According to the Article 2 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, “Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan”. This article directly or indirectly shows that Pakistan is a religious state and since there is a state religion what will be the rights accorded to other religions and their believers. Article 20 (a) states that every citizen can “profess, practice and propagate” his religion.
Yet when it comes to religious minorities in Pakistan, Article 20 (a) is blatantly ignored. The plight of Christians in Pakistan is a case in point. Christians constitute one of the two largest religious minorities in Pakistan and their numbers are estimated to be more than 1.6% of Pakistan’s population. The Constitution of Pakistan discriminates against its Christian minority. Certain provisions like, non Muslims are prohibited from becoming the President or Prime Minister.
Pakistan’s Christian community faces regular threats, is continuously harassed and intimidated by extremist elements within the society. The Pakistani Christian fabric is further shred to pieces by the widespread plague of forced conversions. This has become a major headache for Pakistan’s Christian community.
Another major issue of concern is Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law. Tens and thousands of Christians have been persecuted under this draconian law. Pakistan has had no qualms in handing out capital punishment to its Christian citizens for the crime of blasphemy. With this Pakistan is violating the basic human values of right to speech and expression. A famous case was that of Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian, was accused of blasphemy, convicted and sentenced to death. The reason was that Ayub Masih, just like any other ordinary free man in any other free country would use his liberty, had expressed his support to Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses, which was then regarded as a diatribe against Islam and led the fundamentalist to issue a fatwa demanding the death of Rushdie. Pakistan’s dubious claims to be a democracy for all was torn to bits after this episode.
The vexing issue of ethnic cleansing of Christian slums is also another cause for concern among the Pakistani Christian community. The Pakistani state deliberately sponsors and participates in demographically altering places where Christians dwell in large numbers. Human rights groups alike came out against Pakistan’s calculated policy of ethnic cleansing.
There is also the always present threat of Islamist violence against Christians. Christian institutes like churches and charities are regularly targeted by Pakistani Islamist militants, with grenade and bomb attacks. After 9/11 and the US Global War on Terror (GWOT) Christians in Pakistan were increasingly viewed in society as agents of the West and were increasingly targeted ever since. The 2009 Gojra riots is one the gruesome episodes of violence against Christians in Pakistan. A series of pogroms were undertaken against Christians and the Pakistani state did nothing to prevent it. Christian schools are also a regular target, with students studying in such institutions regularly harassed.
Overall the condition of Christians in Pakistan is dire. Christians are systematically oppressed both inside and outside the system. They are institutionally denied jobs, education and other basic services and the Pakistani government is culpable in creating a hostile situation for the Christian minority.