India needs to help out Pakistani minorities in view of recent violence, vandalisation of churches

IT is time for Pakistani Christians to be repatriated to India considering the harsh treatment and violence against the community over the past few decades.

A lot of reports and videos have surfaced worldwide of Pakistani mobs vandalising churches to vent their anger against an alleged blasphemy by Christians in recent times.

During the violent partition in 1947, minorities comprising Christians, Hindus and Sikhs who were possibly too poor or feeling intimidated to cross the border into India, had chosen to live in Pakistan given they had co-existed living side-by-side with the Muslims.

The early years were much more peaceful and less threatening. However, Pakistan became more fundamentalist and radicalised from the 1980s onwards with religious minorities have had to bear the brunt of the highly volatile situation.

Although both the Pakistani civil and military administrations have been known to protect the Christians, the reality on the ground is very much different with mobs – at the slightest provocation or hearsay – going on a rampage to vandalise, burn and loot churches, schools and Christian homes as was seen lately in Faisalabad, Punjab.

Pic credit: India Today

US not intervening

Pakistan’s ill-defined and ambiguous Islamic blasphemy laws such as punishment for desecration of the holy Quran or insulting the Prophet have been used without proper evidence or investigations against the Christian minority very frequently.

Additionally, there are also forcible conversions of Christian girls for marriage apart from kidnappings, forcible annexation of land, terrorism and other criminal activities against the helpless minority community.

There are about 2.6 million Christians in Pakistan which has a population of about 230 million. The US which is a close ally of Pakistan does not strongly criticise or help to prevent these violent incidents which are increasing in numbers and intensity.

Ironically, the US would readily censure India if these types of incidents occurred there as was seen when the West quickly interpreted the Manipur violence mostly as religious rather than ethnic, tribal or political.

I would not say that the situation is far better in India considering the violence against the Sikhs in 1984, the Gujarat riots in 2002 or the recent violence in Manipur and other episodes of violence against minorities.

However, India’s democratic nature offers greater hope for the minorities in terms of justice and socio-economic advancement. In Pakistan, the Christian community is too poor and weak and with only about 30% of people in the community being literate.

Most do low-paying jobs and due to discrimination and restrictions, there is almost no hope of any social mobility or economic progress. Some have even termed this a’ slow genocide’.

Pic credit: AP Photo

India to offer goodwill?

Almost 25 % of Pakistanis were non-Muslims at the time of independence but this has whittled down to about 3% due to migration, conversions and low population growth among the minorities.

Now with Pakistan facing a plethora of socio-economic and political problems, the situation facing the minorities could become dire and harsher.

The Indian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA 2019) can be expanded to include Pakistani Christians, Hindus and Sikhs who were originally Indians but due to force of circumstances have lived in Pakistan since partition.

Even if the cut-off date for Indian citizenship under the CAA 2019 for illegal and undocumented immigrants and refugees is December 31, 2014, India must make exemptions to allow Pakistani minorities who face discrimination and persecution to migrate to India.

If given a chance, most Pakistani minorities will opt to migrate to India. Seeing the plight of the Pakistani Christians, India needs to give them a helping hand – a gesture that will be gratefully appreciated worldwide – and which will dampen the opposition against the CAA 2019 by some sections of Indian society as well as the West.

The US and the European Union (EU) could help pay for the re-settlement of the Pakistani minorities in India. The future for the minorities especially Christians in Pakistan will worsen in the future as the country goes through various episodes and phases of upheavals and instability. – Aug 25, 2023

Main pic credit: The Express Tribune


V. Thomas is a Focus Malaysia reader.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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