Farzad R. Bonesh
Christians played an important role in Pakistan’s independence. When they were
in dire need of Sikh, Persian, and Christian minorities’ support, the Supreme
Leader and other Muslim leaders promised them equal freedom and rights in the
newly established government.
Christians in Punjab and Sindh were fully active after 1945. Christians also
supported the idea of a separate Muslim state.
Pakistan’s independence in 1947, until the mid-1970s, the Pakistani government
was largely secular. But on 26 March 1971, Eastern Pakistan was declared the
independent state of Bangladesh, and most of the Pakistani Hindus (who lived in
Bangladesh) separated from Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s transformation into
a culturally integrated and increasingly Islamic state has turned Islam to the
source of legislation and a cornerstone of national identity. The governments
of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia al-Haq therefore took greater Islamic law into
Pakistan’s population are Muslims, but Christians are the largest minority
after the Hindus. The south of Karachi has a large number of Christian
settlements and there are many Christian villages in central Punjab and the
cities of Lahore and Faisalabad.
Christians’ Ancestors converted to Christianity in order to escape their lower
caste during British colonial times. Christians are the poorest part of
Pakistani society. But a number of prosperous Christians live in Karachi and
their ancestors were of the educated and prosperous class.
and the Islamic Extremists
separation from India, Pakistan was a diverse religious and cultural community,
but later tolerance to other religions and cultures was reduced. Now, Pakistan
is a country where Muslim extremist groups and movements do not tolerate
religious minorities. As a matter of fact, Christians have repeatedly been subjected
to bloody attacks by Islamic extremists. Pakistani Christians, especially
Christian Neophytes who have converted from Islam to Christianity, have always
been the main target of Islamic hardliners. In this regard, the terrorist
attack in Peshawar and the attack on the Christian Center in Lahore were among
the most violent terrorist attacks. Along with the bomb blast, suicide attacks,
burning Christian homes and churches and increasing ISIL attack on Pakistani
Christians at Easter or Easter celebrations are also signs of this.
Behind Extremists’ Attacks On Christians
Christians and Muslims previously used to live in peace along with each other
and were rarely attacked, the following factors increased attacks on them.
First. Indeed, some consider the Pakistan
constitution as the root of The radicalization of space for the benefit of
1990s, Anti-Blasphemy laws approval has led to the Christians’ being accused of
Blasphemy and insulting the Prophet of Islam, while some of these allegations
are false charges with just personal motivation. These accusations sometimes
led to the violence against the Christians and they always have security
concerns for religious celebrations.
Second. Before the separation, there was
a lot of tolerance in Pakistan, but tolerance has been reduced for several
society has become increasingly Islamized and homogenized. As some claim that
before the separation, minorities made up 15 percent of the country’s
population, but it is currently less than 4 percent.
Third. Most of the harassment of
Christians in Pakistan by extremist Islamic groups is influenced by political
parties. In this regard, some believe that extremist groups that have close
relationships with the security and intelligence agencies play an important
role in this area. Currently, these radical Islamist groups are managing
thousands of Islamic schools and educational centers and provide children and
youth with wrong and inappropriate teaching which lead to violence against
religious minorities such as Christians. In the meanwhile, churches that engage
in social and youth activities experience the worst persecutions.
Fourth. The US-led war in Afghanistan has
made Christians more vulnerable to deadly attacks. Indeed, some acts of
violence were politically motivated. Attacks on Christian minorities can also
be part of a militant message to the West and also a warning to the government
to message of Islamic extremists to the government to avoid from being too
close to the West.
Fifth. ISIL has supporters in Pakistan,
and many extremist militias in the two countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan)
follow ISIL’s fanatical views of Shia Muslims and theory of putting Christians
under pressure and killing them.
Sixth. What is clear is that previous
governments have virtually failed to provide adequate space to prevent the
migration of Pakistani Christians abroad. In the meantime, the Pakistani
opposition has accused the government of “serious violations” of religious
freedom by failing to cooperate against terrorist groups.
Future of Pakistani Christians
Pakistani Christians believe that they do not have the socio-economic status
and equal access to available opportunities, and indeed they are second-class,
practically lower-income citizens, and have been denied to become President,
Prime Minister, Senate Speaker, or National Assembly Speaker. They also claim
that the Christians work in the poorest part of society. In the same vein, some
Pakistani think tanks have included Pakistan in the list of a handful of
countries that have placed religious minorities under the strongest pressure.
supportive measures adopted by governments in Pakistan (such as allowing guns
for Christians) to protect themselves against terrorist attacks, radical
Islamists have always viewed Pakistan’s Christians as a threat. However, as
three-quarters of Iraqi Christians have left the country since the fall of
Saddam Hussein’s regime and also increasing of the number of migrant Christians
in Syria and the region after 2011, This may also happen for Pakistan.
there may be numerous reasons such as war, unemployment and convulsions in the
region and the increasing attacks by ISIS and other fundamentalists behind the
increasing of Pakistani Christians’ migration to abroad in the short and long
term. This in turn can have many effects on Pakistan and its relations with
Europe and the West.
Headline: Islamic Extremists and Christians in Pakistan
Source: The Modern Diplomacy