Echoes of Resilience: The Struggles and Plight of Minorities in Pakistan

In the heart of Pakistan, where I've breathed the air of this nation for two decades, lies a profound love that courses through my veins. It is with this love, intertwined with a sense of responsibility, that I find myself compelled to shed light on the struggles of minorities in Pakistan that are often brushed aside. And since national minority day is approaching on 11th August, I couldn’t find a better time to do so. 

As I immerse myself in my love for Pakistan, my heart is burdened with the fact that despite our deep affection and sense of ownership, the religious minorities in this land continue to face daunting struggles. It terrifies me to the core to witness several incidents that make me doubt the very essence of our belonging. 

No one is unaware of the forced conversions, where young girls from minority communities are coerced to abandon their faith against their will, robbing them of their fundamental right to religious freedom. It makes me wonder, what if it would be me the next day? 

These young girls, with the same passion and determination as any child in Pakistan, dreamed of becoming doctors, engineers, teachers, and artists. Their eyes sparkled with hope, looking forward to contributing their talents to society and making a difference in the lives of others. But fate dealt them a cruel hand. These innocent souls were robbed of their right to choose, their right to shape their own destinies. Their dreams of soaring highs were traded for a harsh reality where they were forced to give up on their religion to accept a new faith and marry someone their father’s age only to bear offspring. 

The number of times these tragic forced conversions happened in the past few years is beyond measure, and even this entire piece of paper will not do justice to the weight of the sufferings of these young girls and their helpless families. And not only that, the vandalization of temples, sacred places that hold the memories and prayers of generations, leaves scars that cut deep into the spirit of unity we so cherish. And what bothers me the most is, most of the time, this happens because of the activities of neighboring countries that have nothing to do with the minorities residing in Pakistan. The unlawful use of the blasphemy laws to get someone's life ruined due to personal conflicts is a cherry on top.

Moreover, as a student, it is truly disappointing to find traces of hate against Hindus and possibly other minority groups interwoven within educational curricula. Education, which should teach tolerance and understanding, instead perpetuates prejudice, further dividing us. My class fellows with whom I eat, laugh, and learn would judge me from different eyes after learning what is being taught in the curriculum. The hate merely due to our beliefs or cultural heritage cripples our hopes and aspirations for an equal and inclusive society. 

And if we look upon the practical grounds, the government advertisements for cleanliness staff only for minorities, unequal representation in the assemblies, disadvantaged quota systems, and so on are disturbing. The struggles for equality and the barriers on the way are endless.

Amidst the backdrop of these heart-rending struggles, we have also faced great disappointment due to our very leaders and representatives who should have been the guardians of justice and equality. However, they turned a deaf ear to the suffering communities' pleas for support, and their grievances were mere lip service.

How can we disregard the plight of minorities who should be valued like any other citizen rather than subjected to unimaginable hardships? The echoes of these shattered dreams implore us to break the chains of ignorance.

We will not let ourselves dwell in the shadows of despair, for we belong to the white part of this country’s flag, which will be there till the end, demonstrating that the minorities own Pakistan as much as any other community. Now is the time for us, the common people, to rise and take the lead. We can no longer afford to remain passive observers. The call for justice beckons us to stand united, to come together as one voice on the streets, and to demand the rights and dignity that every human being deserves.

With unwavering determination, we, the resilient minorities of Pakistan, stand united in our pursuit of justice. On National Minority Day, this 11th of August, 2023, we will take to the streets, united in purpose, to raise our voices and demand our fundamental rights. Just as women and other disadvantaged communities marched for their rights and faced great opposition, we too expect that, but we remain steadfast in our cause.

Our basic demands serve as the compass guiding us to march for a more equitable and inclusive Pakistan. We call for the 11th August address of our leader, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to be incorporated into the curriculum to instill the values of unity and respect for minorities in the hearts of future generations so that we don't get questioned while practicing our fundamental rights. We demand the repeal of all discriminatory acts and articles in the Constitution, paving the way for true equality under the law.

To ensure fair representation, we advocate for the restructuring of job quotas for reserved seats of minorities at both provincial and federal levels. Our voices resonate for a more inclusive democracy, urging the restructuring of quota models in all the elected bodies, including provincial and national assemblies.

Forced conversions, a painful reality we seek to eradicate, drive us to call for affirmative measures and legal structures to protect our right to religious freedom. Discriminatory material against religious minorities in the curriculum must be eliminated, as we envision an education system that promotes understanding and harmony.

Safety and security are paramount concerns, and thus, we demand quotas for religious minorities in law enforcement and intelligence agencies. We strive to protect our holy places and worship sites, seeking the establishment of special police forces and Minority protection cells.

Restoring heritage sites belonging to or associated with religious minorities holds deep significance as we honor our shared history. We advocate for concrete actions to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws, ensuring justice is served fairly and justly.

In this globalized era, we seek to be embraced and represented in media, mainstreaming religious minorities in national and local outlets. Discrimination at work placements and workplaces must be eradicated, including those janitorial ads exclusively for minorities.

Our demands are not merely words on paper; they are the cries of a community struggling for its rightful place in the nation's heart. We will march together, driven by hope and resilience, knowing that the path to change begins with us. We will raise our voices in unison everywhere to illuminate the way forward towards a Pakistan where all its children can thrive, hand in hand, regardless of creed or background, as what Jinnah said. 

Jawala Rathi is an ACCA student and an avid writer from Pakistan's minority community. Her writings center around the challenges women, students, religious minorities, and commoners face as she endeavors to create positive change. With every word, she strives for a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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