Religious discrimination in Pakistan

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Religious discrimination in Pakistan is a serious issue in modern day Pakistan. Christians, Hindus, Atheists and Ahmadi Muslims among other religious groups in Pakistan are routinely discriminated against. They are at times refused jobs, loans, housing and other similar things simply because of their choice of religious faith. Christian churches and Ahmadi worship places and their worshippers are often attacked.[1] At the time of Pakistan's creation the 'hostage theory' had been espoused. According to this theory the Hindu minority in Pakistan was to be given a fair deal in Pakistan in order to ensure the protection of the Muslim minority in India.[2][3] Khawaja Nazimuddin, the 2nd Prime Minister of Pakistan, stated: "I do not agree that religion is a private affair of the individual nor do I agree that in an Islamic state every citizen has identical rights, no matter what his caste, creed or faith be".[4]

According to Farahnaz Ispahani, media advisor to the president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2012, the population of Pakistan's religious minorities has declined from 23% in 1947 to around 3-4% of the population today.[5]

In 1999 the United Nations Human Rights Council approved the first resolution against defamation of religions. However these resolutions have been severely criticized by the United States, various European nations and freedom of religion groups as these resolutions contained language which could be used to discriminate against minority religions, and in March 2010 the UN refused to enact the most recent resolution.[6]

In 2011 religious intolerance was reported to be at its height, hundreds of minorities, women, journalists and liberals were being killed by Islamist fundamentalist extremists, while the Government remained mostly a silent spectator, often only making statements which condemned the ruthless acts of violence by the extremists but taking no real concrete action against them.[7][8][9]

Progress on religious freedom is being made gradually as Pakistan transitions to democracy from Zia's legacy, in 2016 Sindh with Pakistan's largest Hindu minority passed a bill that outlawed forced conversions. The bill was tabled by a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League which in Sindh is led by Sufi leader Pir Pagara, called PML-F, Pakistan Muslim League functional.[10]

Violence against minorities[edit]

Attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan have claimed hundreds of lives of religious minorities, such as Pakistani Ahmadis, Hindus, Sufis and Christians.[11] Hindu women have also been known to be victims of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam.[12] An official of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in 2010 that around 20 to 25 Hindu girls are abducted every month and forcibly converted to Islam.[13] A Pakistan Muslim League politician has stated that abduction of Hindus and Sikhs is a business in Pakistan, along with conversions of Hindus to Islam.[14] Forced conversion, rape, and forced marriages of Hindu women in Pakistan have recently become very controversial in Pakistan.[15][16] Sadiq Bhanbhro, Researcher on Public Health and Gender-Based Violence at Sheffield Hallam University commented he found reports of 286 girls forcibly converted from 2012 to 2017 in English-language dailies, though this number is likely higher. South Asia Partnership Pakistan has stated that every year at least 1,000 girls mostly belonging to the Hindu community are forcibly converted annually.[17] Amarnath Motumal who works for Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has stated that 20 to 25 were kidnapped and converted every month.[18]

A survey carried out by All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Pakistan's revealed that out of 428 Hindu temples in Pakistan only around 20 survive today and they remain neglected by the Evacuee Trust Property Board which controls those while the rest had been converted for other uses.[19] In 1990s nearly 1000 Hindu temples were targeted by the frenzied Islamists for vandalism destruction according to journalist Reema Abbasi.[20] Hindus often live in fear, have to hide their identity, adopt Muslim names and mannerisms to survive and avoid persecution while hundreds of temples have been vandalized or demolished.[20] In the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition Pakistani Hindus faced riots. Mobs attacked five Hindu temples in Karachi and set fire to 25 temples in towns across the province of Sindh. Shops owned by Hindus were also attacked in Sukkur. Hindu homes and temples were also attacked in Quetta.[21] Jain Mandar at Jain Mandar Chowk in Lahore was destroyed by the bigoted Muslims mobs in 1992 and the government changed the name of Jain Mandar Chowk to Babri Masjid chowk, which became the official name.[22] According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan data, just around 1,000 Hindu families fled to India in 2013.[23] In May 2014, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, revealed in the National Assembly of Pakistan that around 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Pakistan to India every year.[24]

