Published in The Daily Times on March 11th 2011
Pakistan’s essence is derived from the self-determination of its people. If there is to be any restoration of national dignity, Pakistan must be led by the voices of Asiya Nasir, people who do not flee the country even in the most trying times, but people who remind us of the promises made to them by our founding father
The moment has come. Someone has articulately taken on the government’s appeasement policy towards terrorists. Someone has finally said that there has been enough blood drawn over the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. That someone is a woman. That someone is a Christian.
The founder of Pakistan, when campaigning for equal rights for Muslims in United India was a minority himself. “Quaid-e-Azam, where is your Pakistan?” Asiya Nasir asked Mohammad Ali Jinnah as she stood in the Pakistan National Assembly on March 3, 2011. She is a Christian Member National Assembly (MNA), elected on a reserved seat from NA-322 (Balochistan-III).
Muslims in United India were marginalised, chastised, ridiculed, kept out of sectors of economic prosperity. When the partition of the country was announced, the riots that emerged painted a violent tale of hate and rage. Women and children were massacred. Neighbours attacked neighbours.
“We are treated worse than servants, our utensils are separated,” Asiya Nasir said about Christians in Pakistan today. “We were part of the movement that supported Pakistan. We voted for Pakistan though a democratic process. What kind of people take our votes and then discard us when the objective is achieved?”
The Christian community has undoubtedly contributed to the Pakistan movement and as Asiya Nasir pointed out, became part of the Pakistan movement voluntarily. However it has never until now fought to be heard, with the assertiveness of an empowered community. “You may kill Asiya Nasir or Aasia Bibi but we will not be silenced.”
The recent assassination of Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was extreme in highlighting the prejudice and victimisation of the Christian community. This victimisation started with the accusation of blasphemy against Aasia Bibi, and has now become a national crisis with religious fundamentalists claiming that the woman accused of blasphemy should be punished, the liberal and progressive groups meeting it with absolute silence, especially after the terror of Salmaan Taseer’s assassination over the same issue, and most tragically the mainstream political party taking a stance of appeasement by claiming that there will be absolutely no debate over the blasphemy issue.
Regardless of which way the blasphemy laws’ amendment/repeal goes, the minorities in Pakistan needed to take umbrage over the way they are dragged in the mud each time a crisis stirs, every time their loyalty is put in question and they are looked at with suspicion.“Pakistan is not a country for Muslims, Pakistan is for all of us as well,” Asiya Nasir said. She pointed out that the utter failure of the ruling party to provide protection to Shahbaz Bhatti was a conscious effort to ignore the minorities and their insecurities over the rising threats from fanatics. “The government is to blame for Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder,” she said.
The committee formulated by the government to review the Aasia Bibi case was allegedly a ploy to get Shahbaz Bhatti exposed, because there were no real deliberations convened over the issue. Apparently, the government did not have any policy to resolve the crisis justly.
Ms Nasir also pointed out the double standards of parliament for holding a two minute silence over the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti. Shahbaz Bhatti deserved a prayer from the Assembly members. Discrimination and prejudice prevented it.
“Christians respect the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam…but the right-wing media commentators should stop projecting Pakistan as a Muslim country,” she said demanding the killers of Shahbaz Bhatti are brought to justice.
Pakistan’s essence is derived from the self-determination of its people. If there is to be any restoration of national dignity, Pakistan must be led by the voices of Asiya Nasir, people who do not flee the country even in the most trying times, but people who remind us of the promises made to them by our founding father: “Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”
Pakistani Christians and other minorities, including those progressive thinkers who have been waiting for someone to raise the first sword, should rally around the message of Asiya Nasir because this is their Pakistan, even if it is unfortunately without Shahbaz Bhatti.