Afrah Jamal |
‘Finding a Safe Place for Pakistani Christians’ by Marijana PETIR, Member of the European Parliament – finds systemic persecution in Pakistan’s backyard, implying a clear and present danger to minority groups while bypassing an inclusive society that honors and respects the contributions of its minority communities or a nation that deems the eradication of discriminatory laws and radical ideology an essential pillar of its counter-terrorism policy.
And while there will be no shortage of sensational headlines to propel the bleak narrative – there are enough positive indicators to justify some hope
An impartial review must also consider the state funeral given to a German nun and the national flag flown at half mast as a mark of respect – the military men who carried her casket; remark on the monuments named after Christian martyrs who served their country, meet Roman Catholic Bishops or Franciscan nuns awarded highest honors and note Christian war heroes who are the pride of the nation.
The civil society that formed a human shield around Christian places of worship and became the first line of defense in the aftermath of the Church attacks that appears to have escaped notice should also be included in the final assessment.
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Pakistanis in the crosshair of Extremists
Hair-raising tales of social discrimination and isolation – of being marginalized – as targets of extremist groups, of Churches bombed and innocents hauled up on cooked up blasphemy charges, however, will remain at the forefront. Would that be considered an accurate representation of the Christian community’s plight since the time-frame mentioned also saw mosques, shrines, and seminaries struck by suicide bombers, politicians are slain for defending blasphemy victims and an indiscriminate attack on all aspects of Pakistani life regardless of caste or creed? While it is still a stark view of the region, but at least it’s a fair one.
The article also fixates on the marginalization of Christians or policies that crush their chances of rising above their circumstances. Pakistan, for all its flaws – and there are many – is also where Christians and Muslims stand together to safeguard their borders. It is where a Christian girl serves as Assistant Commissioner Lahore and is a ranking officer in the Army.
The Sakharov award while the conviction of Mashal’s killers and Justice for Sharon Masih would drive the message home for vigilantes and fanatics lurking in the shadows
And where diversity that was once the hallmark of Pakistan’s social fabric can still be detected in its cultural framework. Any caste system in play that violates the tenets of humanity and stands in the way of improvement of the working conditions of the labor class do not escape the hawk-eyed human rights activists tirelessly working to correct the national trajectory.
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Are there gaping holes in the laws that the extremists exploit? Yes. It is true that the infamous blasphemy law now weaponized has been used to target every Pakistani regardless of faith. Because it is open to interpretation and manipulation and therefore open to abuse to settle scores and occasionally deliver mob justice. The murder of a Muslim university student in Mardan by his peers is the most recent example of its gross misuse. That a Christian boy met a similar fate soon after Mashal Khan’s murder merely highlights these fault lines.
The South Koreans who used business credentials as a decoy were reportedly detained by Pakistan but it was for violating the terms of their visa
The presence of hate-filled literature has also been raised that desensitize society and allow such excesses to happen with impunity. Any retelling of the Pakistani state’s apathy and/or complicity needs to factor in all the steps taken to roll back the radicalization, promote inter-faith harmony fueled by the vision of peaceful coexistence and equal rights along with the blowback faced when they attempt to handle live-wire issues. The HEC’s directive advocating for an overhaul of the system demonstrates that they are treating extremism in educational institutes as an imminent threat.
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Such events may confirm people’s worst fears as it captures a society in freefall. The kidnapping of a Chinese couple in Balochistan– subsequent detention of South Koreans who had sponsored them and a local Christian lady incarcerated on questionable charges of blasphemy 7 years ago merely reinforce this narrative.
The Quetta Incident
The abduction of Chinese nationals in Quetta who arrived on business visas and turned out to be preachers has been framed as a conspiracy against missionaries in general and blown out of proportion due to the interior minister’s irresponsible statement that gave the impression that their missionary work inevitably made them legitimate targets. The perception that the tragic death of the Chinese couple was not a travesty is unfortunate in a land where sometimes mosques and churches stand side by side.
The perception that the tragic death of the Chinese couple was not a travesty is unfortunate in a land where sometimes mosques and churches stand side by side
That the couple reportedly refused police escort and wandered freely in a restive province which may have served as a red rag to ISIS or their disciples makes this no less appalling – and operations targeting the terrorist’s hideouts were immediately carried out by Pakistani military.
To date, the circumstances regarding the foreigner’s presence remain shrouded in mystery since the Chinese government has declared the language centre frequented by their people – to be a South Korean front used to recruit Chinese evangelists, The South Koreans who used business credentials as a decoy were reportedly detained by Pakistan but it was for violating the terms of their visa. According to the Christian Post, they were later expelled and not, as the article suggests, condemned to live out the rest of their days in a dark cell.
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While Aasia Bibi’s case remains a primary example of discrimination and injustice – the Muslim Governor (Salman Taseer) who crusaded for her release and gave his life deserves to be acknowledged. Freedom will mark a real triumph over radical forces for a lady who has been nominated for EU religious freedom prize – the Sakharov award while the conviction of Mashal’s killers and Justice for Sharon Masih would drive the message home for vigilantes and fanatics lurking in the shadows and perhaps prove that persecution is not state policy but an unfortunate side effect of archaic laws.
The murder of a Muslim university student in Mardan by his peers is the most recent example of its gross misuse. That a Christian boy met a similar fate soon after Mashal Khan’s murder merely highlights these fault lines
The sentencing of the assassin who murdered Taseer by the anti-terrorism court – ATC suggests that there are some institutes that can take on contentious issues and withstand the backlash of radical forces since judges and lawyers remain vulnerable to their influence/threats.
Though 57 culprits in Mashal’s lynching were later indicted by an ATC, extricating the nation from the web of radicalization will admittedly take time and patience. And while there will be no shortage of sensational headlines to propel the bleak narrative – there are enough positive indicators to justify some hope. China has since proceeded to crack down on similar overseas missions in the aftermath.
Afrah Jamal is a freelance writer. She is the editor of “In Conversation with Legends – History in Session”. She had also been writing for Daily Times, Lahore, and was the editor of Social Pages, Karachi. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.