An independent think-tank

“Majoritarian nationalism’ tramples on the rights of minorities”: PIPS workshop

20 April 2018

The country’s constitution calls for granting rights to non-Muslims, aligning with the speeches of the founding fathers who warned against religion-based discrimination. Yet, on ground, many feel left out. One way of understanding is the way majoritarian nationalism has been pushing others out.

These thoughts came in a discussion-workshop with around 30 participants from Sindh and Balochistan, organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), a think-tank. The deliberations were aimed at exploring how interfaith harmony and freedom of faith can be explored in Pakistan.

Dr. Khalida Ghaus, director, Social Policy and Development Center, said while we often refer to constitutional clauses that call for protecting non-Muslims, or the international conventions we signed, or to the speeches of our founding fathers, the reality is otherwise. She wondered why so.

She lamented that in attempt to nurture “oneness” of identity, we have ended up promoting “majoritarian nationalism” – which is about imposing the views of the majority group on others. Real oneness, she said, will be achieved only by making all groups as “equal stakeholders” in the system.

This she said can make its way by the “deepening” of democracy. Dr. Khalida said that she had intentionally used the word “deepening” to stress the importance of inclusion, in contrast to following the procedures. Only by involving people can the miseries of people be addressed. Participants too later hinted at mandating diverse public spaces, ranging from district committees to education boards.

Religious scholar Ahmed Yusuf Banoori narrated that there is a renewed interest in the jurisprudence on issues related to minorities. Not only are non-Muslims living in Muslim states such as Pakistan, but Muslims themselves are minorities in many countries of the world; hence, the ongoing debates.

Earlier, PIPS’s senior project manager Muhammad Ismail Khan said that one of the basic issues that non-Muslims face is about their proper documentation. Sharing findings of a report that PIPS had carried out, he said, non-Muslims in Pakistan unanimously agree that they are under-reported. Many of them also lack proper identity cards, exposing them to all sorts of vulnerabilities. It was suggested that the religious-wise distribution of the census performed in 2017 be publicized. Without that, all sorts of speculation germinate, which is not beneficial for the society.

The discussion stressed upon reforming criminal justice system to ensure that the rights of all are protected. It was reminded that even though the 2014 Justice Jassaduq Jilani verdict called for taking steps aimed at protecting non-Muslims in light of the constitution, much needs to be done on that front.

Some participants lamented that the space for working on interfaith harmony has shrunk; authorities deem sensitization and advocacy activities as trivial. On the other hand, those working on these issues are stopped or mocked; on the other hand, nothing is being done by others except for finding faults. The result is less avenues for dialogues.