After the attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, adopted the ideal approach to condone the mindless killings. She interacted with families of victims wearing a hijab and announced that instead of the name of the attacker, names of the victims would henceforth be mentioned. Her action won her praise from across the globe, especially Pakistan.
The Pakistan foreign office spokesperson stated, “She has won the hearts of Pakistanis for her compassion and for her leadership.” Pakistan’s President, Arif Alvi stated, “I thank PM of New Zealand for the strong compassion she has shown in the face of terrorist killing of 50 Muslims in the mosques in Christchurch.” According to Pakistani newspapers, Prime Minister Imran Khan called Jacinda Arden and expressed his admiration for the humane way in which she handled the Christchurch attack.
The Pakistan foreign minister, S M Qureshi, on the other hand criticised the Indian Prime Minister on his condolences to New Zealand. He stated, “(New Delhi) did not have the courage to use the words ‘Muslim’ or ‘mosque’ in its condemnation of the attack”. He added, “If, God forbid, there had been an attack on a Hindu temple, Pakistan would have stood with India.” He even attempted to accuse India of targeting minorities in the country, while attending the OIC foreign ministers conference in Turkey.
No Pakistani leader has ever criticised China for its handling of Uyghur Muslims, despite the world being aware of their incarceration. Imran stated he is unaware and made himself the laughing stock of the world. All because of Chinese aid.
All these comments only add to the atmosphere of hypocrisy within the Pakistani establishment. They have never cared for their minorities, which are brutally targeted in the country. The recent case of two underage Hindu girls being kidnapped, forcibly converted and married provoked no response. The arrest of a few persons after the incident will only be temporary as videos of their willingness to convert makes the entire incident legal in Pakistan. Imran Khan visited Ghotki, from where the girls were kidnapped, over the weekend. He ignored their family indicating that Pakistan does not care for its minorities.
When Sushma Swaraj raised the issue, the Pakistan information minister tweeted, “It’s Pakistan’s internal issue and rest assure its not Modi’s India where minorities are subjugated. It’s Imran Khan’s Naya Pak where white colour of our flag is equally dearer to us. I hope you’ll act with same diligence when it comes to rights of Indian Minorities.” This is the same Pakistan which has over the years ignored attacks on its own minorities.
In May 2010, two Ahmadi places of worship were targeted, leaving over 90 dead. Not a single politician came forward to meet the bereaved families. One of the attackers was even overpowered by the unarmed worshippers who handed him over to the police, only for him to be set free, without a trial. This was because he had targeted Ahmadis, who are treated as non-Muslims in the country.
Two suicide bombings in Peshawar’s All Saints church left over 120 dead in 2013. This was far more than the 50 in Christchurch. There was hardly any criticism at the national level. No national leader come forth and consoled the families. Imran Khan defended the attack, by stating that this action was the result of US drone strikes. Rather than insisting that the government bring the perpetrators of the crime, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), to book, he advocated negotiating with them.
The only time when Pakistan stood together was when the TTP targeted the Army Public School in Peshawar. This was because it was an army institution and there were no minorities targeted.
In another recent incident, a married Christian woman and a mother of three was abducted from her house by a sexual predator and raped. The police initially refused to lodge a FIR and recover her, eventually doing so under pressure. She had been raped for ten days. Her medical examination was refused as the testimony given by the rapist was that she had converted to Islam and married him. She now cannot reconvert to Christianity despite everyone knowing that the conversion document was signed under duress.
There is no minority group in the country, whether Hindus, Ahmadis, Christians, Shias or Hazaras, that feels safe. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a noted Pakistani columnist writes in the Dawn of 23 March, “Pakistan’s minorities live under the boot of the majority and know they cannot speak the truth.” As per data released by South Asian terrorism portal, between 2003 and 2016 violent incidents against Shias have led to the killing of over 2,550, leaving over 4,500 injured. In 2015, the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon urged the Pakistani government to protect its minorities, including Shia Muslims.
No incident against Shias has been condemned by Pakistani leaders. Ravi Shankar wrote in the Indian Express of 16 September 2018, “Being a minority is a death sentence in Pakistan. Not just for a Hindu, Christian or Sikh, but even for a Muslim – an Ahmadi, Ismaili, Bohra or Hazara Shia.” His words could not be truer.
On the other hand, Pakistan cries to the world community desiring that Islamophobia be curbed and a definition for terrorism be evolved which includes those who target mosques. It criticized the Samjhauta judgement, while it never acts against attackers on minorities. How can a nation which treats its minorities as expendable commodities claim that Muslims being targeted across the world is a crime?
When will Pakistan learn that if it desires international respect and wants its voice heard, it must respect its own minorities, not treat them as second-class citizens to be abused by the majority population. Unless it does so, it can scream to satisfy its own masses but would be ignored as a nation having only hypocrites as its national leaders, who ignore their own minorities.
(The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army)