Shia, Ahmadi, Hindu? Then Run for Your Life

published on May 20, 2013

What happened to Hindus and Christians is unsurprising. These communities were never enthused about India’s partition (even though some individuals still pretend that they were). Indeed, they were soon slapped with the Objectives Resolution of 1949 which termed them “minorities”, hence freaks and outcasts dispatched to the margins. Some accepted their fate, keeping a low profile. Others altered their names to more Muslim sounding ones. The better off, or more able ones, emigrated. They took valuable skills and capital along with them. The outflow has picked up again in past years.

Pakistan’s Hindu population stands at about 1.7 per cent of 200 million. It is steadily decreasing as families seek immigration to India. “Abduction, rape and coerced conversion of our daughters, extortion, blackmailing and kidnapping of businessmen for ransom” are some of the reasons given by former legislator and chairman of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani. Additionally, workplace discrimination results in many well qualified young Hindu men being frustrated and jobless.

Pakistani Christians have a still tougher time. In March over 100 homes owned by Pakistani Christians, as well as two small churches, were set ablaze by thousands of angry Muslims in Lahore. Sanitary worker and Christian, Sawan Masih, was accused of blasphemous remarks in the course of an argument with a Muslim friend. In 2009, a 20,000 strong mob, fired with the notion that some Christian man had destroyed a page of the Quran, burned down 50 Christian homes in the town of Gojra. The village of Shantinagar had been similarly destroyed in 1997.

But it is the Shias and Ahmadis who are shocked. They had been fully enthusiastic about Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, born a Gujrati Shia Muslim, believed that Muslims and Hindus could never live together peacefully but that Muslims could. Chaudhri Zafarullah Khan, an Ahmadi leader, was commended by Jinnah for having eloquently argued the Two-Nation theory, and then appointed by him in 1947 as Pakistan’s first foreign minister. Mr Jinnah died early, but Zafarullah Khan lived long enough to see disillusionment. The inevitable had happened:  Once the partition was complete, the question of which version of Islam was correct became bitterly contentious. This irresolvable matter lies at the heart of the fratricide that is tearing Pakistan apart.

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