After the egregious video of a Pakistani Muslim man coercing and threatening a Hindu boy into chanting Allahu Akbar and abusing Hindu Gods and Goddesses went viral on the internet, triggering widespread outrage and concerns over the plight of minorities in Pakistan, the President of the country took cognisance of the incident and took to Twitter to comment about it.
In a tweet, the official Twitter account of the President of Pakistan informed that President Dr Arif Alvi took serious note of the incident of the harassment of a Hindu boy in Tharparkar, Sindh and on his directions, the accused, Abdul Salam Abu Daud was arrested by the Sindh Police.
President Dr. Arif Alvi took serious notice of the incident of harassing a Hindu boy in Tharparkar, Sindh— The President of Pakistan (@PresOfPakistan) July 27, 2021
On directions of the President, the accused, Abdul Salam Abu Daud, has been arrested by Sindh Police. pic.twitter.com/0atqb3dp6f
However, this was not before social media users and activists expressed their outrage over the incident, raising larger questions about the predicament of minorities, especially Hindus, in Pakistan. As the video of the Hindu boy being intimidated and threatened into chanting Allahu Akbar and abusing Hindu Gods and Goddesses went viral, concerns regarding the fragile safety of minorities in Pakistan began to be raised, prompting the President of Pakistan to condemn the incident.
In a bid to allay the mounting criticism about Pakistan’s inability to safeguard the rights of its minorities, the President of Pakistan posted a string of tweets denouncing the harassment of the Hindu boy.
However, the President of Pakistan’s condemnation came with a caveat. Instead of issuing an unconditional denouncement of the incident, the President termed it as an “isolated” occurrence that he claimed was used to vilify the country.
“Our society should remain alert. Such isolated ugly incidents are used to give a bad name to the country. I condemn it and I assure all citizens that we in Riasat-e-Madina cannot and will not allow this to happen,” the President’s official Twitter account posted.
The President was more concerned about the bad name that the incident brought to the country instead of the harassment meted out to the Hindu boy by the member of the majority. In the subsequent tweet, the Pakistani President tried to water down the religious bigotry of the aggressor, holding forth on the cliches about Islam protecting minorities and the constitution ensuring equal rights, freedom and security.
“Pakistan has and will always ensure protection to its minorities as enshrined in our constitution,” he said in another tweet.
While the Pakistani President called it an “isolated” incident, a look at the perpetrator’s social media handle tells that the man is a habitual offender. His social media comments are full of blatant Hinduphobia and hatred against Hindus. There was another video where he was interacting with a Hindu child, claiming to the camera that he could have assaulted the Hindu child, but he was not doing so because he is a ‘virtuous’ man.
The systematic persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan
While the President of Pakistan would have his followers believe that the harassment of a Hindu boy in Tharparker was just a stray incident and that the state of Pakistan works scrupulously to uphold the rights of the minorities and ensure their protection, the incidents of persecution since its inception in 1947 do not jibe with his recent assertions.
From 14 August 1947 Hindus in the country have been systematically persecuted, a trend that reached a crescendo during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971 when millions of Hindus in Bangladesh were maimed, raped, brutalised, and killed. The trend continued well into the 1980s, the decade when Pakistan was Islamised under the rule of Islamic fanatic Zia-ul-Haq.
Later in the 1990s, the Islamic radicals and terrorists gained prominence as the United States egged them on to wage a jihad against the Soviet forces that had invaded neighbouring Afghanistan. The radicalisation of the population and the romanticism with the idea of jihad inevitably gave rise to Islamic terrorism and a growing number of radical fanatics started gaining currency. As a consequence, the country became a breeding ground for terrorists and radicals who believed in the puritanic version of Islam.
Subjugation of Ahmadiyya sect of Muslims within Pakistan
Since then, the persecution of minorities in Pakistan has only escalated. In fact, not just other religious minorities but Ahmadiyya, a minority group within Muslims, have also been subjected to violence, subjugation and brutality. Sectarian conflicts between Muslim groups have marred Pakistan as different radical groups vie to dominate the country’s larger Islamic doctrine.
The Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan is prohibited from referring to themselves as such, and from practising aspects of their faith under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. A recently published report in Al-Jazeera said there has been a spike in the persecution of Ahmadiyya in Pakistan in the last two years.
Last year, at least five Ahmadis were killed in targeted attacks by terrorists across Pakistan, while at least seven others were wounded in unsuccessful attacks, the community data says. Since 2017, at least 13 Ahmadis have been killed, and more than 40 wounded, as per the data.
Religious minorities, especially Hindus, in Pakistan living under the persistent shadow of fear and persecution
The threats faced by members of other religious minority communities in Pakistan are even more dangerous. Sikhs, Hindus and Christians in Pakistan lead a particularly vulnerable life in Pakistan, with the strict blasphemy laws being used by the members of the majority community as a tool to persecute them and settle personal scores.
Hindus, in particular, live under a constant threat of persecution. Attacks on Hindus, kidnapping of Hindu daughters and their forcible conversions have become par for the course in Pakistan. Among Hindus, girls are especially targeted by the Islamic fanatics that run amok in Pakistan. The kidnappings, forced conversions and marriage of Hindu girls have become frequent in Pakistan, especially in the Sindh province. The Islamic fanatics routinely abduct Hindu girls, forcefully convert them into Islam before marrying them against their wish.
Recently, a case of a Muslim neighbour kidnapping, converting and marrying his Hindu neighbour was reported in Pakistan’s Kadio Ghanour. Reena Meghwar, a Hindu girl was forcibly converted and married after being abducted by a Muslim neighbourhood man she used to tie Rakhi to.
In March this year, a 13-year-old Hindu girl named Kavita Oad from the Kandhkot area of Sindh was reportedly abducted and then forcibly converted to Islam. A couple of days later, her house was set on fire by unidentified miscreants.
In the same month, a journalist in Pakistan was shot dead by unknown assailants for exposing the role of politicians and clerics in facilitating the forceful conversions of Hindu girls. A report published by Associated Press in December 2020 estimated that more than 1,000 girls, mostly Hindus, are abducted, raped and converted to Islam every year in Pakistan.
Families of the victims have accused the administration and the police of not acting against the culprits. Even the courts fail to do justice for Hindus in Pakistan. In fact, in some cases, the courts have actively participated in the injustice meted out to the Hindu and Christian minorities. In June 2020, a district magistrate allowed a Muslim man to keep his Hindu wife even after the parents of the girl alleged that their daughter was kidnapped and forcibly married off to the man.
So while the President of Pakistan might make light of the recent case of harassment of the Hindu boy by terming it as an “isolated” incident, the facts don’t add up with his assertions. On the contrary, they point towards a sinister pattern of unceasing persecution of minorities, carried out by Islamists and abetted by the judiciary, government authorities and members of civil society.
The Pakistani President might have resorted to using platitudes and laid claims to the lofty ideals of democracy but is it is an established fact that Pakistan is a dysfunctional country, much less a democracy. Therefore, his claim that the bullying of a Hindu boy into chanting Allahu Akbar is nothing but a shoddy attempt to whitewash the unspeakable atrocities meted out Hindus while shielding the perpetrators behind it.