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Pakistan's minorities fleeing over denial of religious freedom

News Agencies | Updated on: 17 January 2018, 16:17 IST
Pakistan Flag (ANI)

Growing extremism and religious intolerance are leading to thousands of Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus reportedly fleeing Pakistan.

Government inaction in countering religious harassment by Islamic groups has caused considerable heartburn. Even atheists are being targeted.

The Ahmadiyya community is an endangered community in Pakistan in spite of being an Islamic sect, and has been a target of death threats openly.

Excommunicated by the second amendment to Pakistan's Constitution in 1974, the Ahmadiyyas have faced a severe backlash over the initial changes made regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwat (finality of prophethood) in the Elections Reforms Bill passed in October. According to the Pakistan Penal Code, an Ahmadi can be imprisoned for reading the Koran or even using Islamic titles, says a report published in the Asia Times.

The daily quotes Ahmadiyya spokesperson Saleem Uddin, as saying that the Ahmadis have been made scapegoats since the state of Pakistan was created in 1947, and added that people have forgotten the community's contribution in creating the country post-partition.

Atheists are another category of Pakistani citizens who are at huge risk, so much so that many of them have now deactivated their profiles over fears of being abducted. They also do not see their homes or the internet as safe spaces where they can share ideas.

Local atheists can pass off as Muslims, but Hindus and Christians are visible targets, as can be seen by the recent suicide bomb attack inside the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta.

Threats by Muslim radicals have prompted innumerable Christians to flee Pakistan and look for asylum elsewhere.

The fate of Hindus is no different according to the Asia Times article. They too are seeking shelter abroad.

PML-N Senator Ramesh Kumar was quoted, as saying, "around 5,000 Hindus leave Pakistan every year" because of the extensive persecution. This includes forced marriages and kidnapping for ransom, as well as attacks on Hindu temples.

"Hatred against Hindus, primarily driven from the ideology of Two-Nation Theory, is deeply injected in the veins of raw minds through distorted history and fabricated tales taught in books," the daily quotes Pakistani human rights activist Kapil Dev, as saying.

Calls for filtering out religion and distorted versions of history promoting hatred against Hindus are being made more frequently.

Activists want to counter radical Islamist perspectives with a secular narrative, but Ibn Abdur Rehman, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, doesn't see it happening anytime soon.

He told Asia Times. "The state has surrendered to the radical Islamists and plans on gradually taking away every last bit of freedom from its citizens."


First published: 17 January 2018, 16:17 IST