The brutal execution of two Sikhs by the Tehreek-e-Taliban is a reminder of the increasingly tenuous existence of religious minorities in Pakistan. Even the Taliban regime in Afghanistan had treated Sikhs as one of the ahl-e-zima, the protected minorities. Pakistan’s spiralling violence seems to be accelerating its society’s movement down an increasingly intolerant path. Much of last year was marked by attacks on Pakistan’s Christian minority by Islamicist mobs. Sunni militants have made the killing of Pakistani Shias almost a seasonal event.
To a large extent, Pakistan is reaping what its own distorted nationalism has sown. If there’s one thing that separates the political trajectories of India and Pakistan, it’s the fact that the latter no longer even strives to create an inclusive nationalism. The Pakistani polity, starting with discrimination of its Bengali majority to the point they seceded and the redesignation of Ahmediyyas as non-Muslim in 1974, has marginalised more and more sections of its society. Christians, Hindus, Shias and ethnic fragments of the Sunni majority have found themselves being treated as less than truly Pakistani. It’s particularly telling that Mohajirs, the original proponents of the country’s founding ideology, are among those most alienated from the Pakistan of today. Going by present trends a genuine ‘Pakistani’ will be reduced to a north Punjabi Sunni. That the Tehreek-e-Taliban draws its fighters from the ranks of Pashtuns and Seraiki Punjabis is no accident. Both Pakistan’s military and democratic rulers are to blame for this trend. The military have even found it useful as it legitimised their interference in politics.
India cannot claim a spotless record when it comes to minority treatment, but its Constitution and laws clearly show a commitment to this goal. This is hardly the case with Pakistan where minority rights have been steadily watered down by such constitutional actions as the dilution of the 1949 Objectives Resolution, the passage of the 1984 Anti-Islamic Activities Ordinance and the on and off switch attached to the fundamental rights portion of Pakistan’s constitutions. The Sikh murders was another Taliban crime. But they were also a reflection of what ails Pakistan as a whole.