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Wasim Akram’s casteist slang ‘Cha*ar’ after loss to Afghanistan: How discrimination against lower-caste non-Muslims is ingrained in the Pakistani psyche

Moreover, Akram’s casual utterance of casteist slur that saw no opposition from fellow panellists and the host betrays how discrimination is ingrained in the psyche of an average Pakistani, who has grown up watching the perpetuation of prejudice against non-Muslims, a rapidly declining breed of Pakistanis owing to rampant wave of Islamisation and religious persecution. 

The Afghanistan cricket team staged a major upset in World Cup 2023 as it handed out an embarrassing defeat to neighbouring Pakistan, scaling down the mammoth 283 target with remarkable poise and displaying great character.

The defeat that, too, from a lower-seeded team, predictably had raised the hackles of Pakistanis, who could not bring themselves to terms with the reality of being humbled by a side that is relatively new in playing international cricket and lacks a robust domestic cricketing system that Pakistan has for over three decades now.

So this frustration of losing against Afghanistan, which analysts have rightly said was better against a lacklustre Pakistan, was reflected in the meltdown by former Pakistani cricketers, including Wasim Akram, who resorted to using casteist slang during the post-match analysis of Pakistan’s first loss in ODIs to Afghanistan.

Speaking in the sports show ‘The Pavilion’ on A Sports, Akram casually used the word ‘Cha*ar’ to lament their inability to maintain hygiene standards while shooting a similar 1-hour show on the ground.

The usage of a word that could attract stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act and result in incarceration in India was used almost nonchalantly by Wasim Akram, underscoring the pervasive discrimination and stigma faced by a section of society in Pakistan.

Moreover, Akram’s casual utterance of casteist slur that saw no opposition from fellow panellists and the host betrays how discrimination is ingrained in the psyche of an average Pakistani, who has grown up watching the perpetuation of prejudice against non-Muslims, a rapidly declining breed of Pakistanis owing to rampant wave of Islamisation and religious persecution. 

Already, non-Muslims face an existential crisis in a country created on religious lines, where infidels and apostates are regarded as second-class citizens, often brutally lynched for being non-Muslims and on spurious charges of blasphemy. But Akram’s statements reveal an even more dire situation faced by the oppressed classes within the non-Muslim communities. 

How discrimination against non-Muslims, most notably against lower-caste ‘infidels’, is normalised in Pakistan

A report published by the New York Times in 2020 shed light on the plight of non-Muslims and the marginalised sections of the Hindu community prevailing in Pakistan. The report titled ‘Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply’ talked about the burning crisis of lack of sewer cleaners in the country because the job was reserved only for non-Muslims.

While India had outlawed caste discrimination and brought in strict laws such as the SC/ST Act to curb instances of discrimination, Pakistan, on the other hand, had encouraged a new system of informal discrimination where Muslims sit at the top of the hierarchy, followed by non-Muslims, with manual sewer cleaners and sweepers at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

Although Christians constitute just 1.6 per cent of Pakistan’s approximately 200 million population, as per a 1998 government census, human rights organisations estimate that they occupy approximately 80 per cent of the sweeper positions, with lower-caste Hindus predominantly comprising the remainder.

Municipalities in Pakistan rely heavily on Christians for manual scavenging as Muslims refuse to clean the gutters and the Christian minorities have few other employment options. According to one estimate by the rights group, even though Christians constitute 1.6% of the population, they account for 80% of sanitation workers. 

The rest 20% comprises Dalits who constitute the overwhelming majority of Hindus in Pakistan. Illiteracy and lack of alternate sources of income have pushed these Pakistani minorities with no other option but to clean drains clogged with faeces and medical waste to earn a meagre living.

The existence of caste-based practices in Pakistan is not limited to a specific area or sector, it is pervasive across the country, from the heart of Pakistan, i.e. Punjab, to the restive regions of Sindh, where sewage jobs are often reserved only for non-Muslim since Muslims consider it as a ‘job’ meant only for the second-grade citizens of the country.

Even the Pakistan Army, the all-powerful institution that is the defacto power centre of the country, even though civilians elected to power tout themselves to be the supreme authority, have perpetuated caste-based discrimination in its recruitments. Advertisements for sewage cleaning by the Pakistan Army often mention the eligibility criteria of being a ‘non-Muslim’ to fit the job requirements.

Rampant abduction and forceful conversion of Hindu girls in Pakistan

Hindus in Pakistan 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. 

Hindus in Pakistan, especially girls, are leading a particularly vulnerable life in a country where forced conversion of Hindus into Islam has become a common norm. The Islamist fanatics routinely abduct Hindu girls and forcefully convert them to Islam before marrying them. On many occasions, even the Pakistani courts sanction the abductors and order the custody of girls to their tormentors. Dalits remain among the most oppressed communities among non-Muslims in Pakistan.

What Dr BR Ambedkar warned about the discrimination meted out in the Islamic country of Pakistan long before its creation

The chief architect of India’s constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar, had pithily and presciently warned about the religious and caste-based discrimination faced by non-Muslims in Pakistan in his seminal work ‘Pakistan Or The Partition Of India‘, first published in 1940, with subsequent editions in 1945 and 1946. The book, a collection of his writings and speeches, lays bare a staggering account of what Ambedkar thought about Islam.

In crude and lucid language, Ambedkar expounded that Islam was a divisive religion, a faith that segregated people into rigid groups of Muslims and non-Muslims, where the benefits of brotherhood and fraternity were limited only to the former, i.e Muslims, while the latter was treated with contempt and enmity. 

“Hinduism is said to divide people and in contrast, Islam is said to bind people together. This is only a half-truth. For Islam divides as inexorably as it binds. Islam is a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and non-Muslims is a very real, very positive and very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is a brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity, but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation, there is nothing but contempt and enmity,” BR Ambedkar wrote in ‘Pakistan or Partition of India.

Not only did this discrimination form the cornerstone of Pakistan’s creation in 1947, but it also created a template for the subsequent generation of Pakistanis to normalise and rationalise the prejudice against non-Muslims, including against Dalit Hindus. Akram’s apathetic reference to casteist slang during a post-match analysis is a testament to the discrimination that is entrenched in Pakistani society.

The existing discrimination highlights the pathetic conditions in which non-Muslims, most notably the lower-caste Hindus, live, but it no less also punctures the mythical construct of ‘Jai Bheem Jai Meem’ propped up by the desi ‘liberals’, who try to stitch a chimerical pact between Muslims and Dalits in India in their bid to undermine the consolidation of Hindus. If anything, the caste-based discrimination in the Islamic society of Pakistan reveals that the ‘Jai Bheem-Jai Meem’ construct is a wild goose chase for something that does not even exist and is nothing but a desperate attempt by ‘liberals’ at cultivating their vote bank.

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast.

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