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Sunday, March 19, 2023

Pakistan’s sinking economy, terrorist threats and persecuted religious minorities

Pakistan, a country located in South Asia, has been facing a lot of challenges in recent times. One of the most pressing issues is the persecution of Hindus and religious minorities such as Ahmadis. At the same time, the country is also facing the threat of Islamist militancy groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

It may be mentioned here that Pakistan has a history of persecuting religious minorities. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, for example, has been facing discrimination in Pakistan since the country’s inception. The government has passed laws that make it illegal for Ahmadis to practice their religion or even refer to themselves as Muslims. As Pakistani society considers Ahmadis as infidels, they have been subjected to harassment, violence, and even murder. Similarly, Hindus in Pakistan face discrimination and persecution. Many of them are forced to convert to Islam, and they are not given equal rights. Every year, hundreds of Hindu girls are abducted by Muslims and forced to change their religion. The situation is so dire that persecuted Hindus even do not get any remedy when they seek help from the law enforcement agencies or even the judiciary. It may be further mentioned here that, Pakistani judiciary is heavily inclined towards radical Islam.

How Hindus and members of the religious minority groups in Pakistan can be saved from ongoing pogroms? According to scholars, the international community can take several measures to save religious minorities in Pakistan. First and foremost, they need to put pressure on the Pakistani government to repeal the discriminatory laws that target religious minorities. It is also essential to immediately repeal Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law. International community should also provide assistance to organizations that are working to protect the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. This could include funding for legal aid, shelters, and other support services.

In addition to protecting religious minorities, the international community also needs to address the challenge posed by Islamist militancy groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban. These groups have been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, which left more than 140 people dead, most of them children.

To address this challenge, the international community needs to work with the Pakistani government to strengthen its counter-terrorism measures and abandon its decades-old wrong practices of funding and promoting terrorism. This could include providing training and equipment to the Pakistani security forces, as well as sharing intelligence to help prevent future attacks. The international community should also work with Pakistan to address the underlying issues that fuel the growth of these militant groups, such as poverty, inequality, lack of education, scarcity of job opportunities and above all – mostly importantly to impose ban on mosques and madrassas from spreading religious hatred and jihadist indoctrination.

Commenting on the situation in Pakistan, some analysts suggested that the international community can also help Pakistan address its acute financial challenges. Pakistan’s economy has been struggling in recent years, and the country is heavily indebted. The international community can provide financial assistance to help stabilize Pakistan’s economy, which could in turn help reduce the appeal of militant groups by addressing some of the underlying issues that fuel their growth.

In my opinion, helping Pakistan economically shall not resolve the ongoing persecution of Hindus and religious minorities, unless the state machinery can abandon its rogue practices of funding and promoting religious extremism – especially radical Islam and jihadism. Unfortunate fact here is – since its creation in 1947, Pakistan’s main theory has been flexing muscles of religious extremism and denying rights of religious minorities. At the same time, Pakistani state machinery has been consistently playing a rogue role of continuing terrorist notoriety targeting India and other nations in the region, including Bangladesh. Pakistani policymakers and its military intelligence establishment are more interested in destabilizing Bharat, Bangladesh and other countries in the region instead of focusing on its own socio-economic stability. Unless Islamabad abandons such dangerous agendas, helping Pakistan with financial assistance would simply go into vain. 

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib


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