Forced conversions and marriages of Hindu, Sikh and Christian girls have increased in Pakistan. Along with Ahmadis, the Bengali-speaking population also face discrimination.
New Delhi: Being a Muslim is not enough to get justice and equity in Pakistan, even as this country in South Asia was once created to cater to the welfare of Muslims in the sub-continent.
Though Muslims, the Bengali-speaking 'residents' in Pakistan continue to be deprived of citizenship and social and legal remedies.
In hindsight, Bangladesh could be doing better than Pakistan in the economy; but the Bengali speaking population in Pakistan need to wait to see the tide change.
Analysts say courts in Pakistan are generally considered expensive and inaccessible. Moreover, the women especially have to deal with additional gender barriers to justice as there are a limited number of female legal staff in Pakistan. The discrimination gets more aggressive to minorities and people like the Bengali-speaking population and Ahmadis.
Muslims around the world and Pakistan consider that the Prophet Mohammad was the last Prophet and messenger of Allah.
In contrast, Ahmadis regard the founder of the movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a follower prophet and a messiah.
Nevertheless, minority Christians, Sikhs and Hindus are vulnerable to conversion menace yet again.
About 1,000 women from religious minorities such as Christians and Hindus are forcibly converted and married annually in Pakistan, said Forbes magazine earlier this year.
The Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 stipulates that people residing in territories that make up Pakistan before Dec 16, 1971, would continue to be citizens of Pakistan. Their children would be considered citizens of Pakistan by virtue of their descent.
Media reports say – "Approximately 65 percent of Machar Colony inhabitants in Karachi are ethnic Bengalis and more than half of them have no citizenship or are stuck in a process of getting one."
It also said that residents of Zaman Town in Korangi complained that they have "not been issued Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) despite filing applications several times" at the local administrative offices.
In 2018 there was a major controversy about 'citizenship' of these sections of Bengalis in Pakistan.
Social and political activists belonging to the Bengali community of Karachi alone had estimated this number to be around 12 lakhs.
"…. a sizable number of people (Bengalis in Pakistan) do not possess a government-issued ID or their CNICs have been revoked on suspicion of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh," said a report in an English daily.
In 2021 – three years since then – nothing much has changed on the ground.
The cut-off year to decide citizenship was kept in 1978 to 'differentiate' between Bengalis legally entitled to residence in Pakistan and those who 'emigrated from Bangladesh' in search of a livelihood.
But the new socio-economic order suggests there is hardly any Bangladeshis now moving into Pakistan for a job and some Bengali speaking Muslims have been coming to Pakistan on several important calendars.
First, of course, was 1947, when the partition was imposed. This was followed by 1971, when Bangladesh was created out of war, and many Bengalis working or settled in Pakistan did not move to the eastern front.
The Bengalis who arrived in Pakistan before 1971 have 'now assimilated with the Urdu-speaking people' mostly in Karachi. Karachi also had Bengali dailies, including a more popular one-'Mukti'-published from Karachi. There are about 130 Bengali colonies in and around Karachi, reports say.
Pakistani Constitution says-"A person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves Ahmadis) is a non-Muslim." Ahmadis makes up 0.09 per cent of Pakistan's population and are subjected to different forms of discrimination. Poverty and lack of education make religious minorities vulnerable to further violations, including forced marriages and conversion.