Reclaiming Jinnah’s Pakistan

On Saturday the resignation of a Hindu member of the Sindh Assembly, Ram Singh Sodho, after reportedly receiving threats is alarming. In 2008, Mr Sodho was elected on a Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) reserved seat for minorities. Fearing for his life he submitted his resignation from India to the Speaker of the Sindh Assembly, Nisar Ahmad Khoro.Historically, minorities — especially Hindus — in Sindh and Balochistan have been an integral part of society. Even during the time of partition when Punjab was witnessing some of the worst communal riots in the history of the subcontinent, Sindh and Balochistan were comparatively peaceful. Interior Sindh is abundant with prominent Hindu families that thrive economically and have been central to the province’s development. These families are also steeped in and maintain the indigenous heritage and culture of Sindh. However, the Sindh province and our country in general have seen a negative turn of events. Religious intolerance has been in the forefront ever since the Lal Masjid operation in 2007. No minority, irrespective of caste, creed or religious beliefs, is safe. Reports in the media also state that 400 to 500 Pakistani Hindu families fearing for their lives are trying to obtain Indian citizenship.With attacks on Shias, Ahmedis, Christians and now Hindus becoming a daily occurrence, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, which champions itself as the defender of minority rights, must deliver.Although Article 25 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan says that “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”, the reality is quite the opposite. Successive governments have failed to legislate and provide sufficient mechanisms for protecting minorities. The blame is even greater on the governments during the 1970s and 80s for promulgating laws that ostracised minorities. Minority groups rightly raise questions as to the fulfilment of the promise made before partition for the integration as full and equal citizens of minorities in Pakistani society.Due to the extremism that has crept into society, we have become increasingly intolerant. The greatest example of this is the assassination of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer for his stance on the right of a Christian woman to justice. Only now can we start to fully understand what he was trying to do. Quaid-e-Azam envisaged a progressive, democratic and tolerant Pakistan. The time has come to revisit and recover it – Dailytimes