The Treatment of Minorities in Pakistan

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The treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan is nothing short of a crisis and religious freedom  is not a luxury that everyone can afford. According to the Library of Congress 97% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, and the remaining 3% of the population are Christian, Hindu and other. When discussing the treatment and status of minorities, one must understand that certain groups of Muslims are mistreated as well as non-Muslim religious groups. Nearly all muslims in Pakistan belong to the sect of Sunni Islam, however there are members of the Shia community, the Ahmadi community and other smaller groups like Sufis. Furthermore, approximately 1.8% of the population is Christian, 1.6% are Muslim and there are smaller numbers of Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis/Zoroastrians in Pakistan.

Pakistan is not an ethnically and religiously diverse nation, and part of the reason for this is that Pakistan was founded during the partition of India in 1947 on Islamic principles by the former President of the Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

On Sunday, March 25th in Lahore, 72 people died in a suicide bombing that targeted Christians that were celebrating Eastern in a busy park. The group that claimed responsibility ws Jamaat al Ahrar, a branch of the Taliban in Pakistan. In an article  in the Washington Post explains that before partition Pakistan was a more ethnically diverse place, however during the partition many non-Muslims left the state and there was a mass migration of Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims to Pakistan, creating a relatively homogenous nation state. Although this act of terror was directed towards Christians, more Muslims than Christians were killed.

The war on minorities lead by fundamentalist entities like factions of the Taliban is not only a war against non-Muslim groups, but a war against Muslim minorities such as Shias, Ahmadis, and Sufis. Fatima Bhutto, the niece of Benazir Bhutto, states that “Shias have overtaken Hindus and Christians as targets of sectarian killings [..] And in this predominantly Muslim country, it is no longer Hindus or Christians who face the largest threat of violence from orthodox and radicalised groups but Shias.” In an article in Dawn New, Bhutto discusses that the violence against Shias has become a serious concern in Pakistan.

The irony of the treatment of Muslim minorities is that the Bhutto family, a very prominent Pakistani political family are Shia and the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah also belong to the Shia sect of Islam.

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