The history of the Pakistan Movement is inventive to suit political expediencies with religion used as a smokescreen. Soon after Pakistan’s creation, Christian, Hindu and Parsee leaders who had been associates of the League and in mainstream suddenly found themselves excluded.

Besides negating the speech of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the first Constituent Assembly, the Objective Resolution initiated a debate on religious identities that led to killings of lakhs of Hindus in East Pakistan. Progressive Leaguers of the Muslim League were selectively side-lined, imprisoned and called traitors. The Christian Speaker of the Punjab Assembly was politely asked to resign to make way for a Muslim. In the 1950s, Pakistan’s Hindu Law Minister left Pakistan as did many Muslims who saw the forces of intolerance prevail.

East Pakistan, at odds since 1940, bade adieu in 1971.

Religious identity also triggered crises within Muslims leading to sectarianism. Over six decades, the entire politic, historical and educational body was distorted. It was a matter of time before other Muslim sects also came under the sharp edge of the sword. The state has done nothing to reverse this trend. Militant groups, mobs enraged by hate speech and government departments including the honourable parliament violate whatever residual equality exists. The Constitution of Pakistan is laden with contradictions that provide cause to the government to choose or ignore its obligations.

All political parties have failed their responsibilities towards egalitarianism. No political party is prepared or willing to take up the cause of oppressed classes. For these children of opportunity, the desire to win at any cost far outweighs the ethics of humanity. This is what makes politics Pakistani-style immoral.

Despite Pakistan being bound by many international treaties and obligations to address such issues, successive governments and political parties are evasive. Pakistan was a reluctant signatory to the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities of the United Nations, Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Generalised System of Preferences Plus. In June 19, 2014 the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that a constitutional statutory body must be made to frame and monitor policy recommendations for the practical realisation of constitutional and legal protections and safeguards for religious minorities. No bill to this effect has been introduced in the Parliament.

Neutral students of Pakistan Movement would confirm that creation of Pakistan was the result of a collective struggle under the inspiring leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The aim was to establish a homeland where all communities could practice their beliefs and Ideals in a plural Muslim society. He repeatedly stated that egalitarianism in a Muslim dominated state would far outweigh a predominantly Hindu state that believed in religious and social caste systems. In his speech of 11 August 1947 he threw a challenge to India. Come 1949 the vision was reversed. The ideological moorings of the 1906 switched poles from egalitarianism to a religiously dominated state. Pakistan never became the showcase of egalitarianism to reassure hundreds of million Muslims left in India to cherish a worthy role model. It deliberately chose to neglect its minorities. Jinnah’s Pakistan died with Jinnah.

Pakistan’s constitutionalism is an extremely bad reflection of attitudes towards religious minorities. Following the Objective Resolution, the 1956 Constitution excluded them, though East Pakistan resisted. Bhutto’s nationalisation of educational institutions and Zia Ul Haq’s separate electorate ensured that despite constitutional rhetoric, the doors to socio-economic development of religious minorities were narrowed and closed. Between, the rock and sea, President Musharraf did restore the joint electorate, but the aberrations excluded the right of religious minorities to select their own representatives. Because he did not wish to irk the religious right, it was a job not done.

In contempt to the Constitution of Pakistan, the 18th Amendment reinforced the selection process on proportionate representation of political parties and went many steps further by marginalising the religious minorities. As a result, besides the constitutional and executive heads of the state, many other posts are also denied to non-Muslims. Below are some contradictions.

Article 51 as amended under 18th amendment contradicts Article 226 of the Constitution that orders elections by secret ballot. It also violates Article 27 (1) that declares that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of law, religion etc.

The federal and provincial governments also violate Article 22 (1) that states that no religious instructions other than their own can be given to non-Muslims. Despite 42 years, no affirmative action has been taken and non-Muslim students are forced to study Islamiat in government schools.

Despite that concept of equality of laws and rules, federal and provincial departments in violation of the constitution continue to advertise menial and dirty jobs exclusively for non-Muslims. The absence of equal opportunities and a religious apartheid within the culture has driven most non-Muslims below the poverty line forcing them into menial occupations and forced labour. Living in ghettos, the communities are fast loosing self-esteem.

But there is hope.

Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010 with reservations but keen to get Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status that threatened ban on Pakistani exports withdrew all reservations in 2011. This means that Pakistan has entirely committed to upholding the civil and political rights of its citizens and minority communities. At the same time European Union asked civil society organisations in Pakistan to act as watchdogs and propose legislations for labour and human rights constitutional reforms. This policy has encouraged mainstream civil society organisations like South Asia Partnership Pakistan, The Asia Foundation (TAF) and Organisation for Research and Education to take ownership of the rights of religious minorities and join them in their struggle for egalitarianism.

But this is just a first step on a long and difficult journey. The proposed bill under the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan will be subjected to discussions and debates in the Parliament. Once law, there is likelihood of formation of an Independent and autonomous National Commission for Minority Rights that shall then deliberate on aberrations in the Constitution so as to redress grievances through constitutional amendments. Given the pace and intent in legislation, no time frame can be predicted.

Meanwhile, the political parties have to take cognisance of this change. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a left of centre party claiming to bring change and egalitarianism must take the lead to carry the swing votes.

Will minorities in Pakistan ever mainstream?