Islamabad discriminates against non-Muslim war heroes

» 09/07/2011 14:43
PAKISTAN

The celebration of the September 6, in which we remember the soldiers who died in the war with India in 1965, “forgets” Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis. Christian leaders recall the sacrifice of minorities for the birth and the nation’s independence. The ongoing carnage of the Ahmadis, a list of 50 people to kill, to get a place in heaven.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan also affects non-Muslim war heroes, protagonists of the battles in the 1965 conflict between Pakistan and India. Their names do not appear in history books, textbooks, or celebrations which Islamabad organizes every year to remember those who sacrificed their lives for their country. Meanwhile the summary execution of Ahmadis continues in the country, in the complete indifference of police and government who have failed to intervene to stem the violence. So much so, that an Islamic extremist group has issued a list with the names of 50 Ahmadi faithful to kill, in order to gain “preferential access to paradise.”

On 6 September, Pakistan commemorates the 1965 war with India during which heroes who sacrificed their lives for their country are remembered. However, every year the authorities ignore the sacrifice of many non-Muslims, who have fought and died for their country. The discrimination and humiliation that religious minorities of a nation held hostage by the Islamic fundamentalism are subjected to also affect those who have contributed to the birth and survival of Pakistan.

To protest against government censorship and the exclusion of non-Muslims in the armed forces of the country, the Lahore based humanitarian organization Life for All organized a seminar focusing on the heroes of war who were Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and of other religions. Among others, the Air Force Commander Cecil Chaudhry, and Major General Israel Noel Khok. Rizwan Paul, an activist of Life for All, said that “the government has obscured the service rendered by religious minorities”, in addition to having their names omitted “in the history books and textbooks.” Instead, he intends to “pay homage to these great names, for their impeccable service to Pakistan.”

Fr. Edward Joseph, of the Diocese of Lahore echoes this call and also reminds the Government continued incidents of exclusion, violence and abuse that Pakistani Hindus, Ahmadis, Christians, and Jews face. In addition to the notorious blasphemy laws, the priest recalls an incident that occurred recently: two Christian brothers who were forbidden to play in a music club in town “because they are Christians.” And their father, he says, is a lieutenant colonel in the service of the Pakistani army. “How long will this continue?” Fr. Joseph asks disconsolately.

But violent episodes also target other minorities, among them the Ahmadis, a Muslim sect considered heretical because it does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet. On September 5 last Naseen Ahmad Butt was shot dead in broad daylight in Faisalabad, by four students of the Islamic extremist movement the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Federation,. The man’s name, an Ahmadi, was included in a list containing 50 names of members of religious minority. Accompanied by a message that “the person who kill these 50 Ahmadis, will gain preferential access to paradise.”

The police and the Punjab government have covered up the case, by not punishing the perpetrators of the murder and the authors of the list of defenseless civilians to be killed. Fr. John Isaac, of the diocese of Faisalabad, points the finger at the provincial government of Punjab guilty of providing “a golden refuge ” to extremists and the Taliban. “Hate and extremism – confirms the priest – are becoming the trademark of our society.”

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