By Faiza Mirza
10 Sept 2012
Dear Mr Singh,
I have never before addressed a person of your stature so do forgive me for my casual style of speech. Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to you and your government for considering over 900 Pakistani Hindu citizens eligible for Indian nationality. It is a great gesture indeed for the Hindus who once lived in Pakistan, however, you must also realise that Christians, and even Muslims are not exactly ‘at peace’ in this country either.
I understand that Hindus remain your government’s first priority because many in your government identify with them; however, I still want to direct your attention towards the hundreds of Hazaras who are executed every day in broad daylight on the streets of Pakistan. I wanted to ask if you could lend a helping hand to the countless Christians who live in fear of being arrested or murdered for committing blasphemy in the country. The scores of civilian dying in the north-western side of Pakistan because of militancy and drone strikes could also avail your assistance, that is, if you plan to offer any.
You and a few representatives of the Indian government must also have a rendezvous with Ahmadis to understand how they face religious persecution in every aspect of their lives. I insist you meet with Pakistanis who are desperate to bring about a positive change in the society and see how they are threatened and harassed in ways that are unfathomable by many.
I am sure you would know all the details about political asylum but will reiterate that it is not easy for all Pakistanis to seek asylum in countries such as United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia as many of them do not have the resources to do the same. India remains the only hope for many people who can reach the country via Attari with minimum resources.
The level of desperation felt by some Pakistanis can evidently be gauged by the fact that some of them are even ready to migrate to Afghanistan — a country whose many inhabitants migrated to Pakistan in search of ‘refuge’ after the US invaded their country.
Mr Singh, we all do appreciate your humanitarian policies and would urge you to expedite the citizenship process of Pakistani Hindus, however, I find it my duty to inform you that people who profess other religions in Pakistan are equally deprived of peace and should be given an opportunity to seek asylum in India. Why is this move focused towards Hindus? Don’t you think that the Indian government, while at it, should chalk out a strategic plan to cater to Pakistanis — irrespective of caste and religion — whose lives are threatened within the boundaries of Pakistan?
Various members of the Indian government are corresponding with you on the status of Hindus who migrated to India to seek shelter. One of them is Laxmikanta Chawla who, amongst many other points, stated that, “Since the Pakistani government has failed to protect its minorities from frequent atrocities so the Indian government needs to look after them.”
Going by what Chawla said I must request you to not be so harsh on our government which is currently embroiled in a conflict with the superior judiciary and has other important tasks at hand rather than safeguarding the interest of the very people for which it was elected. It is important that you understand that the government of Pakistan is not only unable to look after its minorities but is also incapable of catering to the heavy majority and ensuring their safety.
Mr Singh, many Pakistanis will refuse to openly admit this but most of us would like to be considered eligible for Indian nationality. The reason behind our desire to move is extremely simple. It is because India since 1947 has grown as a nation, an economy and a country. Despite of the poverty and other related issues, we all see India as a progressive society and in a very positive light. We all want to live in a country which is ruled by secular politicians where fascist elements are given minimum representation in the parliament; a country where people can coexist or at least consider this ideology a welcoming thought.
You caught your Kasab but what about the numerous Kasabs who are ready to wipe out the entire population of Pakistan by flagging them as infidels, anti-Islam, pro-India, US puppets and just plain secular? What about us who continue to strive for a change, however, feel helpless at the hands of the radical elements freely roaming around in Pakistan? Is there any solace for us?
Mr Singh, this might not be news to you but every life which is snubbed out in a militant or violent attack in Pakistan pushes the progress made by the handful of Pakistanis who believe in mutual respect for peace, life and religious diversity, a hundred steps back.
It is indeed with a heavy heart that I leave Pakistan today in search of a safer country — a place where I can express myself freely without being threatened and flagged as a heretic.
En route to a strange country, crossing the all too familiar roads of Karachi, I saw a poster featuring Jinnah with a small line stating “Pakistan needs you”. Mr Singh, never before did I feel such fierce emotion. The words struck me and for the first time in my life, made me realise that we all have failed Jinnah and the Pakistan he envisioned.
Like many others before and after me, I am running for safer pastures where my life will be valued and respected, leaving my fellow countrymen behind to fight with the demons that dictate the order of the day in Pakistan, my home.
I don’t know what would I have done if was given an option to move to India. Perhaps, I would have moved but this is a question that will remain unanswered unless your government starts treating dejected Pakistanis on equal footing as Hindus.
One amongst many Pakistanis striving for a progressive change
Faiza Mirza is a Reporter at Dawn.com