Set up to fail: Pakistan’s Single National Curriculum will only make life harder for religious minority children

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.

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Criminalised, killed and cursed: The plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community

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.

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.

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“Souls were scarred that day”: Remembering the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Easter Sunday bombings

Last weekend, as Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday, many in Pakistan were no doubt remembering a day of similar celebration five years ago – one that sadly turned into a day of horror and mourning.

On that day in 2016, suicide bombers carried out an attack targeting Christians who had gathered to celebrate in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore. Over 72 people were killed, and around 300 more were injured.

On the fifth anniversary of the attacks, CSW spoke to several of those whose lives were changed forever on that day, and who continue to await justice.

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A Fork in the Road: What lies ahead for religious minorities in Sri Lanka, India and South Asia?

Sri Lanka and India are facing pivotal moments, both for their future, and the future of South Asia as a whole. Both countries’ drives towards religious hegemony have left little place for Christians and Muslims, a factor which will certainly lead to more instability and intolerance in the region.

Sri Lanka: Buddhist nationalists vindicated

Sri Lanka was the site of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, in which over 250 people were killed when terrorists targeted a number of churches and hotels across the country. In the aftermath of the bombings, there were reports of violent attacks against Muslims and an increase in anti-Muslim prejudice. Some reprisals against the Muslim population have been carried out by Christians, in contrast to the previous relative harmony between the two communities as they both battled intolerance from sections of the Sinhalese Buddhist population.

Furthermore, Buddhist nationalist groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), who have been portraying Islam as a threat to both Buddhism and Sri Lanka for years, consider their stance vindicated by the bombings.

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Long read: The forgotten faces and hidden history of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

The criminalisation of blasphemy has become synonymous with Pakistan.

No case highlights the fervour and frustration associated with blasphemy more than that of Asia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), the Pakistani Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010.

Throughout Bibi’s protracted legal case, the worst instincts of certain sections of Pakistani society were brought to the fore and played out in national and international media as Islamist groups staged violent demonstrations calling for her execution on multiple occasions, even after her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018. Following a nine-year ordeal, Asia Bibi and her family were eventually taken to Canada to start a new life, but for many other victims their fate is less hopeful, and they are left languishing under long jail sentences, prolonged when cases are adjourned without  hearing.

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