As a Pakistani, and as a Muslim, it is my responsibility to speak of the injustices that exist within my community and to raise awareness about the underprivileged people in my country. The wealthy and powerful have the economic and political upper hand that lead them to assume that their wealth and power gave them a license to exploit people. But we will not be silenced.
Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“Whosoever amongst you sees an evil, let him change it with his hands; and if he is not able, then with his tongue; and if he is not able, then let him hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.“ (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
Pakistan has continuously denied women basic human rights, including minorities such as Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. Gender violence and minority discrimination are the least of worries for Prime Minister Imran Khan. The preamble of the 1973 constitution contradicts Pakistan’s claim to be an “Islamic” and “democratic” country.
In 2016, I remember seeing the headline “Pakistan Toughens Laws on Rape and ‘Honor Killings’ of Women.” In 2020, a very similar headline appeared, stating “Pakistan toughens rape law after outcry over attacks.” Perhaps the only difference this time was the massive outrage from the public. After protests occurred due to the Lahore motorway rape case, Prime Minister Khan announced chemical castrations as a form of punishment. But this is ineffective, as no constitutional changes were made regarding rape laws. To date, there is no text of the new legislation.
Below, I have complied some problems we must begin to address if we want to reform Pakistan’s infrastructure and constitution.
Child sex abuse
A total of 2,846 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2019. On average, eight children are abused in Pakistan every day. Abuse of children by clerics is prevalent in Pakistan, but clerics continuously escape conviction. This is because no one governs madrasahs, nor is there a central authority that can investigate or respond to allegations of abuse by clerics. Poorly trained police often refuse to register complaints or investigate. Instead, they subject the victim to mistreatment and humiliation. A total of 3,722 abusers were identified last year, out of which 2,222 were acquainted with the victims including relatives, cousins, neighbors, family friends, clerics, teachers, and even a parent. Pakistan continues to ignore the topic of sexual abuse because of the stigma attached to abuse victims. Children can be victimized anywhere. It is, therefore, necessary to talk to children about sexual violence to ensure their safety.
Child rape in Pakistan is more common than you think. More recently, 1,489 children were sexually abused in the first half of the year in the country. The victims included 785 girls and 704 boys. The abusers were acquaintances of the victims or victims’ family in 822 cases while strangers were involved in 135 reported cases.
Source: Sahil, an organization working for child protection.
The government should do better and provide more training and resources to ensure that the police, doctors, court officials, social workers, and child welfare authorities respond properly to allegations of child sexual abuse. Pakistan’s children deserve a safe childhood.
“Fear Allah, the Almighty, and be fair and just to all your children. Seek the testimony of another person, other than me. I will not testify to an act of injustice.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Every day, women in Pakistan are discriminated against and arrested, physically attacked and killed, simply for making choices about their bodies and the way they live their lives. It’s no secret that acts of honor killings and domestic violence are widespread, under-reported, and mostly go unpunished. The Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll reported that Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. More than 1,000 women and girls are murdered in “honor killings” every year and 90 percent of Pakistani women suffer from domestic violence. Pakistan has failed time and time again to help women get the justice they so rightly deserve.
“The Islamic State is the one in which a single, young woman, laden with jewels, can travel from Yemen to Ajam in the last hours of the night without any fear or grief.” -Hazrat Umar Ibn Khattab
Discrimination against minorities
Religious minorities including Shia Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and Ahmadi Muslims are among the most persecuted communities in Pakistan. Authorities routinely arrest, jail, and charge them for blasphemy and other offenses because of their religious beliefs. In several instances, the police have been complicit in harassment and filing of false charges against Ahmadis, or stood by in the face of anti-Ahmadi violence. Targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, and forced conversion are all common practices against minorities. Pakistan needs to take urgent measures to improve the condition of religious minorities.
“There is no compulsion in religion.” [al-Baqarah 2:256]
Rural areas in Pakistan remain much poorer than urban areas. Many Pakistanis live in poverty because the country’s wealth is often concentrated among a few rich families. The remainder of Pakistan’s impoverished citizens are dependent on the wealth of those families, resulting in 35 percent of Pakistanis living below the poverty line. Additionally, Pakistan’s corporations, landlords and wealthy entities pay less taxes, leaving Pakistan’s poor citizens to pay more taxes in their place.
An estimated 70 percent of households still drink bacterially contaminated water. 53,000 Pakistani children under five die annually due to poor water and sanitation. Pakistan ranks number 9 in the list of top 10 countries with the lowest access to clean water. In 2019, the district administration failed to check the sale of unhygienic meat in parts of Sialkot City.
“God commands justice and fair dealing.” (Quran 16:90)
Unhygienic meat supplies
Butchers were selling the meat of sick animals at higher rates instead of the price fixed by the administration. A visit to different markets revealed that most butchers were selling unhygienic meat and were also involved in profiteering. There is virtually no official check on the slaughtering of sick and weak animals by butchers and residents are being supplied unhygienic meat. Water is pumped into the veins of animals slaughtered in private places to increase their weight and then the meat is sold in various areas. Also, the meat is transported to retailers in pushcarts without proper cover. The lack of checks and balances by authorities has resulted in an increase in meat prices. Officials are making money from butchers who allow sales of meat from sick animals by giving the official stamp to them. Consumption of such meat is not only forbidden, but also harmful for human health.
The harsh and grim reality is that Pakistan has forgotten about Islam. Our Muslim leaders and Pakistanis claim to follow the religion of Islam, but continue to rob poor people. There is corruption in law enforcement and healthcare. Research uncovered the widespread presence of corruption in hospitals servicing low-income communities. It also found that out of 342 people surveyed, one-third encountered corruption in the form of paying bribes during admissions. People paid these bribes to doctors, hospital staff and even nurses. These are not the teachings of Islam as corruption and greed are forbidden in the Quran.
Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they perceive [it] not. Quran. (2:12)
أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَٰكِنْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ
Maliya Naz is a Kashmiri/Pakistani American poet and human rights advocate. When she is not volunteering or translating Urdu ghazals, you can find her giving talks about all things Islam and spirituality.