India and the West must reevaluate their positions on the continued persecution of minorities in Pakistan.
The attack on 150 Christian homes in Lahore’s Joseph Colony is the most recent in a series of attacks against minorities in Pakistan. A mob of nearly 3,000 protestors pillaged through the community over alleged blasphemous remarks made by a Christian “sanitation worker” and set fire to homes and shops. Punjab police stood by and watched as the situation unfolded. That no one died from this marauding rampage is less a consolation and more a miracle. This image tells us a story of the anarchy that prevailed that day.
Two weeks ago in Karachi, a bomb ripped through a mainly-Shia community in Abbas Town. At least 45 people were killed and 150 wounded. In the first two months of 2013, nearly 200 Shia were killed in Quetta in two separate bombings. But the response from Pakistan’s leaders has been predictable. The attacks in Quetta were a conspiracy. The attack against the Christian community was also a conspiracy. There are no realities in Pakistan anymore; just conspiracies.
It is very likely that this disciplined and motivated assault on the minorities of Pakistan will continue. There has been a deliberate attempt to portray this violence as a “sectarian conflict.” But those who do so fail to recognize that a conflict requires two willing participants.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — the terrorist outfit of the Ahl-e-Sunnat-wa-al-Jamaat (ASWJ) — which claimed responsibility for the attacks in Quetta is based in the badlands of south Punjab, where the writ of the PML(N), rather than that of the PPP, holds sway. The LeJ has very recently made it clear (اردو) that its mission is “the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shia and the Shia-Hazaras from every city, every town, every village and every nook and cranny of Pakistan.” And yet, the Pakistani state can (will) do nothing about the violence carried out against its citizens in its own sovereign territory.
Article upon article has been written arguing that Pakistan is a failed state. But Pakistan today is not a failed state as much as it is a failed idea. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision is invalidated with each mounting attack on sectarian and religious minorities in Pakistan. It remains invalidated by the preservation of legal cover though the likes of the Hudood and XX Ordinances which allow for the perpetuation of the “cleansing operation” currently under way in the Land of the Pure.
Jinnah’s Pakistan has ceased to exist. What we have now instead is a different project, whose odious objectives should be amply clear to everyone. Under this new project, anyone who is not of a particular identity favored by the state will be systematically eradicated. The Hindus that remained in Pakistan after Partition have always had to endure the agony of a state-mandated program of intimidation, subjugation and extermination. However, the implementation of this new project means that the Shia and Ahmedis are also wajib ul-qatal (fit to be killed).
What is left of this failed experiment is a state in our immediate neighborhood with a population of 180 million having no capacity or willingness to protect its minorities. But how does one provide for the security of those persecuted? If the state has decided that it is unable and/or unwilling to do so, it presents an ethical dilemma to India and the West. But more importantly, it also presents a security dilemma to India. India cannot afford to have a Bangladesh-like scenario on both its eastern and western boundaries.
Members of the Shia and Ahmadiyya communities who are financially capable of seeking better lives in the Gulf or the West will migrate, or have already done so. Persecuted Hindus will seek refuge in India without going through the rigors of its convoluted immigration process. India will most likely turn a blind eye to their presence in the country if they choose not to return to Pakistan. But what happens to the vast majority of Pakistan’s minorities, who on account of being systematically persecuted and ostracized, lack the financial means to escape their daily horrors?
It has perhaps been politically judicious thus far for the West to not press Pakistan hard enough on the issue of its treatment of minorities. An opportunity to correct these wrongs exists after the U.S. and its allies extricate themselves from their entanglements in 2014. Human rights NGOs and news media from the West and India must be encouraged to increase their coverage of abuses against minorities in Pakistan. Additionally for India, this presents an opportunity to reevaluate and streamline its immigration policy and to formalize a legal framework to grant asylum to persecuted individuals in its neighborhood.