Before 1947, Muslims were a minority in India. They were mostly among the less educated and poor, a burden on the economy. As the weaker lot, they required help and support which India was unable to provide. A strong ambassador of the Hindu-Muslim unity ended up as the father of the sovereign Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was convinced that India would not be able to do justice to all religious groups in the long run and began his struggle for a land free from this problem. The new country was born to eradicate the issue of inequality faced by India. Jinnah did not survive for too long after Pakistan’s birth and the country was hijacked and dragged into an ideological mess.
The color proportions on Pakistan’s flag were not set with respect to importance. They were the symbolic acceptance of all minorities and a promise to them of equal rights. The notion that the Muslim Pakistanis are somehow more Pakistani than others has been created by opportunistic politicians and the military.
Fast-forward to 2011: The Muslim majority has proved to be extremely insensitive towards the minorities of Pakistan. The victims of pre-partitioned India are the oppressors of post-partition Pakistan. Some minorities have left the country while others are terrified and are considering moving out. The only Catholic in the federal cabinet, who was struggling for minority rights in the light of the constitution of the country, was riddled with bullets. Shahbaz Bhatti dared to raise voice against the misuse of the Blasphemy Laws against the minorities in Pakistan. Recently, Salmaan Taseer, a Muslim governor of Pakistan’s biggest province, tried to challenge the use of the same laws and was injected with two dozen bullets from head to toe.
Bhatti and Taseer could have simply backed off and lived their lives. They didn’t. Both these gentlemen could have left the country whenever they wanted. They didn’t. Their families could have turned anti-Pakistan after the incidents. They didn’t. They chose to die for what they believed in. Both predicted their assassinations beforehand and refused to succumb to death threats. The air of pessimism in Pakistan’s liberal minds is understandable. The world’s concern over minority rights is legitimate. The government’s reaction after the two episodes has been nonexistent. The politicians, lawyers, human right activists, military personnel and journalists, who are usually extremely vocal, decide to take the backseat. The liberal Pakistan Peoples Party died with Benazir Bhutto. The fear is such that political leaders avoid even condemning the killings. With every passing day, it seems that the roots of intolerance are growing stronger.
However, the recent wave of disowning the country by the liberals and minorities is flawed. Those who want to leave Pakistan have the right to do so. But using the assassinations as an excuse and justification for leaving Pakistan is hypocrisy. Bhatti and Taseer stood for exactly the opposite. They stood for a united, tolerant Pakistan.