In 2005, 32 Hindus were killed by firing from the government side near Nawab Akbar Bugti's residence during bloody clashes between Bugti tribesmen and paramilitary forces in Balochistan. The firing left the Hindu residential locality near Bugti's residence badly hit.[25] On 18 October 2005, Sanno Amra and Champa, a Hindu couple residing in the Punjab Colony, Karachi, Sindh returned home to find that their three teenage daughters had disappeared. After inquiries to the local police, the couple discovered that their daughters had been taken to a local madrassah, had been converted to Islam, and were denied unsupervised contact with their parents.[26] In January 2017, a Hindu temple was demolished in Pakistan's Haripur district.[27]

In 2006, a Hindu temple in Lahore was destroyed to pave the way for construction of a multi-storied commercial building. When reporters from Pakistan-based newspaper Dawn tried to cover the incident, they were accosted by the henchmen of the property developer, who denied that a Hindu temple existed at the site.[28]

In 2009, the Taliban imposed Jizya on non-muslims, houses of 11 Sikh families were demolished in Orakzai Agency for refusing to pay jizya ransom. In 2010, a Sikh youth Jaspal Singh was beheaded in Khyber Agency after his family could not pay the big Jijzya ransom. Consequently, thousands of Sikhs had to abandon their homes and flee from tribal areas to resettled in areas with larger Sikh population, such as Peshawar, Hassanabdal and Nankana Sahib.[29]

In July 2010, Hindus were attacked and ethnically cleansed with 60 fleeing Murad Memon Goth in Karachi following an incident when a Hindu youth drank from a water tap near an Islamic mosque.[30][31] In January 2014, in an attack on a temple in Peshawar, the guard was gunned down.[32] The July 2010 Lahore bombings killed 50 people and wounded 200 others in two suicide bombings on the Sufi shrine, Data Durbar Complex in Lahore.[33][34] The May 2010 Lahore attacks left 94 dead and more than 120 injured in nearly simultaneous attacks against two mosques of the minority Ahmadiyya Community[35] Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, as well as their Punjab wing, claimed responsibility for the attacks and were also blamed by the Pakistani police.

In 2012 Jundallah militants stopped buses and massacred 18 men travelling on buses. All but one of the victims were Shia Muslim, while others on the buses were spared.[36][37]

On 22 September 2013, a twin suicide bomb attack took place at All Saints Church[38] in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which 127 people were killed and over 250 injured.[39][40][41][42] On 15 March 2015, two blasts took place at Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church during Sunday service at Youhanabad town of Lahore.[43] At least 15 people were killed and seventy were wounded in the attacks.[44][45]

On March 15, 2014, a crowd of Muslims burnt a Hindu temple and a dharmashala in Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan, after unverified allegations of a Hindu youth desecrating a copy of the Quran.[46][47][48][49] In January 2014, a policeman standing guard outside a Hindu temple at Peshawar was gunned down.[32] The 25 March 2014 Express Tribune citing a All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM) survey said that 95% of all Hindu temples in Pakistan have been converted since 1990.[19] A church in Quetta was bombed with 9 being killed. The Islamic State group took responsibility for the attack.[50]

Attacks on minorities in the country have led to condemnation of policies that are discriminatory to religious minorities in Pakistan.[51] Following the 2010 Lahore massacre, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "Members of this religious community have faced continuous threats, discrimination and violent attacks in Pakistan. There is a real risk that similar violence might happen again unless advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is adequately addressed. The Government must take every step to ensure the security of members of all religious minorities and their places of worship so as to prevent any recurrence of today’s dreadful incident." Ban's spokesperson expressed condemnation and extended his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government.[52]

The United States ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, issued an unusually strong[citation needed] statement saying Pakistan had witnessed an increase in "provocative statements that promote intolerance and are an incitement to extremist violence."[35]

