By Hammaad Khan
The Express Tribune Islamabad
Published Date: Aug 6, 2015
Voices of Pakistani Christians: A Preliminary Analysis of Perspectives on Violence, Belonging, and Citizenship. PHOTO: https://sdpi.org/
ISLAMABAD: An international human development expert has called for a change in the Constitution so as to give the country’s non-Muslims their due citizenship rights.
Binghamton University (New York) Associate Professor Dr Lubna Chaudhry stressed the need for ensuring equal citizenship rights to all non-Muslim Pakistanis at a talk titled “Voices of Pakistani Christians: A preliminary analysis of perspectives on violence, belonging and citizenship” at the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute on Tuesday.
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The associate professor, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the Constitution needed to be changed, the electoral process reformed and the way government jobs were given overhauled, to realise equal citizenship rights for all non-Muslim Pakistanis.
Chaudhry’s talk focused on the perspectives she gathered of Pakistani Christians living in Islamabad and Rawalpindi about violence, identity, and citizenship.
Sharing her research findings, she said Pakistani Christians belonging to the upper and middle class saw structural discrimination against the community at large but they did not feel it at the more personal level.
On the other hand, Chaudhry said Pakistani Christians belonging to the lower and lower-middle class experienced discrimination in all walks of life, ranging from education to jobs to everyday interaction with Muslim Pakistanis.
She said that they believed that change needed to happen at both the macro-policy level as well as at the grassroots level. Chaudhry said they wanted to see the government and the Christian and Muslim religious leaders taking more responsibility.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri told The Express Tribune that Quaid-i-Azam’s vision in favour of equal citizenship rights was clear as stated in his August 11, 1947 speech to the constituent assembly. He said that non-Muslims should be brought into the mainstream as this would help repair the eroding societal fabric.
Dr Suleri further suggested that all citizens of Pakistan should enjoy equal rights such as the right to hold public office, including that of the head of state.
He added that it might sound symbolic but it was still important for those at the fringe of the society.
The SDPI executive director said Jinnah never founded the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, “he founded ‘Pakistan’”. He pointed out that Pakistan was made an “Islamic Republic” during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s term in office.
Suleri said the relationship between the state and the citizen should not be determined by an individual’s religion.
Non-Muslim Pakistanis did not want their representatives nominated, he said, adding that “They want an election and not a selection of their representatives”.
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He suggested that when it comes to quotas, be it in jobs, admissions to educational institutes or representatives to the parliament, it would be advisable to make the allocations based on income-level rather than on religious or ethnic identities. Suleri said this would still benefit the ethnic and religious groups who were less privileged, without reinforcing the differences as was the case in the current system.
He said the term ‘minority’ carried a negative connotation, that of the ‘other’, and should not be used. “We are all Pakistanis, and do not need qualifiers to prove our identity and belongingness,” added Suleri.