Jaranwala: We Failed

If we cannot protect our minorities, we have failed as a nation. There is no other benchmark of equal significance. The riots and violence of  Faisalabad in Jaranwala on Christians’ churches and their houses indicate how we can only relieve our pent-up rage on helpless innocents.

The tragic incident is not a standalone sacrilegious case, minorities have been the victim of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan for years. However, the issue has never been resolved and continues to resurface in the form of a new incident in a different place, time and time again.

A year ago, a person was shot dead over blasphemy. Similarly, a Sri Lankan manager of a factory was killed by a mob, his body burned, under the pretext of blasphemy.

Muslims who – as a vulnerable minority nation in India, fought to get an independent country – are now repeating the same cycle of violence and intolerance.

After independence, the founding father of the nation Quaid-I-Azam took a strong stance on the rights and protection of minorities. He expressed his feelings for minorities in Pakistan in a famous speech, where he said, “Minorities to whichever community they may belong, will be fully safeguarded their religion or faith or beliefs will be secured. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will be in all respect citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed” The question remains: Have we really protected the rights of only 3.56% of minorities?

The Jarranwala incident stands as stark evidence of our failure to protect the 3.56% of minorities in Pakistan. A raging mob destroyed the houses of a whole community and burned five churches because one person ‘allegedly’ defiled the sanctity of the Quran. Christian families, along with children and elders, had to leave their homes and spend the night under the open sky in fields. The scenes became a chilling reminder of the events of 1947. The Christian community’s entire life’s savings and their homes were burnt and looted. Through it all, the state remained a spectator. It appears that 9th May is a bigger tragedy for the state compared to Jarranwala.

Religious discrimination and persecution are dire issues facing minorities. Time and time again, they are victimized under a similar blasphemy accusation and, sadly, the state remains helpless in the face of extremism. The country’s stakeholders and other institutions are still silent on the matter.

The horrific incident of Jarranwala shows us once again the intransigence of the system of Pakistan. Quaid’s Pakistan has become a myth. These religious attacks must be addressed in a systematic way. The state must ensure putting a specialized system and policy in place to prevent any such incidents in the future, as it is the foremost duty of every responsible institution and organization to secure the rights, lives, and properties of minorities from religious fanatics in Pakistan.