It has been a year since Shahbaz Bhatti passed away. No, strike that, he did not pass away; his life was brutally cut short when he was murdered. Everyone from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan to Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan has been suspected with his murder either by the police officials or by home ministry yet no decent progress has been made.
In a way, it all makes sense as only angry groups of men who mean death and destruction carry any weight around here. Bhatti was NOT that man. He believed in fighting for his rights the democratic way and had planned to introduce legislation that would ban hate speech and hate literature against all. He was campaigning for official holidays for minorities’ religious festivals and wanted Blasphemy Law to be repealed which turned out to be a crime worthy of death.
Bhatti’s death is not a lone incidence of brutal violence. Planned acts of aggression and cruelty against minorities – be them ethnic, religious, sectarian or communal– are becoming a norm in the land of pure. Intolerance has reached such levels that people with names that revealed their sectarian or religious beliefs are afraid to use them when they feel unsafe. Slain journalist Mukarram Khan Atif narrated one such incident which depicted the extent of narrow-mindedness and fanaticism in the country. Mukarram Khan and another Shia reporter were traveling south from Mohmand and in Khyber Agency – a Sunni dominant area – the Shia journalist took Abbas off his name and added a Khan and when they passed through Kurram Agency, the Shia journalist resumed his identity, but Mukarram Khan had to become Mukarram Shah to stay safe. In the end, even that was not enough and Mukarram Khan was murdered by TTP.
The minority communities – no matter who they are and where they are living – are constantly under threat. We have cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls – mostly minors – in Sindh who are forcefully abducted and married to Muslim men and then presented to the court as religious converts. According to a treasurymember of Sindh Assembly, around 20 to 25 forced conversions take place every month in the province.
Acts of mob violence against Ahmadis are routine. Any random Ahmadi family can be threatenedwith blasphemy ordinance and it is business as usual for the law enforcement bodies. Their places of worship are gunned and/or ransacked because good God fearing Muslims of the land feel threatened by the security cameras there that are installed by the police, yet the government just silently looks on.
The perpetuators of the Gojra incident where a whole Christian colony was burned down still roam free and Hazaras in Balochistan are regularly targeted for their sectarian and ethnic identity. Go to any bookshop and you can find books written by religious fanatics denouncing Ismaili Shias as the degenerates out to destroy the faith, but what happened in Kohistanwhere Shia men were mercilessly killed after checking their Shia identity with their id cards takes it to another level of premeditated prejudice and bigotry. Such was the desire of the killers to defend their faith that they even killed a Sunni man who made a mistake when asked a question about Fajr prayers.
It would be not wrong to say that intolerance rules our society and no one is safe in this country other than the men who perpetuate biases, bigotry and hatred.
First published in The Express Tribune