Sikhs from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa protested outside parliament yesterday in Islamabad against the alleged desecration in Shikarpur of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh community. There have been multiple cases of disrespect to scriptures of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and several attacks on their worship places in Sindh. There are many things to fear on part of the safety of minorities. The protest brings the Sikh community into the forefront and a conservative backlash or violence against them might further catalyse. There needs to be a concerted effort, not least of all on part of the religious leaders in Pakistan, to condemn the attack, to demand the arrest of perpetrators and advocate religious freedom and diversity before this community and other minorities are further hurt.

In March, Sikhs in Peshawar protested against the killing of a Sikh hakim in Charsadda and the abduction of two others in DI Khan. Just a few weeks ago artifacts inside a Hindu temple were smashed by a mob in Rahim Yar Khan and the temple was set ablaze. In March, five Hindu temples were attacked. There are reports that families are leaving Pakistan for fear of safety and forced conversions. There are reports that hundreds of Hindu and Christian girls are abducted every year and converted to Islam through the use of forced marriages. This problem may be bigger than we know it to be, as families are unable or unwilling to make formal complaints and there is hardly any press coverage of this. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, last year saw over 200 sectarian attacks, which killed 687 people. Seven Ahmadis were targeted and killed, and over 100 Christians were killed in a Peshawar church.

There is almost never a provocation by the minority that causes these violent incidents. These attacks are the culmination of a social, religious and political agenda and are not just a law and order issue (though policing and security around these issues is a joke). The phrase, “the land of the pure”, is taking on a new fascist meaning, with these actions and demands on part of an intolerant conservative majority leaving no room for anyone else.