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Friday, 28 August 2009

Guest Column: What unsung minorities have done for Pakistan

By Qudrat Ullah

The Gojra inferno has once again highlighted the need to reassess our treatment of Pakistan’s most potential asset- the non Muslim Pakistanis and decide the future strategy in the light of past mistakes. One positive aftermath of this sad frenzy is that the media has extensively discussed our policy (if there is any) of treating the non Muslims and pondered over the likely facets of future ideological direction.

Although, now both federal and Punjab governments have already taken various administrative measures to heal the wounds of the minorities in Gojra and also announced a total of Rs. 200 million grant, for the welfare of the Christian affectees, but the real question is that whether we have learnt any lesson from this sad repetitive frenzy and will we ever be taught how to behave with our minorities in future or not? There is no doubt that incidents of setting Churches on fire in different parts of the country including Shantinagar in Khanewal, Sangla Hill and others places has badly tarnished our national as well as Islamic image at the global level, therefore, it’s high time that we evenly remember that what minorities have given to this country.

Our 62 years chequered history proves that minorities have played very proactive role in the collective welfare of this homeland of today’s 170 million people where even 400 people have shown the courage to declare themselves as ‘Jews’ in the ‘religion column’ in the last national census. It would be a surprise for many of us that Pakistan’s biggest minority is Hindus and not Christians, as according to 1998’s census; Hindus’ number is more than the Christians who are 4000 less in total population. According to the Census, caste Hindus constitutes about 1.6 percent of the total population and about 6.6% in province of Sindh. The 1998 census recorded a total of 2,443,614 Hindus in Pakistan.

To begin with, the founding father, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, appointed two non Muslims-Sir Zafrula Khan as Foreign Minister and Jogindranath Mandal, a dalit Hindu leader hailing from East Pakistan, as Law and Labour Minister in the first federal cabinet of newly independent state of Pakistan in 1947. Today, very few could recall that it was Sir Zafrula Khan who drafted the Lahore resolution in 1940 and even a small number could tell that this dalit Hindu, Jogindranath Mandal presided over Pakistan’s first constituent assembly session in August 1947 and M.A.Jinnah took oath under his presidenship. Historians believe that without Mandal’s carrying of the significant scheduled caste Hindu votes in Bengal, in the 1946 elections, in favor of Muslims, it is unlikely that Pakistan would have come into being in the form that it did in 1947. But later on, he grew increasingly isolated and disillusioned with the post-Jinnah realpolitik, and when late Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan publicly supported a proposal to make Islam the official state religion, Mandal became more staggered, denounced it as ‘a rejection of Jinnah’s secular vision for Pakistan,’ and sent his letter of resignation in October 1950 from Kalkatta to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan. In his resignation letter, he openly assailed Pakistani politicians for disregarding the rights and future of minorities, as well as the vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Foreign Minister Sir Zafrula Khan also played important role in Peoples Republic of China’s entry in the U.N. We have forgotten our only Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Abdus Salam because he belonged to a minority faith.

We are even unfamiliar of the fact that S.P Singha- last Speaker of the British era Punjab Assembly and M.P., Ralia Ram- both leaders of All India Christian Association, cast their precious votes in favor of Pakistan and thus Punjab became part of Pakistan.

Can we explain why the great Quaid asked a Hindu- Jagannath Azad, a doyen of Urdu poetry to write the first national anthem of Pakistan in 1947 which remained a national anthem for the 18 long months? Because he wanted a cosmopolitan society in Pakistan.


It had beautiful poetry like this,

Aé sarzameené paak

Zarray teray haéñ aaj sitaaroñ se taabnaak

Roshan haé kehkashaañ se kaheeñ aaj tayree khaak

Aé sarzameené paak

(Oh land of Pakistan, each particle of yours is being illuminated by stars. Even your dust has been brightened like a rainbow)

There is no doubt that non-Muslims are amongst the most talented and the patriotic Pakistanis. The efforts of our magnificent flying heroes like Eric Hall, Nazir Latif, Mervyn Middle coat, Cecil Chaudhry, William Harney and Peter Christy can never be forgotten in wars against India. Many of you might not know that out of a total of 70 Sitara-e-Jurats (SJ) awarded to PAF officers in both the Wars, six were won by Christian officers. Three illustrious Christian Officers of the PAF namely Eric Hall, Steve Joseph and M.J. O'Brien held the rank of Air Vice Marshal. O'Brien is the only PAF officer to serve as the Commandant of the National Defense College. Joshua Fazal Din is known as the first preacher in Punjabi Christians who preached by Punjabi literature. He was also the Punjab Minister of Law and Treasury in early 50s. At that time, the government appreciated Joshua Fazal Din, for his services, for promoting Punjabi language, in shape of ‘Tamgha-e- Imtiaz.’ Meanwhile, Justice® Rana Bhagwan Das is held to amongst the most honest judges who served the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Pakistan’s best fashion designer Deepak Parwani is a Hindu, and one of the best models is a Christian namely Sunita Marshall. The owners of the largest hotels chain (Avari Hotels) are Parsis. The best leg spinner in Pakistan’s cricket team was a Hindu. Pakistan’s best drummer is a Goan Christian (Gumby of Junoon and Noori fame); some of Pakistan’s leading musicians are also Christians including bands like Saraab and Aks. And, who can forget legendry actress Shabnam and singer A. Nayyar. Even our best novelist in English-Bapsi Sidhwa is a Parsi.

Minorities’ contribution in fields of health, education and nation-building is simply undeniable. Pakistan’s best institutions like Kinnaird College, F.C College in Lahore and Parsi educational institutions in Karachi, besides chain of educational institutions in most of the cities, is a clear proof that our minorities are a silent nation-builders. Similarly, health institutions like U.C.H in Lahore, Memorial Christian Hospital in Sialkot and free eye hospital in Taxila are also run by non-Muslims.

More recently, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) and Baptist Global Response (BGR) worked with their local partners to distribute emergency care items among displaced Muslims in Malakand Division. The saga of minorities’ services is long and illustrious, the need is that the majority should learn from their minority brethren the lesson of selfless service and stop burning their properties. It would be better if we build a better Pakistan for all.

This will be the real contribution by us.

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