The protection of minorities in Pakistan is an issue which demands the attention of the government at all levels - the federal and provincial both. The speech of Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan on Christmas and the birthday of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah reiterates that minorities will face no discrimination based on faith. The new government has vowed to protect the rights of minorities, the first example of which we saw post the treatment of the Aasia Bibi case. The arrest of Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) leader, Khadim Rizvi, asserted the writ of the state and the “no tolerance policy” for any form of hate speech.

While this a step in the right direction, the comparison with India in the PM’s speech is what needs to be addressed at the moment. India exists as a separate entity in the region and despite the fact that there has been a significant increase in extremism post the Modi government coming into power, Pakistan has a set of its own problems which need to be resolved irrespective of whether or not other nations deal with them. Pakistan has the required legislation to ensure the guarantee of equal citizenship to everyone but the arena in which we lag behind is the implementation of all those laws. We witnessed in the case of Mashal Khan how convenient it was to convince a mob of violence and that resulted in the death of an innocent person.

Pakistan still has a long way to go especially in terms of its treatment with minorities. They have been sidelined and marginalised to the point that the mainstream lacks any narrative about their existence in Pakistan. The issue of forced conversions of minorities is real and affecting many lives. Over the period of time, many have even had to flee the country. The kind of jobs that are available to the minorities show how there is an absence of integration in the society and there is a general sense of superiority in the majority. At the same time, there is a need to provide safe spaces so that they do not have to hide their identities or their worship places.

The more representation that these individuals have, the easier it will be to integrate them. For any policy to be adopted, it is important to have people of that community on board and only then can the gap between the majority and the minority be bridged.