A report compiled by an international NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), non-Muslim Pakistanis are enjoying a status of second-class citizens. The report is based upon finding related to violations of freedom of religion or belief in the educational setups. The study includes four other countries Burma, Iran, Mexico and Nigeria along with Pakistan.
The report titled “Faith and a Future: Discrimination on the Basis of Religion or Belief in Education”, says that the textbooks and curriculum are playing a pivotal part in inculcation of religion based discrimination and intolerance in the minds of Pakistanis. The report declares that such an environment is prevailing which bestows a status of second class citizenship to non-Muslim citizens. Non-Muslims’ patriotism is questioned while their contribution towards the betterment of the country is disregarded.
Specifically in Pakistan, the report says the textbooks are fashioned in a way “to create a monolithic image of Pakistan as an Islamic state and of Pakistani citizens only as Muslims.” Thus non-Muslim Pakistanis are successfully deprived of acknowledgement and national identity these textbooks also fail to “recognize and celebrate Pakistan’s religious and ethnic diversity”.
The report points out to the 1980s era, when the then-ruler General Zia-ul-Haq started systematic process of Islamization of the nation, tainting education with an ideological angle. It was observed that the consequences of this step “are still felt everywhere in society, particularly within the educational system.”
It was stated that the Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other religious communities face violations of freedom of religious freedom in this perspective. The content of the textbooks is sometimes full of insulting material while oftentimes the language used is derogatory. Non-Muslim teachers and students face discriminatory attitudes. The ill-treatment is source of psychological abuses for the minority students.
Situation is alarming despite the fact that freedom of religion was guaranteed by the Founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah who said in his address on August 11, 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.
We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”