Back in 2002 when I was a rookie journalist, I met Jeewanti, a teenager who was doused with acid to avenge a property dispute with her family. She was the first person I met who has faced an act of violence against her. Unfortunately, I have met various people since then who have faced violence and brutality, be it Munno Bheel who is fighting to release his bonded family for over a decade or the peon in my former office who fled his home in Chitral because he was a Shia living in a Sunni village fearing persecution for his faith. One of my friends has lost her uncle, a surgeon, during the period when sectarian groups were targeting and killing Shia doctors in Karachi.
Every minority, be it ethnic, religious or sectarian, and weaker groups have faced violence and persecution in this country. If you are a religious minority in the land of pure, you have about as much of an opportunity of growth as a one-legged man in a kicking competition. Constitution bars you from holding the highest offices in the country. Your temples and churches are vandalized and you are not allowed to propagate your religion. You are lucky if you are a Christian or a Hindu, at least you can call your places of worship by their real names; if you happen to be an Ahmadi, you cannot even do that.
If you are a child, you probably are one of too many children in the family; your parents do not give you enough food and attention. There are not enough schools and even if they are, you parents cannot afford to send you and you are working to contribute to family income. At workplace you are probably abused. If you leave home, you will definitely be sexually abused and will probably end up using drugs. If you happen to end up in a radical madrassah, there is a great likelihood that you will end up as a suicide bomber, perpetuating violence and terror to others.
If you are a sectarian minority, then you are on the hit list of all sectarian outfits. They can burn your houses and places of business if you are in Chitral or can shoot you from a distance of 2 meters in Karachi and get away with it. If you are an Ismaili Muslim, chances are the religious parties will try to get you declared a non Muslims when they can’t think of any other political issue to hijack.
If you are woman, you will be malnourished and uneducated to begin with. When you are a little older, you will probably be doused with acid, burned, tortured, married off to men of inappropriate age and character to pay off debts (vani), killed (karo kari) to either implicate or secure money from opponents of your family. You will be raped, at times even by the police and other security forces, to settle dispute and at times because men think they can get away with it. Your testimony in the court of law is that of half of a man, and your citizenships rights are limited.
The way things are in this country of ours; soon it will turn into a place where only rich right wing fanatic Sunni men would have any citizenship rights. If you are a religious Sunni man who is spewing venom against the minorities and women from the pulpits, you have an unassailable immunity. The way things are, the future migrations from the country would not be for economic reasons, they would be for liberty and freedom.
Originally written for Express Tribune. This is the unedited version.