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Slaughterhouse State

In a speech made on Quaid-e-Azam day, author Muhammad Hanif spoke about the Quaid’s death. He spoke about the conspiracy theories attached to his death, regarding the ambulance not having enough fuel or oxygen supply. What he said after that has always been stuck with me: if that ambulance, transporting Jinnah from Ziarat to Karachi, had been stopped on its way by armed men who checked the identity cards of all the passengers – it probably never would have made it to Karachi.

Jinnah, an Ismaili Shia, created Pakistan as a sanctuary for Indian Muslims against Hindu persecution. In a way I am glad he did not live long enough to see it turn into a slaughterhouse where Muslims kill other Muslims. More Muslims have been killed by Muslims in Pakistan, than Muslims killed in India by Hindus. Pakistan does not simply omit to protect its minorities, but there is institutional discrimination against them that has engrained hatred for several minority groups in the hearts and minds of most of our Sunni majority population.

According to official figures, over 10,000 people have died in Hindu-Muslim violence in India since 1950. Whereas above 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed by terrorists between 2001 and 2011.

We treat our minorities like the worst of us treat orphans: we assign to them all the undesirable jobs, we do not provide them with equal opportunities, we block their means to achieving upward social mobility, and we absolutely do not protect them like we would protect our own. There have been multiple singular incidents in which more than a hundred lives were claimed in a single attack by terrorists. But we do not refer to any of those attacks as national tragedies. The Taliban have claimed tens of thousands of lives in Pakistan and it was the APS attack in Peshawar which we labeled our 9/11. I am not comparing the magnitude of one tragedy with another, as the killing of one human being amounts to the killing of the entire humankind, but I am going to boldly highlight the fact that Pakistan will never mourn an attack on its minorities as a national tragedy.

When a Church receives threats from a terrorist outfit, they are left to arrange for their own security. Ahmedi Mosques are not even respected as places of worship, and we are all free to visit the several dilapidated Hindu temples, which quasi-survived criminal damage by mobs of angry Muslims, and stand as a testament of our religious intolerance.

The Taliban are just the poster boys for the religious intolerance that is a core tenet of Pakistan’s ideology. Those who abduct, rape, and convert Hindu girls to Islam are not Taliban. Those who lynched a Christian couple and burned them in a brick kiln were not Taliban. Those who burned down Ahmedi houses and Joseph colony were not the Taliban. The shopkeepers who put up notices outside their shops announcing that they would not do business with Ahmedis are not the Taliban either. A military operation against terrorists might, JUST MIGHT, reduce the Taliban threat. But what sort of an operation would be needed to deal with these civilians who terrorize other civilians?

Here’s the trouble: Pakistan is an Islamic state. The moment that notion was popularized, the immediate question which subsequently arose was: who is a Muslim? It started off against Ahmedis, who were labeled infidels. Then, quoting Muhammad Hanif from the same speech again, what happened to Shias during Zia’s rule made the Ahmedis say ‘thank God we are infidels, at least we are not Shia.’

What startles me is that Pakistan’s minorities have never picked up arms against this state sanctified oppression they have been subjected to. Acquiring arms and putting together a militant outfit is not a problem at all in Pakistan and still we do not have any Shia, Sikh, Hazara, Christian, or Hindu militants. Pakistan should fear the day they have had enough of this persecution. We owe whatever insignificant measure of peace we have to the pacifism of our minorities, among whom not a single group is safe and not only from the terrorists.

I cannot even begin to imagine the anguish that Jinnah, who claimed the title ‘Protector of minorities,’ would have felt if he was here to see the attack on the Ismaili community in Karachi. The Father of the Nation, thinking he would be creating a sanctuary for Muslims against aggression by non-Muslims, had his creation mutate into a slaughterhouse where Muslims butcher not only non-Muslims, but also other Muslims.

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