rights given to these minorities in the constitution do not exist de facto? As preparations are underway to celebrate the 23rd of March, we as a society need to be cognizant of the fact that we, as a society are equally responsible for making the minorities feel that they are perhaps lesser Pakistanis. We as a society have shown that the green in the flag being bigger than the white is how it was meant to be. Moreover, my being apathetic and remaining silent, we have also helped establish the claim that Pakistan truly belongs more to a male, Sunni, Punjabi than the rest. Isn’t violence a natural outlet of frustration when the state of affairs is such? We have failed to hold the state accountable for its treatment of fringe groups and minorities, neither have we challenged the state narrative of propagating interpretations of what it means to belong to a country. There is a dire need for introspection as we need to challenge ourselves to redefine what it means to be a Pakistani. Should we define our nationality on the basis of ethnicity, language and religion? Or is that against the very reason the state was detached from India in the first place? While the state feels that it is more important to put a teenage criminal on death row instead of arresting extremists and hate mongers; this 23rd March, we need to make a pledge to ourselves that as a society, our ideological beliefs need to be shaken and revamped as we redefine what it means to be a Pakistani.