This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit my family's homeland, Pakistan, for a wedding alongside my family. We stayed in Karachi for three weeks, during which I observed a disturbing trend since my last visit four years ago—an almost silent voice from the more prominent minority religious communities, specifically the Ahmadi and Christian communities, displayed by a conspicuous absence of any churches or places of worship for these factions.
While all of my family members were reveling in the ideals of change and justice that newly-appointed Prime Minister Imran Khan would bring to this beleaguered nation (corrupted since its inception by incompetent bureaucracy and religious extremism), I wondered what had happened to the already-slighted institutions that these minorities held sanctuary in, and why so few were willing to speak of their near-complete lack of presence in the local community. When I posed these questions to family, they shrugged off this seemingly bizarre phenomenon with a forced indifference, leaving me to do my own digging to find out why minorities in Pakistan appeared to be ignored by both the government and the common people.
Pakistan has approximately 2.5 million Christians (totaling about 1.6 percent of the population), and approximately 2.2 percent of its population are Ahmadis, a people who follow the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and are almost identical to regular followers of the Islamic faith, save for one key difference—their refusal to acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the final messenger of Allah (SWT.)
In addition, Pakistan has a sizable population of Hindus, Atheists, Sufis, and various other peoples of different faith, and yet does nothing to shield these communities from the persecution that they face simply for choosing to follow their own faith instead of the one followed by the majority. There is no shortage of horrific instances of persecution against these minorities, which include ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Christians, the murder of students over the ridiculous social enforcement of so-called "Blasphemy Laws" that eradicate any notion of freedom of speech (which is, by the way, guaranteed under Islamic law, proving that these blasphemy laws that prohibit speaking out against Islam are completely idiotic), and the burning of a local church in a Christian-majority neighborhood in Lahore, amongst many other acts of discrimination against non-Muslims.
Often times, minorities are not allowed to obtain housing, jobs, or even proper schooling, all due to their choice to believe in something other than mainstream Islam. Their patriotism and devotion to Pakistan have always been in question, in the same manner that Muslims in America are constantly scrutinized as being un-American.
I find it extremely ironic and disgusting that Pakistanis, whose country was founded on the basis of religious freedom and tolerance, would dare to treat religious minorities with such vitriol, in the same manner that their forefathers were treated in India for being Muslim under a Hindu regime. I feel angry that a so-called Muslim country has the audacity to proclaim itself as such whilst also treating members of its own community in such a disgusting manner.
The Quran specifically teaches Muslims to have love and respect for one another and for their neighbors, and yet Pakistan is home to some of the most discriminatory laws against religious minorities on the planet. The country itself owes much to the Ahmadiyya community, which has produced some of the finest military officers (LTG Qamar Bajwa), scientists (Mohammed Abdus Salam), and artists (Saira Wasim) to represent Pakistan.
During the 1947 liberation of Pakistan from India, it was an Ahmadi missionary (Abdul Rahim Dard) who convinced Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the founding father of Pakistan) to return to British India to continue to headline the Pakistan movement. This ill-treatment of non-Muslims in Pakistan, backed by fervently extremist mullahs who demonize these communities as enemies of Islam, is wholly anti-Islamic and altogether no different than the racism that Muslims face abroad in the United States and Europe.
I can't pretend that I understand all of the nuances of the power-politics in play that keep minorities from establishing themselves as strong communities representative of Pakistan as a country.
However, I cannot abide by the disgusting stigma that Pakistani society seems to have towards anyone who dares to follow their own religion. I can only hope that the new Prime Minister, Imran Khan, notices the plight of the minority communities and works to alleviate them from the injustices that they suffer from their own home.