Something is happening in India that Pakistan doesn’t like. Again. First, India diluted Article 370 of its Constitution bifurcating the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and now it is amending the 1955 Citizenship Act. Once again, Pakistan is calling the Narendra Modi government names – from ‘Hitler’ to ‘fascist’.
Everyone except Muslim immigrants — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian people who flee religious persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — will be given Indian citizenship. This has caused an uproar in Pakistan.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted Tuesday “We strongly condemn Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation which violates all norms of int human rights law & bilateral agreements with Pak. It is part of the RSS “Hindu Rashtra” design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi Govt.”
We strongly condemn Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation which violates all norms of int human rights law & bilateral agreements with Pak. It is part of the RSS "Hindu Rashtra" design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi Govt. https://t.co/XkRdBiSp3G
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) December 10, 2019
This sentiment was backed by Pakistan Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari who tweeted “From Nazi’s Lebensraum to Modi’s Akhand Bharat and Hindu Rashtra — resurgence of Hindu Supremacist creed being appeased by the international community – the cost of appeasing Hitler was monumental and the cost of appeasing Modi will be equally grave.”
From Nazi's Lebensraum to Modi's Akhand Bharat and Hindu Rashtra – resurgence of Hindu Supremacist creed being appeased by the international community – the cost of appeasing Hitler was monumental and the cost of appeasing Modi will be equally grave. https://t.co/74KebEKojU
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) December 10, 2019
However, the same minister and the prime minister suffer memory loss when they are asked about Uighur Muslims in China or the Muslims of Yemen — after all, Pakistan is financially dependent on China and Saudi Arabia. The Khan government chose to back Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his fight against Syria’s Kurds. Aren’t Kurds Muslims enough?
But of course, Indian Muslims matter more than Muslims elsewhere or even within the boundaries of Pakistan.
Take for instance the Muslim refugees from Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Residing in Pakistan for decades, these Afghan and the Bangladeshi refugees were promised citizenship rights by Imran Khan last year. The offer was withdrawn within 48 hours considering how authorities look at Afghan refugees with suspicion despite Pakistan sheltering more than 1.39 million Afghan refugees, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Similarly, more than 2,00,000 ethnic Bangladeshis, who were left marooned in Pakistan after the 1971 war with India, are yet to be given citizenship rights. They are confined mostly to the outskirts of Karachi. No government, provincial or federal, has paid attention to their plight.
Pakistan lodged a protest against Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya minority group in 2017. However, about 40,000 and 2,50,000 Rohingyas reside in Pakistan. Their squalid living conditions and the discrimination they face made Pakistan’s condemnation of the same group hypocritical for its own Rohingyas.
CAB’s relevance for Pakistan
So, amid all this two-facedness, what does the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill mean for Pakistan?
The proposed legislation by the Narendra Modi government mentions “The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion.” This aggravates the risk of people belonging to non-Muslim communities facing religious persecution.
In the case of Pakistan, the 1973 Constitution bars any non-Muslim from becoming the prime minister or the president of Pakistan. Recently, when a bill was tabled by a Christian member of Parliament Naveed Aamir Jeeva to remove this, under article 41 and 91 of the Constitution, it was blocked by Imran Khan’s own party — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
“Pakistan is an Islamic Republic where only a Muslim can be assigned to the key post of the President and Prime Minister”, said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution that rendered the members of the Ahmadiyya community non-Muslims set in a sort of apartheid in Pakistan.
Responsibility begins at home
Does Pakistan have legitimacy to call out any country’s government, let alone India, over religion-based discrimination? The answer, I’m afraid, is no.
The never-ending ordeal of discrimination in the name of religion continues unabated in Pakistan. The persecution of minorities under the blasphemy laws, the kidnappings, forced Islamic conversions and marriages of thousands of young Hindu girls, Christian and Sikh girls continue with impunity.
Any legislation to stop the misuse of the blasphemy laws is quashed; the Imran Khan government withdrew the bill from the Senate that asked for stricter punishment for false blasphemy charges. The victims of blasphemy charges spend years and often decades on death row before their appeals are even heard.
Can Pakistan still say that it does not discriminate against minorities?
If Pakistan wants India’s CAB to fail, it should start changing the way it treats its own religious minorities. Stop the discrimination and persecution at home so that no minority would want to leave the country they call home and flee to India.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.