Islamabad: PPP Senator Sherry Rehman condemned the recently reported beating and torturing of a Christian ice-cream vendor by a mob for selling ‘unclean merchandise to Muslim children’ and criticized the federal and Punjab governments over their negligence in taking any notice.
“While realising that we all have a long way to go in building equality competence,” Rehman said, “Pakistan cannot continue to tolerate continual religious persecution of its minorities. They are not second class citizens and should not be treated as such.”
Rehman was referring to an incident in Kasur where a Christian man Khaleel Masih was verbally and physically assaulted by a mob of around 20 for selling ice cream to children. They reportedly also called Christians “untouchables” and said that they should not be allowed to sell edibles to Muslims. The same often happens with Hindus.
The local law enforcing agencies were reluctant to file the FIR although after pressure, the FIR was registered. Local influential leaders are allegedly trying to pressurize the victim to remain silent and withdraw his complaint, and reconcile.
The Senator said that minority persecution was on the rise in all parts of Pakistan, in part because many incidents were being ignored.
She referred to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park blast in which more than seventy people were killed, at least twenty-nine of them children.
“Inaction in this, and other similar incidents, will amount to tacit approval of the state. The government must take immediate notice of it”, she added and maintained that ignoring this will just lead to more hate crimes against an already severely persecuted religious minority and send a poor message of declining state writ.
Rehman further said that according to conservative estimates, continued persecution of Pakistan’s largest minority has resulted in an exodus of over 550 families over the past couple of years. Pakistan ranked sixth on the list of countries in which Christians face the most severe persecution, according to a 2015 report. Hindus and other non-Muslim religious denominations fare no better.
Rehman called on the law enforcement agencies to punish the culprits and serve justice in the case. “Islam teaches us compassion, and to care for the weak and poor without differentiating on the basis of cast, creed, or religion. Let us stay true to the teachings of the religion we follow,” she added. “The government needs to take a clear position on how it treats its citizens, especially the marginalized and vulnerable. It needs to have a plan of action that we can all uphold and pursue,” She suggested.