An editorial published in Dawn condemned the attacks, commenting that "Bigotry in this country has been decades in the making and is expressed in a variety of ways. Violence by individuals or groups against those who hold divergent views may be the most despicable manifestation of such prejudice but it is by no means the only one. Religious minorities in Pakistan have not only been shunted to the margins of society but also face outright persecution on a regular basis."[53]

Blasphemy Law[edit]

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court, receiving a sentence of death by hanging. In June 2009, Bibi was involved in an argument with a group of Muslim women with whom she had been harvesting berries after the other women grew angry with her for drinking the same water as them. She was subsequently accused of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies, and was arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death. If executed, Bibi would be the first woman in Pakistan to be lawfully killed for blasphemy.[54][55][56]

In August 2012, Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl, reportedly 11 or 14 years old, and an illiterate with mental disabilities was accused of blasphemy for burning pages from a book containing Quranic verses. The allegation came from a Muslim cleric who himself has subsequently been accused by the police of framing the girl. The girl, and later the cleric, were both arrested and released on bail.[57][58][59]

In 2014 Junaid Jamshed was accused under the blasphemy law.[60] According to The Economist, Jamshed "is unable to return to Pakistan after being accused of mocking one of the Prophet’s wives in a throwaway remark about the weakness of women."[61]

On March 2017 a Hindu man Prakash Kumar was arrested on the charges of blasphemy in the province of Balochistan.[62]

Critics of the blasphemy laws have called for change.[63]


It is estimated that 95% of Pakistanis are Muslims (75-95% Sunni,[64][65][66][67][68] 5-20% Shia[64][65][69][70] and 0.22-2.2% Ahmadi[71]), while the remaining 5% includes Hindus, Christians and Sikhs.[72] The Ahmadiyya have faced greater persecution since 1974 after being declared "non Muslims" over allegations that they do not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet.[73]

In addition, there have been many cases of religious persecution in of Hindus in the nation. Among these, the most recent include 19-year-old Hindu girl Rinkle Kumari from Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki district, Sindh province who was abducted by a gang and "forced" to convert to Islam, before being head shaved.[74]

Another recent case was the gunning down of four Hindu doctors in Chak town, Shikarpur sparking fears and panic among the minority community.[75]

Education system[edit]

In 2011 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a report on the public schools and Madrassas in Pakistan. The study concluded

