Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Plight of the Marginalized Communities in Pakistan

By Zakaria Khan
Special to ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- My country of Pakistan got its independence from British rule on August 14, 1947; and emerged as a sovereign Muslim country in the region; making the dream of a "separate Muslim state" a reality.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah
Though Pakistan is a majority Muslim country, it also has a miniscule, but significant, presence of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmedis, Scheduled Castes, and some others, who follow different religious beliefs, cultures, social systems, traditions and norms.
They are termed as "minority" and the minority community also stood behind Mohammed Ali Jinnah, our country's founding father's vision, playing a pivotal role in the movement and soon after the creation of Pakistan, in its development process, but unfortunately now they are treated as de facto second class citizens in today's Pakistan.
Jinnah always promoted and valued the concept of diversity in our society. He had a dynamic vision to build a modern, democratic and civilized society in the newly built country, where religious bigotry and caste based discriminatory social system of the Indian sub-continent had no room to flourish. He said on August 11, 1947, while he was addressing to Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly, "We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State".
A poor Pakistani child
Mohammed Ali Jinnah died on September 11, 1948 without establishing country's constitution and, after his untimely death, it was generally believed that his successive governments would translate his vision into the state policy, and would apply it to make further policies, and enact laws beneficial to the citizens without any discrimination, but unfortunately all the successive leaderships, during so-called democratic rules and military regimes, contrary to his vision, attempted to impose their own ideological dogmas, and deliberately made discriminatory laws such as Hudood Ordinance, Law of Evidence, Blasphemy Laws and policies to fulfill their selfish interests, which systematically marginalized and oppressed around 8.00 millions of people who belong to different religious minorities in Pakistan.
Those fell prey to marginality include Christians, Hindus, Ahmedis, Sikhs, Scheduled Castes, and a small portion of Muslim population. They have been enduring marginality both societal and spatial, on the grounds of their religious beliefs, minority status, and centuries old in practice caste based social order of this pre-partition Indian sub-continent.
Pakistan's discriminatory and regressive state laws, policies and civil society's negative attitude towards these un-privileged communities further developed an environment over the decades where today they are enduring worst discrimination, intolerance, vigilante violence and ever increasing exclusion, vulnerability, and a growing feeling of alienation.
A woman ekes out a living on a garbage dump
The process of marginalization has worst impacts on millions of marginalized people; it has stunted their growth, and blocked their vision to wonderful opportunities in life. They have been excluded from the existing systems of protection and integration, and have very limited access to mainstream social, economic and political activities.
They are compelled to live at the receiving end, where they can hardly take any advantage of valued social resources such as education, health services, and housing, income and leisure activities. They live in slums in small towns to highly developed metropolitan cities in the most unhygienic conditions; engage themselves in menial jobs, and earn very meager incomes to survive. As a result of this oppression a vast population of these communities is struggling in the jaws of poverty, and lacks almost all basic amenities of life.
Some of the poor people of Pakistan
The plight of these marginalized communities is a long standing, and complex national phenomenon; it calls for a long term strategic planning with huge physical, financial, and human resources to resolve this issue. Pakistan's government should not further ignore its constitutional obligations towards these communities, and explore alternatives to provide them relief from marginality.
* It should revisit its practice of discriminatory state laws and policies to address marginality by exploring options to reduce social, economic and political disparities between marginalized and mainstream class.
* It should launch development programs exclusively for these communities to empower them at grass root levels, to reverse disadvantages into potentials by improving their livelihood options and bargaining power.
* It should eliminate widespread negative attitudes towards marginalized communities at private and public levels, promote cooperation and appreciation of differences, restore their dignity and give them a right place in society to work and live effectively as equal citizens.
We hope that these steps would not only help raise the image of Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a democratic country in the region, but also ameliorate sufferings of millions of human beings who eke out an existence on the soil of Pakistan. Long live Pakistan!
Note: Pakistan's estimated population in 2011 was over 187 million making it the world's sixth most-populous country, behind Brazil and ahead of Nigeria.

No comments:

Post a Comment