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Minorities rights in Pakistan | M.A Jinnah

The Forgotten Words of M.A Jinnah | Minorities in Pakistan

“You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed- that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
These words of M.A Jinnah are written on the dusty pages in history of Pakistan, hypothesized while addressing to the Constituent Assembly on 11th August, 1947.These very words emphasized on Quaid’s vision of Pakistan and indelible sacrifices that minorities had made in the way of acquiring separate homeland for the impoverished minorities of the subcontinent. But, this vision of Quaid about pluralist democracy with majority of Muslims eroded away with the passage of unwavering time; forthcoming leaders after the death of Jinnah made policies shortsightedly, which plunged the country into religious discrimination, communal riots hinged on religion, language, color and creed.

Evidently, Pakistan is home to many religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Kalasha; community in Chitral, and minority sects of Muslims akin Shia, Ahmadis than majority Sunnis. These mistreated minorities have unwavering sacrifices in acquiring independence from British Raj and Hindu’s majority. After independence, when Muslims refugees were coming to newly Republic, the Christian Community came forward for their help. Christian Community of India felt closer to Muslim League than Congress; Christians are the people of the Book so religious affinity always existed among them.

Firstly, let’s recall unprecedented sacrifices made by minorities as Christian Community along with other minorities representatives stood strong headed with their courageous leader Jinnah throughout the arduous journey of independence. On 3 Feb, 1948, Quaid, in response to Parsi Community spasnama, assured that Pakistan is the fulfillment of the dream of a nation which found itself a minority in the subcontinent. Therefore, Pakistan cannot forget the minorities living within its borders. He told Christian Parliamentarians on 20th Nov, 1942, ‘If you help the Muslim League to make Pakistan, we will not forget you after Pakistan comes into existence, the Muslims will never forget your contributions. The Christian minority will be a sacred trust for us and the protection of their lives and properties will be our duties.’

Subsequently, appearing before the Boundary Commission on the behalf of Joint Christian Board Mr. S P Singha, who was the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, emphasized Christians’ feelings of affinity and solidarity with the Muslims, he said, ‘Our people have been living with Muslims over long time, they trust Muslims, they dress like Muslims… with Muslims they have religious affinity.’
On 11th Oct, 1947 speaking to the Armed Forces Jinnah said that one question which had been going through his head was the treatment of minorities. He said he would repeat it again and again that, ‘we will treat minorities with justice.’

After creation of Pakistan minorities contributed to make the country strong and powerful as Christian have played prominent role in the Armed Forces; the Pakistan Army has a list of 52 officers and soldiers who have laid their lives to protect the honor of the motherland. Recently, the member of Hindu Community has started to join Pakistan Army; Pakistan Army has appointed first-ever Hindu Officer Dr. Kalesh Garvada a Major in the Ministery of Defence.
In the field of Education minorities have done splendid job as they have built institutions which enlightened thousands of students who later on became president, army chiefs and many ministers. These Institutions include FC College Lahore, Murray College Sialkot, Gordon College Rawalpindi and Edwardes College in Peshawar. The Missionary Schools were famous for their high standards of education; many ministers started learning their alphabets in those schools.

Additionally, in the arena of medicine, once there was a time in the turbulent history that Christian Women monopolized the profession of nurses and helped the medical profession to stand on its feet in the newly independent republic.

One name which ultimately comes into mind is Dr. Ruth Pfau; who was German Pakistani nun, who dedicated her life eradicating leprosy in Pakistan. She is describes as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa; it was her struggle that Pakistan was declared leprosy-free country in 1996. She has been awarded with many distinguish awards by Pakistan’s Government and is remembered in golden words.

After all the unprecedented contributions, Muslims in return, gave them discrimination, status of second class citizens, social marginalization, forcibly marriages, vandalism of their belongings, based on personal vendettas, and vicious poverty. This process of discrimination started in 1949, when an attempt was made to declare minorities second class citizens under the banner of Liaqat Ali Khan in Objective Resolution; Suresh Chandar Chattopadhiya opposed this resolution in the parliament. While doing so Muslims were given free hand which left minorities handicapped.

Also, 1953 riots against Ahmadis erupted which left the newly made country on the brink of extremism; 2000 Ahmadis were slaughtered until Martial Law was imposed in Lahore. The words of M.A Jinnah were forgotten long ago, after his demise. Forthcoming leaders left no stone unturned to curb the minorities and their social status. In the era of Z.A Butto and Gen. Zia, Ahmadis were literally declared non-Muslim. In the turbulent history of Pakistan politicians used Islam and Islamic Laws as tools to mainstream their politics, which in result, has left the country in religious extremism, terrorism, misused blasphemy laws and turmoil has eroded the social fabric of the societies. The Asia Bibi case, which lead to the murder of Salman Taseer in 2010, the murder of Sri Lankan Priyantha Kumar in Dec 3, 2021 and recent Jaranwala incident disrepute the country enough on international level.

In summarization, throughout the dusty pages of history in Pakistan, minorities remained disenfranchised in society; deprived of fundamental constitutional rights, irrespective of their unprecedented contributions towards Pakistan. We have forgotten the words of M.A Jinnah, chosen different path for nation instead of pluralist democracy; embarked on the way of politics based on personal scores ignoring nation wholeheartedly. If we continue to do so, will be left behind than fast growing economies and if we continue to undo the rights of our minorities, based on religion as well as personal vendettas, our forthcoming generation will end up solving these issues. As Bhagat Singh said;

“Agar ye khita mazhab ke naam par taqseem hua to nafrat ki iss aag ko bhujate bhujate aanay wali naslon ki kamar toot jaegi.” (If this land is divided in the name of faith, a tidal wave of hate so enormous will erupt that generations will be engulfed by it.) — Bhagat Singh

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Muhammad Usman is a student of Sociology at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.