Since Pakistan’s inception, the state of religious freedom remained under constant threat. Religious minorities continued
to face discrimination and persecution, such as misuse of the anti-blasphemy law, forced conversions of non-Muslims girls, and enforced disappearances. Before forming the government, Khan promised, in particular, the protection of minorities and equal justice
to every citizen regardless of one’s faith and ethnicity.
Pakistan is culturally, ethnically, linguistically, and religiously
diverse. Muslims constitute 96.28 percent of the country’s population, whereas Christians are 1.59 percent and Hindus 1.60 percent. Among Muslims, minority sects include Shias, Ismailis, Ahmadis, and Bohris. Shias make up a sizeable proportion of the
Muslim population, roughly 15 to 20 percent; the Ahmadiyya community constitutes just 0.22 percent. However, this figure could easily be contested as many followers of the Ahmadiyya faith do not publicly identify themselves as Ahmadis due to fear of persecution.
According to the Center for Research and Security Studies’ “Annual Security Report 2019,” in that year alone
28 Shias and two Ahmadis were killed in targeted attacks due to their faith. Another 57 Shias and one Christian were injured in 2019. According to this author’s research, there have been at least five attacks on Ahmadiyya places of worship since August
2018, two at Hindu temples, and one at a Christian church. There have also been 13 blasphemy cases filed against Ahmadis, nine against Christians, two against Hindus, and one against a Shia in the same time period.
Shias have continued to suffer
violent attacks in different parts of Pakistan. In particular, the Shia Hazara community, mainly based in Quetta, Balochistan, was frequently targeted by militants. Shias are also the first religious minority to witness the enforced disappearances of their
community members. The issue of enforced disappearance, which has spread all over Pakistan, is not a new phenomenon.
Violence and discrimination against the Christian community continued in 2019 in the shape of casualties, harassment, and blasphemy
The Ahmadiyya community has remained under constant attack, subjected to violence and discrimination. The authorities were unable to stop the rising hatred against the community even on digital platforms. Ahmadiyya places of worships
remained under attack. On February 6, 2020, a group of people stormed and forcibly occupied a 100-year-old Ahmadiyya mosque in Kasur, Punjab. Succumbing to pressure, the local authorities deprived Ahmadis and handed the mosque over to hardliners.
political economy of violence against religious minorities is a peculiar phenomenon that might not make sense without analysing the role of the military. The Pakistan military has a long history of supporting extremist groups, using them as proxies both externally
and internally. More importantly, Pakistan is a hybrid regime, sometimes described as hybrid-martial law, where the military holds real power and runs the country through the parliament by installing or selecting a civilian leadership. Therefore,
blaming or holding a civilian government accountable serves little purpose when they have very limited powers. The religious freedom in Pakistan has remained under constant threat since inception and their attitude cannot change immediately. This leaves minorities
to wonder: If Khan is unable discipline his own country, how could he protect minorities from other forces?
11 Jul 20/Saturday
Written By: Saima Ibrahim