  • Public school textbooks used by all children often had a strong Islamic orientation,
  • Public school and madrassa teachers had limited awareness or understanding of religious minorities and their beliefs, and were divided on whether religious minorities were citizens;
  • Teachers often expressed very negative views about Ahmadis, Christians, and Jews, and successfully transmitted these biases to their students;
  • Interviewees' expressions of tolerance often were intermixed with neutral and intolerant comments, leaving some room for improvement.[76]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bales, Kevin (2012). Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Updated With a New Preface (3rd Revised ed.). University of California Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0520272910.
  2. ^ Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali (2010). The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories. Columbia University Press. p. 72. ISBN 9780231138475. The logic of the hostage theory tied the treatment of Muslim minorities in India to the treatment meted out to Hindus in Pakistan.
  3. ^ Dhulipala, Venkat (2015). Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India. Cambridge University Press. p. 19. ISBN 9781316258385. Within the subcontinent, ML propaganda claimed that besides liberating the 'majority provinces' Muslims it would guarantee protection for Muslims who would be left behind in Hindu India. In this regard, it repeatedly stressed the hostage population theory that held that 'hostage' Hindu and Sikh minorities inside Pakistan would guarantee Hindu India's good behaviour towards its own Muslim minority.
  4. ^ Qasmi, Ali Usman (2015). The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan. Anthem Press. p. 149. ISBN 9781783084258. Nazim-ud-Din favored an Islamic state not just out of political expediency but also because of his deep religious belief in its efficacy and practicality...Nazim-ud-Din commented:'I do not agree that religion is a private affair of the individual nor do I agree that in an Islamic state every citizen has identical rights, no matter what his caste, creed or faith be'.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Stepan, Alfred (2012). Timothy Samuel Shah; Alfred C. Stepan; Monica Duffy Tof, eds. Rethinking Religion and World Affairs. Oxford University Press. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-0199827978.
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  8. ^ "The page you are looking for is not available at this URL". Daily Times. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Pakistan: The State of Human Rights in 2011". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
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  11. ^ "Violence Towards Religious Communities in Pakistan" (PDF). USCIRF. August 2014.
  12. ^ Anwar, Syed. "State of minorities". Retrieved 18 August 2006.
  13. ^ 25 Hindu girls abducted every month, claims HRCP official The News, Tuesday, 30 March 2010
  14. ^ Abduction of Hindus, Sikhs have become a business in Pak: PML MP Times of India – 28 August 2011
  15. ^ ‘Pak Hindus not treated equally under law’ Zee News – 20 April 2012
  16. ^ Hounded in Pakistan Daily Pioneer – 20 March 2012
  17. ^ Forced conversions of Hindu girls in Pakistan make a mockery of its constitution The Conversation
  18. ^ 25 Hindu girls abducted every month, claims HRCP official The News International
  19. ^ a b Gishkori, Zahid (25 March 2014). "95% of worship places put to commercial use: Survey". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  20. ^ a b The Hindus of Pakistan, Friday Times, Oct 2014.
  21. ^ "Pakistanis Attack 30 Hindu Temples". The New York Times. 1992-12-07. Retrieved 2011-04-15. Muslims attacked more than 30 Hindu temples across Pakistan today, and the Government of this overwhelmingly Muslim nation closed offices and schools for a day to protest the destruction of a mosque in India.
  22. ^ Pakistan's attempt to erase all signs of its non-Islamic past runs up against popular imagination,, 9 Aug 2015.
  23. ^ Rizvi, Uzair Hasan (10 September 2015). "Hindu refugees from Pakistan encounter suspicion and indifference in India". Dawn.
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  25. ^ Abbas, Zaffar (22 March 2005). "Journalists find Balochistan 'war zone'". BBC. Retrieved 26 December 2016. The Hindu residential locality that is close to Mr Bugti's fortress-like house was particularly badly hit. Mr Bugti says 32 Hindus were killed by firing from the government side in exchanges that followed an attack on a government convoy last Thursday.
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  29. ^ How Pakhtun Sikhs fleeing the Taliban made Nankana Sahib a cultural hub, Dawn (newspaper), 9 Jan 2018.
  30. ^ Cite error: The named reference thehindu1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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  33. ^ "Deadly blasts hit Sufi shrine in Lahore". BBC. 1 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
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  48. ^ Pakistan mob sets ablaze Hindu temple over desecration of Koran, Economic Times, April 16, 2014
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  64. ^ a b "Country Profile: Pakistan" (PDF). Library of Congress Country Studies on Pakistan. Library of Congress. February 2005. Retrieved 2010-09-01. Religion: The overwhelming majority of the population (96.3 percent) is Muslim, of whom approximately 95 percent are Sunni and 5 percent Shia.
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  69. ^ "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity". Pew Research Center. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2016. On the other hand, in Pakistan, where 6% of the survey respondents identify as Shia, Sunni attitudes are more mixed: 50% say Shias are Muslims, while 41% say they are not.
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  71. ^ The 1998 Pakistani census states that there are 291,000 (0.22%) Ahmadis in Pakistan. However, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has boycotted the census since 1974 which renders official Pakistani figures to be inaccurate. Independent groups have estimated the Pakistani Ahmadiyya population to be somewhere between 2 million and 5 million Ahmadis. However, the 4 million figure is the most quoted figure and is approximately 2.2% of the country. See:
  72. ^ CIA World Factbook.
  73. ^ Basu, Subho (2010). Riaz, Ali, ed. Religion and Politics in South Asia (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 121. ISBN 978-0415778008.
  74. ^
  75. ^ "Four Hindu doctors gunned down in Pakistan". The Times of India. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  76. ^ Leo, Leonard. "Pakistan's Educational System Fuels Religious Discrimination". USCIRF.

External links[edit]