Group of Panelist
A heart-warming event was organised by Never Forget, London on 19th September, 2015 at the heart of London to raise awareness about the rights of minorities. This time the rights of minorities of Pakistan were the focus of the event which started at 7:00 PM. Umer Tariq hosted the programme who announced the details to include a documentary on the abuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan and followed by interactive debate. The panel included Rev. Rana Youab Khan, Dr Lakhumal Luhana and Liaquat Ali Hazara who focused on the rights of Christians, the forced conversion of Hindu girls into Islam and the rights of Hazaras and their mass displacement as a result of ongoing targeted attacks on them.
In the beginning of the programme, a documentary on the abuse of blasphemy law was shown which depicted the plights of the Christian minority and their displacement in the wake of a personal dispute which was cunningly painted as blasphemy.
Followed by talks of the panelist where Rev. Rana Youab Khan mentioned that Pakistan came into being to protect the rights of minorities including Muslims who, in terms of population, were in minority at the time given the entire population of the then sub-content. Therefore, the state should safeguard the rights of minorities in today’s Pakistan. Although, Pakistan, after its formation is a Muslim country, it is essential that all minorities should enjoy their rights like other citizens. He said that Pakistan 97% population consists of Muslims and the remaining 3% is all non-Muslim minorities so there should be no genuine reason to be afraid of the 3% population. Reminiscing about the past, he continued that he was born and brought up in Pakistan and, until recently, he had never experienced such orthodox version of Islam which requires Muslims of wearing a hijab. Talking of his own sisters as an example, he said that they all grew up wearing a typical Dupatta and Chaadar like other women.
Focusing on blasphemy law, he said that everyone is afraid of talking about this in Pakistan due to imminent threats generating from extremists.
Dr. Lahkumal Luhana, the Chairman of World Sindhi Congress, sketched an overall dismal picture of Sindh province. He said that Sindhis are dying without empathy from the government although Pakistan’s large revenue generates from this province. He continued that parts of Sindh are badly affected by drought where livestock, women and children are affected alike, however, the government shows no interest towards this serious problem. He said that pain has no colour and however the countrymen are suffering or affected by the scale or frequency of pain, we must stand together to support them.
Talking about the forced conversion of Hindu girls into Islam, he lamented that nothing is falling on deaf ears of the government for this deplorable problem. He said that the Hindus are the only minority in Pakistan whose girls are forcibly converted into Islam and we have done anything to stop this menace. “This is very bad for Pakistan’s overall reputation and we must build up a momentum to stand up against such cruelty”, he exclaimed.
Liaquat Ali Hazara, Chairman Hazara United Movement (HUM), UK briefly mentioned about the history of Hazaras’ killings in Pakistan and maintained that by the definition of the Geneva Convention, the killings of Hazaras must be recognized and mentioned as Genocide. He briefly defined Genocide as, “the deliberate killings of a large number of people, particularly belonging to the same nation or ethnicity” He said that Pakistan was boastfully celebrating the 50th Anniversary of 1965 war on the occasion of its Independence and Defence Days in August and September this year, but no official tribute was paid to the then Commander-in-Chief who was a Hazara and the main architect of the victory. He said, “Pakistan owes an official apology to Hazaras. He demanded that either the Head of the State or the Chief Executive should officially apologize to the Hazaras for their incompetence in stopping their Genocide.
He said, “Balochistan has always been the most liberal and tolerant province in Pakistan where people of all ethnicities and nationalities have co-existed peacefully for centuries.” All the main stakeholders of the province such as the Baloch, Pakhtuns, Hazaras and Punjabi settlers have never had any factional disputes or sectarian animosity. Mentioning of Alamdar Road which constitute Hazara populace, he said that there were over 300 house of the Baloch who would enjoy their complete religious freedom, going to their mosques and mingling with their Hazaras friends but they were compelled to sell out their houses and locate to Baloch belt when terrorist attacks on Hazaras increased manifold.
He said that sectarianism never existed in Balochistan nor were their any target killers. Such menaces were imported into the province by the de facto rulers of the country to accomplish their ulterior motives.
At the end of session, questions relating to the protection of minorities were asked from the panelist which reflected on blasphemy law, the rights of Christians, Hindus and Hazaras etc and how the international community can be approached for a timely pressure on the Pakistani government for safeguarding minorities.