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Pakistan: No end in sight to terrorism, religious persecution indicates bad days ahead

In a bold and unambiguous move, the international community sans China, is turning its heat on Pakistan to shun its state-sponsored cross-border terrorism. Such warnings were also articulated in the recent G20 and Asean summits that called upon Pakistan to stop abetting terror-related activities.

Simultaneously, the diplomatic offensive launched by India to isolate Pakistan subtly labelling it as the only country in South Asia causing terror found its resonance in US rhetoric as well as in other countries. Coincidentally, against this backdrop, there are numerous cases of human rights violations and oppression of religious minorities that are surfacing time and again, indicating that all is not well with Pakistan.

In a recent case of a blatant move to stifle the voice of human rights' groups, on 2 September, the home of noted human rights activist Dr Rubina Feroze Bhatti was raided by the police. Earlier, on 1 September, her NGO Taang Wassaib Organisation (TWO) was shut down by the authorities. It may be recalled that Rubina is the founder, and currently the general secretary of TWO, which proactively addresses issues of violence against women and religious intolerance against the minorities.

 Pakistan: No end in sight to terrorism, religious persecution indicates bad days ahead

Representational image. Reuters

Later, on 5 September, the interior ministry in Lahore alleged that Rubina and her NGO were preaching Christianity and defaming Pakistan. Such accusations were preposterous and are reflective of the fact that minorities continue to be targeted in Pakistan and that too at the behest of the government. Religious intolerance in Pakistan is not something new. The minorities in Pakistan observed 7 September — albeit silently — as a dark day for the oppressed . On this day 42 years ago (1974), religion was formally inducted to be the basis of the state affairs. More specifically, the Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan was passed where the Ahmediyas were declared non-Muslims.

By virtue of this amendment, the State was given arbitrary powers to determine who is a Muslim and who is not. Instead of providing the right of freedom of religion and faith to its nationals, this was a well-planned design to curb human rights and religious beliefs. Consequently, the influence of the fundamentalists on the running of the country reached unprecedented levels. The zeal and fervour with which Youm-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat (The Day of Finality of Prophethood) was observed on 7 September, is a manifestation of the fundamentalist mindset so actively prevalent in the country.

Persecution of Ahmediyas, Shias, Hindus and Christians continues unabated. The Jinnah Institute of Pakistan in its report stated that for the period ending 2015, stated that at least 543 incidents of violence occurred against minorities in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), reported that between July 2013 and June 2014, 122 incidents of sectarian violence in Pakistan injured 1,200, of whom 430 died. The report further mentioned that "Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom..."

In the meantime, crucially, Balochistan continues to suffer the wrath of the authorities amid reports of unearthing of thousands of dead bodies in recent years. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), however, claims rather assertively that these numbers could be much higher. The official figures of arrested of Balochis has been a whopping 9,000. Evidently, Balochistan continues to reel under political uncertainty, threatened with a possible dismemberment.

The recent Quetta blasts were an attack on the intellectuals. These are reminiscent of the extermination of intellectuals in Bangladesh in its run up to the liberation from Pakistan. It may be slightly premature to say the same thing for Balochistan, but the writing on the wall has begun appearing and the message seems to be loud and clear.

Pakistan's policy of "kill and dump" has caused a deep mistrust between the Balochis and the federal government, prolonging the insurgency.

The State's strategy of creating and supporting Islamic extremist groups to manipulate internal political challenges has predictably aggravated the situation in Balochistan. As the AHRC has estimated in its recent report, the limited gain — in terms of a marginal reduction in incidents of violence — offers faint hope of a sustainable improvement in the province. Pakistan, therefore, is expected to see itself in isolation in the not-so-distant future with fierce criticism in international fora as noed in the G20 and Asean meets .

The author writer is a retired IPS officer, a commentator on security analyses and political matters. Views are personal

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Updated Date: Sep 12, 2016 15:06:14 IST