MINORITIES LAY IN SHADOWS AS SHARIF STEPS TO POWER
ShekinahToday 6th June, 2013: Under the watchful eyes of millions of people at home and abroad, Nawaz Sharif became the first ever Prime Minister for the third times in the history of Pakistan on 5th of June, following a huge electoral win in the general elections on May 11.
His latest come back to the mainstream political landscape after spending more than 8 years in exile is considered by many a feat both on personal and political level after his government was toppled down by a military coup back in 1990s. Mr Sharif was sentenced to prison where he negotiated his exile to Saudia Arabia.
Mr Sharif’s return is hailed by many as a positive change for Pakistan but critics believe that he and his party will have many mountains to cross as the country is buffeted by soaring problems of extremism, fragile economy, energy resources, poverty and unemployment. His party’s emblem of a “lion” has to conquer against all odds to prove stability, peace and prosperity in the region.
During his political campaigns last month he promised to the Pakistani Nation that he will bring change in the lives of people, by making jobs and pave the way to prosperity and development.
It was interesting to observe that Mr Sharif’s political campaigns covered all most all issues in Pakistan apart from Minorities which remained cold on his political plate apart from gracing them with a hint of “Celebration Day for Minorities” while setting out the manifesto of his party in the general elections on March, 7 2013 nothing else was promised to the minorities.
There was no allocation of development budget for minorities, job quota both in federal and provisional governments or a promise of reserved seats for minorities in educational institutions not even in Punjab which is home to largest Christian community. They even make a hefty vote bank in his own Punjab Province where his party has strong presence and where his brother Shahbaz Sharif became Chief Minister of Punjab today.
Minorities in Pakistan make 3% of total population of 190 million are always the deprived, ignored and taken-for-granted segment of the society. Attacks on religious places and communities have risen in the midst of escalating extremism and demons of terrorism have torn communal as well as inter-religious relations in Pakistan.
While Mr Shairf has bigger problems to tackle nevertheless, minorities are also citizens of Pakistan and they are denied their fundamental rights. Their lives and properties are as precious as they are for the Muslim majority.
The Government of Pakistan has to ensure safety for the lives of poor and vulnerable who are either living under intimidation, violence and threats at the hands of majority.
According to a Human rights commission on Pakistan there are more than 969 cases registered on blasphemy since 1980s and more than 50 extra judicial killings. The recent escalation and the misuse of Pakistan laws are playing havoc with the lives of minority members like Aasia Bibi who is languishing in prison for almost four years now after she was accused of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. She became the first women to be given a death sentence over blasphemy since the creation of the country in 1947.
Members of Minorities often become subject to forcible conversion and marriages. The cases of rape are often reported while culprits are not brought to justice or they make underhand deals due to their political or financial influence. The cracks in social justice systems needs mending.
The newly made Government needs to ensure that laws are made to protect the citizens rather than to target and victimize its own people. Sharif and his government should abolish all discriminatory and religious laws which are hanging swords for the members of minorities.
The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam declared Pakistan as a state where minorities are free to go to their religious places in his first speech to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on 11 August, 1947.
Sharif’s party, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, has roots which go back to Quaid’s political party. What needs to be seen is whether the ideology of Pakistan’s founder is lost and minorities in Pakistan have no rights at all or if Mr Sharif will ensure safety to the lives of minorities will be observed in the coming legislative period.