We can take a breath of relief now that Christmas was celebrated in the country without any inconvenience – it’s a blessing in Pakistan these days, really. However, the holiday brought our attention back to the fact that much improvement is required on the minority rights’ front; from protection against persecution to the safeguarding of their right to free speech, a great deal of minority issues remain obscured from the mainstream discourse in media, academia and even among civil rights’ society. For this reason, a panel discussion between the Punjab Assembly members and social rights activists took place wherein attendees elaborated the need for enforcement of minority laws.

One of the most plausible ways to go about this is by formulating a set of laws that empowers minorities against bias and potential violence. Legislation is desperately needed that holds bigots accountable for their actions which include forced conversions of non-Muslims (often women) to Islam as well as abduction. The problem here is not a dearth of a framework that can help with these goals or a lack of institutions that can bolster efforts in protecting minorities but the fact that many Pakistanis deliberately turn their backs on their very own brothers and sisters. Apathy and prejudice make for a lethal combo.

Take the bull by the horns. Address the need for legal, political, social and religious reform instead of beating by the bush. One way to begin is by assessing our pedagogy: Our educational curricula exclude significant portions on the achievements and contributions of non-Muslims in Pakistan. Similarly – and this should not offend any sensible person – our constitution contains several loopholes when it comes to the relationship between the State and its minority groups. By judging and attempting to rectify these lacunae, we can move forward with creating a safer country for Pakistanis of all religions.