This was the promise made by Jinnah to the people of the country that he carved out of the subcontinent. The promise was, by itself, contradictory since the very reason behind the partition was to give to a particular religious segment, its own homeland – how then could this new nation be expected to pursue a concept of religious tolerance and secularism?
The misfortune was that some people from non-Sunni Muslim communities attached to the land of their forefathers made the mistake of believing what was told to them; today, their off springs rue this emotional decision as they fight a losing battle of survival in a totally vitiated communal environment. Hindu population in Pakistan has depleted at an alarming rate has neither registered alarm nor any firm action to arrest the downslide by the government of the country. The whole process is being allowed to run its course like slow poison.
A serious development recently is the threat that the centuries old Sri Ratneshwar Mahadev temple in Clifton Road, Karachi is facing due to proposed construction of an underpass dangerously close to the building. The matter is serious enough for the Chief Justice of Pakistan to write to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to sit up and take notice. If the establishment that is required to provide protection to such heritage structures is hand in glove with plans for its destruction then the chances of its survival get wholly negated. This is exactly what is happening to the many religious heritage structures belonging to the minorities in Pakistan.
A few weeks back, during the Holi festivities, a Hindu temple in Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan was set ablaze by intolerant crowd. It needs to be noted that Larkana has a population of about two million Hindus and it falls in an area ruled by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) known to follow a policy of religious tolerance. This was definitely not the first time that an incident of this nature has occurred in the Sindh Province during PPP rule. In 2012 when the PPP was in majority in both the province and the centre a crowd on the rampage against a film alleged to be anti-Islam damaged the Shri Krishna Bhagwan temple in Karachi, the oldest in Pakistan. None of the perpetrators of the heinous crime have been brought to justice. If this is what is happening under the best possible circumstances, one shudders to think of what would be happening in other places where the Hindu population has no voice at all.
This disgusting process has been going on since the early seventies. There was a famous synagogue in Karachi that was destroyed under the Zia regime. Destruction of religious institutions of minorities has seen no respite ever since. Fundamentalist terrorist organisations that hold sway Pakistan are emerging as the biggest perpetrators of this merciless assault on religious establishments of the country.
Soon a time will come when these institutions will not have to be destroyed; they will fall down on their own or become the personal property of some anti-social elements. This mindless destruction of a centuries old heritage simply has to stop!! Voices of sanity have to prevail upon the barbarism and brutality of a few who clearly have a personal interest in stoking fires of fundamentalism. The government has a lot to do in this regard at both the federal and provincial level. It needs to shed its lethargy and the propensity to look the other way due to political reasons and come out in support of the minorities. A failure to do so at this sensitive stage will send out a wrong message to the fundamentalists and created a communal divide that will be difficult to bridge. In the process the age old identity of the region will be lost forever