On Monday 8 December Hindu Human Rights Group participated in the book launch sponsored by Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle, at the House of Commons. The event was organised by Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association and genocide expert Dr Desmond Fernandes.
The book launch was for The Education System in Pakistan: Discrimination and the Targeting of the ‘Other’, and as such the speakers include the following book contributors:
Peter Tatchell (Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation)
Desmond Fernandes (Genocide Scholar)
Faiz Baluch (International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons)
Margaret Owen (Director of Widows for Peace through Democracy)
Ranbir Singh (Chair of the Hindu Human Rights Group)
Fareed Ahmad (National Secretary, External Affairs, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK)
Ghalib Lone (former UN legal analyst)
Wilson Chowdhry (Chair of BPCA)
Each of the contributors drew attention to how far Pakistan has strayed from the dreams of its founding fathers. In 1947 it was envisioned as being a democratic and secular state, where its citizens would enjoy full equality, as well as freedom of conscience and belief. Regrettably this has not happened. Indeed democracy has become unstable and civil society all but pulverized under the cumulative weight of Talibanisation and military rule fuelled by the drug trade and war in Afghanistan, which itself began as part of the western world’s policy of containing Soviet influenced during the Cold War.
The quality and amount of education any child receives will imprint it on their minds. It is at this age that impressions are created that will last throughout life. Pakistan suffers a major problem of illiteracy, particularly amongst its females and especially amongst its minorities. Schools can become dens of peril, with the risk of rape, abduction, sexual molestation and forcible conversion. In schools the children are inculcated with hatred of the ‘Other’. At various times this can take the form of vilifying Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Ahmadis, Shia and Sufis. The situation has become so severe that many from minority communities dare not even send their children to school. What has made the situation so dire is the almost blanket use of blasphemy laws, a mechanism which is so amorphous and intrusive in its approach that it has become as extra-legal method to which settle old scores and pander to the darkest of human prejudices against those deemed as being ‘different’.
However these blasphemy laws are so venomous and self-destructive in their nature, that they have caused dystopian social breakdown even among the majority community who so often wield them in Pakistan. Added to the drug trade, mass illiteracy, the proliferation of automatic weapons, the ubiquity of terrorist organisations and the near dissolution of civil society, we have this nightmare of self-destruction on a national scale. In the end it is all who suffer, not just the minorities. Instead of ultilising energies into national building and progress, the rentier state that is Pakistan has turned in on itself.
The treatment of minorities in any country should be a warning as to that nation’s overall health. By practising officially sanctioned discrimination through legal and extra-legal means that uses police, the justice system and mob violence, the social conditions are injurious to all. Between the atomised individual and the increasingly totalitarian nature of the vampire state run by a kleptocratic dysfunctional elite, extremism and intolerance fill the vacuum which should have been the domain of social and economic advancement. To reverse these regressive elements will be the challenge of the twenty-first century.