On 2 March 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated as he left his mother’s house in Islamabad. He had spent his life dedicated to standing up and speaking out for marginalised and vulnerable minorities in Pakistan, and his legacy is still felt today.
On the 11th anniversary of his assassination, Mr Bhatti’s nephew David writes about his uncle’s life and legacy, and the situation for minorities in Pakistan today:
On a recent trip to Rome, Italy, I was able to tour the Basilica di San Bartolomeo all’Isola. For the last twenty years, this ancient church has been dedicated to the memory of Christian martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. Pilgrims and tourists from around the world go there to learn about and gain inspiration from individuals who – from Africa to South America, through Communism and Nazism – made the ultimate display of self-sacrificial love in the face of tyranny and evil.
On my visit, I was able to once again see, after eleven years, my uncle Shahbaz Bhatti’s bible which is displayed alongside the relics of the New Martyrs of Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East. This was the very bible that I would see on his nightstand on my visits to Pakistan – the book in which he would be immersed every morning, through which he gained his strength, and by which he lived his life. Today, it serves as an enduring symbol of his legacy: of his unwavering dedication to serving others and of his faithful and fearless pursuit for justice.
Continue reading “A hero of the faith: Remembering Shahbaz Bhatti”
Pakistani weddings are extravagant affairs. Guestlists are filled with hundreds of names of relatives and friends. People come from various cities and even abroad for colourful celebrations filled with music and dancing. Often, brides’ homes are so packed with relatives that there is hardly room to move.
About a month or so before the wedding, smaller events take place at the homes of both the bride and groom. Friends and family begin to choreograph wedding dances and wedding songs to the rhythm of the dholak, a two headed hand drum.
A few days prior to the wedding, the Mayun takes place. This marks the start of the husband and wife-to-be being separated from each other until the day of the wedding, with brides beautifying themselves by refraining from wearing anything on their faces and undergoing herbal skin treatments to improve their complexion.
None of this occurred in the case of Arzoo Raja. In fact, this young Christian’s so-called ‘marriage’ is essentially a crime, because Arzoo was abducted on 13 October 2020 from the street outside her home in Karachi Railway Colony, Sindh Province, and forced to convert and to ‘marry’ a man more than twice her age. Under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, the legal age for marriage is 18, and being a child of 13, she was in no position to consent or escape.
Continue reading “‘This should never have happened to her’ – the story of Arzoo Raja”
On 17 September 2021, less than a month after seizing control of the country, the Taliban effectively banned girls from secondary schools in Afghanistan after they ordered schools to resume classes for boys only.
The move marked a realisation of fears that had been raised ever since the Taliban regained power, and was met with widespread and routine international condemnation from countries and human rights organisations alike. One of the more surprising critics however was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who told the BBC that preventing women from accessing education would be ‘un-Islamic’.
The reason for such surprise is that while Prime Minister Khan has expressed somewhat mixed feelings regarding the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, he has encouraged the international community, and particularly the United States, to recognise their authority. In addition, his own government has entered into talks with the organisation, and Khan himself has pledged to ‘forgive’ members of the group if reconciliation is achieved.
Developments such as these already start to make Khan’s criticisms of the Taliban ring hollow, but they are made even more interesting when considered in conjunction with his own rhetoric regarding what is and isn’t un-Islamic in his own country.
Continue reading “Imran Khan: Defender of Islam or political opportunist?”
In July 2020, the government of Pakistan announced the creation of a ‘Single National Curriculum’ (SNC) to replace its 2006 school curriculum. Given the country’s long history of discriminatory practices in educational settings, and the SNC’s stated objective of providing “all children… a fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality education,” one would have expected this to be a welcome development for minorities in Pakistan, a chance to tackle inequalities and division from the ground up.
Sadly, this was not the case.
In an attempt to make the proposed curriculum more digestible to Pakistan’s more conservative Islamist elements, and particularly to win the support of the country’s madrassahs (Islamic religious schools), the government of Punjab granted the Islamic Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB) a role in the review and approval of all textbooks under the SNC.
This has proved disastrous, providing the MUB with an opportunity to reinforce the sectarian and divisive agendas which have permeated the Pakistani education system for decades.
Continue reading “Set up to fail: Pakistan’s Single National Curriculum will only make life harder for religious minority children”
On 11 February, Abdul Qadir, a 65-year-old Ahmadi homeopathic doctor, was shot dead outside his homeopathic clinic in the Bazikhel area of Peshawar in north-western Pakistan. His killing marked the latest in a concerning uptick in religiously motivated attacks on Ahmadis, particularly in Peshawar.
Last year, CSW documented at least five other instances in which Ahmadis were killed, including an incident in which 31-year-old doctor, Tahir Mahmood, was murdered in front of his family at his home in Murch Balochan in Nankana Sahib District, Punjab.
Continue reading “Criminalised, killed and cursed: The plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community”
The fact that Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community has a long history of experiencing harassment, discrimination, violence and other human rights violations within Pakistani society leaves little doubt that these murders are religiously motivated. A pattern is also clearly emerging whereby prominent doctors and academics have been specifically singled-out by extremists.