Sunday, 3 November 2013

Asking for Rights



The only value left in this country is nuisance value”-Hassan Nisar

This blog should have been written in 2012, for it talks about events of last summer. But since nothing changes in Pakistan, the incident I am going to talk about has come afresh in my mind and now refuses to let go. What I have come to understand is this: Asking for the rights is the only right that people of Pakistan have, and they don't even realize it.



And by the people of Pakistan I don't just refer to the Sunni-Muslim majority, but all religious groups in this country, including our very own local ecclesia. It seems as if being Pakistan is a mental state, and no matter how diverse we are ethnically, linguistically, and dogmatically, all of us experience (or rather suffer ) from this way of thinking.

I have also complained earlier about how Christians living in Pakistan have not accustomed themselves to this country very well (at least in any positive way). It's good that we, on average, do not have the same anti-American sentiments like the majority, but then we also make it a point to defend the US foreign policy and the "legitimacy of Israel" whenever we are in dispute with our Muslim brethren. The writer himself has at multiple times spoken as if being pro-drone and pro-Israel is akin to sharing the Gospel.

In this respect, we share a different mentality than the rest, but when all is said and done, we are Pakistanis. Let’s get on with the story.

Last year in the month of Ramadan, I received a text message that read: "12 Christian nurses have been poisoned in X hospital. Please come for the protest"

Rumors were that this happened because the nurses were having food and drinks as usual in the Islamic month of fasting. I went home and told my parents that I would be joining the protest at the city's press club. We had guests over, Christian of course, who informed that the incident did took place, but some Muslim nurses were also poisoned. They had "inquired from the hospital directly". My mom discouraged me to go, saying that there was no reason for protest anymore. But I went anyways, in the pursuit of showing solidarity with my co-believers, and also to find out the truth.

In a matter of minutes, I was at the press club. None of the other people had arrived, though the organizer of the protest lived close by. Anyway, a reputed pastor arrived, and I went straight to him and asked what had happened at the hospital. "I don't know son" he replied "I just received a text message"

Here was a pastor who was said to be a church planter. And yet he didn't bother to verify the news. 

Soon, the whole party arrived. There was a friend of mine in the group as well, and I asked him about the incident. His reply was: "Yes, 8 nurses were poisoned". Confused, I asked: "But the text said 12, and I heard some were Muslims as well"

"No, no. Only 8 Christian nurses. I have seen them myself"    

I said nothing. I couldn't, because it was hard to understand why people so agitated by hate crimes against their community did not have a uniform story. But I still decided to stay. However, the placards destroyed any positive emotions I had. I stood there but did not join the sloganeering. What where their demands? “Stop the conspiracy against Christians “and so on.

“Conspiracy” is one of the most commonly (mis)used words in the Pakistani vernacular. Now read the official version of the story, and compare it with the news circulating on the field.

Once again, unless someone has been blinded with hatred, it cannot be denied that minorities are not protected in Pakistani. But what we as Christians have to realize is that we are not alone in this predicament.

Our Shia brothers have suffered more than we can possibly imagine. How many times have we been forced to leave the corpses of our loved ones out in cold weather to ask for justice? The time has come when the Christian leaders in Pakistan should start proposing serious solutions to these serious issues.

The story, however, doesn’t end here. From where I was standing, on my left was the persecuted minority. But guess what was happening on the other side. A leading religious outfit, “Tanzeemi-e-Islami” was standing there, protesting against the killing of Muslims in Burma! (See pictures and videos)

On a physical front, only a cemented pavement divided the two groups, but perhaps there was something more. The group on the left did not have the audacity to confront the Islamic organization as to why they were so concerned with Muslims in other countries, but not with minorities in their own.

Likewise, the group on the right did not even bother to saying in passing that they understand the problems of minorities in Pakistan.

You know what? I think that the two groups didn’t even know of each other’s presence. This is possible, especially if you have been addicted to clich├ęs propagated in your circles. Most people fail to grow beyond them.

One of the placards by Tanzeemi-E-Islami actually declared the killing of Burmese Muslims a “massacre”. Of course, the situation is dire. Here is the report from the same newspaper quoted above. But failing to recognize the plight of minorities in your own country and then declaring the death of 80 Muslims as “massacre” is sheer hypocrisy.

So, “stop conspiracy against Christians” and “stop the massacre of Muslims”. The question is, to whom are these demands being addressed?

The Pakistani government? For the Christians, they gave you a place to protest, and the print media highlighted it. In the case of Muslims, there is a little that the state could do to stop the crimes against Rohingyas in Burma. And if the Burmese government was the target, then why the heaven were you speaking in Urdu?

In the end, I think that both the protests were a waste of time and public space. Some reporters may have benefited by covering the event. This is not something that mature people with real jobs will do. But the religious are always exempt, especially in Pakistan.  

Note: I am toldthat the Christian protesters also raised their voice for the Rohingya Muslims a few days later. 

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