I urge every reader to sign your name, begin at the beginning.
To: Government of Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani
Senate Chairman Farooq Hamid Naek
Speaker Fehmida Mirza
Ambassador Hussain Haqqani
The May 28th massacre of Ahmadis in Lahore is a tragic reminder of the state of siege that Pakistan’s persecuted sects and minorities constantly live in. Given the institutionalized discrimination and hateful rhetoric against persecuted sects and religious minorities, this latest attack should not surprise us. After all, this venomous bigotry and its prevalence at all levels of our society is precisely the reason why violence against Muslims who are not Sunni as well as non-Muslims has been so exponentially on the rise in Pakistan over the past few years.
Far from being an isolated incident, this latest attack is in fact part of a pattern of increasingly organized violence against persecuted sects and religious minorities in Pakistan that seems to be intensifying at a frightening rate. In addition to death threats, damage to homes, businesses, places of worship, the settling of scores through the use of blasphemy laws, we are also seeing increasingly organized pogroms. In September 2008, at least two Ahmadis were killed in cold blood after a popular televangelist Aamir Liaquat Hussain declared that Islam sanctioned the killing of Ahmadis for calling themselves Muslims. In July 2009, eight Christians were killed and over 50 homes burned in the town of Gojra. Recently in Rawalpindi, a woman of Christian faith was allegedly raped and her husband burned for refusing to convert to Islam. And three days after the horrific massacre of Ahmadi namazis in Lahore, a man in Narowal who swore that he would not leave any Ahmadi alive broke into the home of an Ahmadi family, stabbing the 55-year old husband and father and wounding the son.
This pattern of violence against persecuted sects and religious minorities in Pakistan is in part the result of discriminatory and shameful laws such as the Second Amendment and Article 26 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan which declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims, and the infamous Blasphemy Law [Section 295(C) of the Pakistan Penal Code]. We decry these discriminatory and unjust laws and the state’s refusal to go after the perpetrators of such violence, the carte blanche given to religious groups which openly target persecuted sects and religious minorities, the media platform given to hate-mongers such as Aamir Liaquat Hussain and the silent complicity of the (Sunni) majority. Politicians are increasingly involved in such incidents of organized violence against persecuted sects and religious minorities: in the case of Gojra, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s fact-finding mission established that members of the PML(N) were involved in the demagogic rally which preceded the violence. A PML-N member of the Punjab Assembly was also a vocal participant in a recent shameful conference called by 13 religious parties in Lahore which bizarrely claimed that the horrific attack on the Ahmadi mosques on Black Friday was part of an Ahmadi conspiracy to have the laws against them repealed. All these factors have combined to creating a climate of terror for persecuted sects and religious minorities in Pakistan today, a climate in which the threat of violence is ever-present and there is no hope of redress.
THIS MUST NOT GO ON. Pakistan cannot continue to treat its Muslim citizens who are not Sunni as well as its non-Muslim citizens as subhuman. Pakistan’s regime of legal discrimination against its non-Sunni and non-Muslim citizens is not only immoral, it is in direct and indirect violation of almost every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – especially Articles 1, 2, 3, 7, 18, 19, 21, 22 – of which Pakistan is a signatory. If Pakistan is to take its rightful place in the comity of nations, it needs to take prompt and decisive action against the perpetrators of such violence and rid itself of the toxic laws and policies which enable it.
As citizens of Pakistan and people of conscience, we demand that the state of Pakistan take responsibility for extending the rights and protections of citizenship equally to all Pakistanis – REGARDLESS OF RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION. The state has no right to determine who is a legitimate Muslim and must repeal all anti-Ahmadi laws. Nor can the state cede its responsibility to provide equal protection to its non-Muslim minorities. We call for a Pakistan grounded in principles of justice and fairness which includes respect for the rights of persecuted sects and religious minorities as equal citizens of the state. All legal, administrative and social discrimination on the basis of sect or religion must end, and a separation between religion and state must be instituted immediately.
TO THIS END, WE THE UNDERSIGNED DEMAND THAT:
I. THE STATE MUST PROTECT ITS NON-SUNNI AND NON-MUSLIM POPULATIONS:
-The state ensure the rights of all persecuted sects and religious minorities, including their right to openly and freely practice their religion.
-The state provide protection to all its citizens, and the perpetrators of violence against persecuted sects and minorities be brought to justice speedily and transparently.
II. THE STATE MUST SEPARATE ITSELF FROM RELIGIOUS CONCERNS:
-The 2nd Amendment and all other anti-Ahmadi laws be removed from the Constitution.
-All Blasphemy laws be repealed.
-Religious identity be removed from National ID Cards and Passports.
-Eligibility criteria for the offices of President and Prime Minister make no reference to religion.
-Pakistan’s official name be changed back to ‘The Republic of Pakistan’.
ACTION FOR A PROGRESSIVE PAKISTAN