Pakistan Takes Notice Of Anti-Minority Television Content
NEW DELHI: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) took notice of complaints that allege that two television channels have aired 'provocative' content against the minority Ahmadi community.
A statement by Pemra noted that a complaint was registered against New TV’s 'Harf-e-Raz' and Channel 92's 'Subha-e-Noor' shows by Anjuman Ahmadiyya Pakistan president along with "a large number of complaints from the general public.”
The complaint alleges that content of the two shows is "provocative against a minority whose members are already threatened, harassed and have suffered a number of terrorist attacks in the past".
"The complainants have also mentioned that such programming serves no national interest and is rather incitement to violence against minorities which is in violations of National Action Plan and Pemra laws,” a statement by Pemra said. Pemra has forwarded the complaint to the Council of Complaints in Lahore for further action, noting that content promotes “disharmony among people".
Ahmadis -- who are the minority in question in the complaint -- are a persecuted community in Pakistan. The Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim, but are categorised as non-muslim under the constitution for disputing the claim that Prophet Muhammad was the last messenger of Islam. The community has been banned from mosques in Lahore as groups accused them of “posing as Muslims.” One of the most violent attacks against the Ahmadis was in 2010, when Taliban insurgents attacked two Ahmadis mosques in Lahore killing more than 85. In addition to violent attacks, the minority sect is often targeted by the use of the blasphemy law against them, a recent example being the arrest of Masood Ahmad, a member of the Ahmadi sect, after he was secretly videoed reading a translation of a verse from the Quran a few years ago.
However, Ahmadis are not the only persecuted minority in Pakistan. Hazaras -- also a minority community -- are routinely targeted, with a spate of attacks in Quetta in the last few months claiming dozens of lives. In fact, an Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released a few months ago said that the half-million members of the Hazara community -- a Shia minority -- in Quetta live in fear, compelled to restrict their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailed access to education and employment, the report says. This oppressive situation has prompted large numbers of Hazara to flee Pakistan for refuge in other countries.
Previously, HRW recorded at least 450 killings of Shia in 2012, the community’s bloodiest year; at least another 400 Shia were killed in 2013. While sporadic sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia militant groups has long persisted in Pakistan, attacks in recent years have been overwhelmingly one-sided and primarily targeted ordinary Shia going about their daily lives.
The Hazara in Balochistan, numbering about half a million people, find themselves particularly vulnerable to attack because of their distinctive facial features and Shia religious affiliation. More than 500 Hazaras have been killed in attacks since 2008, but their precarious position is reflected in the increasing percentage of Hazara among all Shia victims of sectarian attack. HRW notes that approximately one-quarter of the Shia killed in sectarian violence across Pakistan in 2012 belonged to the Hazara community in Balochistan. In 2013, nearly half of Shias killed in Pakistan were Hazaras.
Shias constitute 20 percent of the national population. In January 2014, a bomb targeting a bus of Shia pilgrims returning from Iran in Pakistan’s troubled Balochistan province, resulting in 22 casualties, was a recent reminder of the erosion of the country’s plural fabric.
According to a 2014 HRW report, 400 Shias were killed in 2013 in targeted attacks across Pakistan. At least 200 Shias, mostly from the Hazara community, were killed in Balochistan in and around the provincial capital of Quetta. In January 2013, a suicide bomb killed 96 Hazaras and injured at least another 150. In February 2013, a bomb in a vegetable market in Quetta’s Hazara town killed 84 and injured 160. In March 2013, 47 Shias were killed and 135 were injured in Karachi when a Shia-majority neighbourhood was targeted.
Non-Muslim minorities are also often targeted, with temples for Pakistan’s small Hindu community being vandalised, disputes plaguing property, and forced conversions being increasingly reported. For instance, in July 2010, around 60 members of the minority Hindu community in Karachi were attacked and evicted from their homes following an incident of a Dalit Hindu youth drinking water from a tap near an Islamic Mosque. In January 2014, a policeman standing guard outside a Hindu temple at Peshawar was gunned down.
Christians in Pakistan are also under threat. In March this year, a Taliban attack on two churches in Lahore that killed 15 people and injured over 70 others. Another recent incident was the brutal burning alive of a Christian couple in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Quran. The woman, mother of three, was pregnant.
These attacks are the basis of reports that indicate that sectarian violence continues to pose a threat in Pakistan. According to data sets of the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), 2015 saw 53 incidents of sectarian attacks in Pakistan, which claimed 276 lives. 2014 91 attacks, but they had claimed 208 lives. These numbers however, show a marked decline from 2013 -- wherein 131 incidents claimed 558 lives.