Monday, 21 January 2013

Pakistan's sectarianism is fuelling genocide

The sectarian culture of Pakistan has produced a deeply divided society in which noone is safe.

Protest against Hazara genocide in Pakistan, source: Mani Rana/Reuters
by S. Taalay Ahmed

The image above, featured in newspapers around the world, is being shared online by alarmed, but perhaps unsurprised, members of Pakistan's Ahmadiyya community. The image should be one of hope, showing Pakistanis protesting against the genocide of the religious and ethnic Hazara minority. Instead, it has become another symbol of Pakistan's despair. 

While the banner at the front of the photo demands the government "stop the killing of innocent Shias in Pakistan", on the top right is another banner, using the same colours and style of font. Draped - perhaps permanently - across a public wall, it describes Ahmadis as those who insult the prophet of Islam. Ironically, the same protesters demanding an end to the persecution of one religious minority stand untroubled by the persecution of another. 

While the Hazara community are currently enduring a terrible genocide, the ungodly cycle of fatal sectarianism in Pakistan began with the Ahmadis. Through the 1970s and 1980s, a series of constitutional amendments were made by the governments of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul-Haq, which specifically named and targetted the beleaguered Ahmadis. Zia's blasphemy laws have since been used not just against their intended Ahmadi victims, but also against Pakistan's shrinking Hindu and Christian communities. 

The escalating persecution of Pakistan's minorities is reminiscent of a poem by German theologian, Martin Neimoller. Neimoller supported Hitler's Nazi party during the 1930s, before later being imprisoned between 1937 and 1945. He wrote:

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak because I wasn't a communist. 
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak because I wasn't  a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."

Until Pakistan's various groups, communities and religious sects learn to protect the rights of everyone and not just those who share their particular belief or ethnic background, the whole country will continue to suffer. @Taalay

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