Problem of minorities in Pak rooted in active societal discrimination: Editorial
Reacting to a report released by the National Commission of Justice and Peace, which stated that quite a number of places of worship belonging to minority communities were vandalized in the country during the current year, an editorial in a Pakistani daily has said that the problem is not just of legal indifference to the rights of minorities but of active societal discrimination.
According to the NCJP report, at least nine different places of worship, including five churches, one temple and one Ahmadi place of worship, have been destroyed this year. Of the nine, eight were attacked by mobs while the Ahmadi place of worship was dismantled by the police.
The editorial in The Express Tribune said that the double standard here is glaring. Authorities dare not take action against mosques that may have violated building codes and are patently unsafe or those built on encroached land. And, just a few days ago, the Punjab government backed down from a proposal to charge mosques the same rate for gas as others are charged. Meanwhile, minorities have to worry about their lives each time they enter their places of worship, it said.
A combination of factors makes it all but impossible for minorities to receive the same rights as those of the majority faith. Religious intolerance in society is often exploited by those who have more worldly aims, the editorial said. Often, opportunists are looking simply to take over lucrative land and hence whip up sentiment against minority groups to take over their property. The police, unwilling to get involved in ostensibly religious disputes, simply step aside and even refuse to register cases. Once religious fervour has been tapped, prosecutors and judges are too afraid to do their jobs properly. At every level of society, both civil and official, fear and bigotry end up ruling, it added.
It is too easy to say that the state needs to start protecting the rights of minorities when there is a distinct lack of leadership on the issue. If change is going to come it will be painfully slow because it requires society to change itself, to stop giving into its worst instincts and finally learn the value of humanity, it said. It requires a revolution in education where bigotry is replaced by tolerance. Pakistanis can only change society if they first change themselves from within, it concluded.