The only things that can stand in the way of progress are the laws made by the majority to rule over the people in the minority. It is only by reviewing each law comprehensively, and changing it according to the demands of the time that we can ensure that the path to progress remains open
As I try to write, I stare at my computer’s blank white screen, imagining it is the white segment on Pakistan’s flag that represent its religious minorities. Does that sound a bit theatrical? I suppose it does, but its purpose is to capture your attention. I request you set aside any preconceived notions you might have about the status of minorities in Pakistan and approach my hypothesis with an open mind.
To begin with, let’s admit that logically a perfect world cannot be achieved. Human beings were never designed to, nor can they completely achieve the utopian idea of complete equality. It doesn’t exist anywhere in the world right now, or at any time in history, and the same is true for Pakistan as well. Here, even people with slightly different backgrounds, than those in the majority, struggle to attain equal rights or representation. The divide amongst the different segments of society is widening daily, and with it changes the ideals and views of society in reference to an individual belonging to a specific cast, creed or religion. And yet, the most troubling notion is that, we as a society excel at ignoring these divisions and denying that there even is any discrimination taking placed against minorities, even when the evidence opposing this belief is so apparent.
As per the constitution, every citizen has the right to practice their religion, including religious pilgrimages. How can the state be justified in prohibiting not only Jews, but Pakistani Christians, Messianic Jews, and even Muslims, from travelling to Jerusalem?
Now I am not trying to be melancholic because there is still hope. The only things that can stand in the way of progress are the laws made by the majority to rule over the people in the minority. It is only by reviewing each law comprehensively, and changing it according to the demands of the time can we ensure that the path to progress remains unimpeded. It is just such one rule of law that I hope to challenge, in order to provide some respite to the minorities that are affected by it.
I am stuck in a real life conundrum. Being a practicing Jewish man, I want the freedom to perform my religious duties, a right granted to me and other minorities in the country by the constitution. However, the reality is that my Pakistani passport states that ‘this passport is valid for all countries of the world, except Israel’. As per the constitution, every citizen has the right to practice their religion, including religious pilgrimages. How then, can the state be justified in prohibiting not only Jews, but Pakistani Christians, Messianic Jews, and even Muslims from travelling to Jerusalem? This self-conflicting sentence on our passports is flawed and inconsistent with our constitution, and it is time to challenge this archaic law.
All I simply want is to invoke my given constitutional right to perform a religious pilgrimage without having the threat of criminal persecution from the state of Pakistan hanging over my head. This is a flaw in the laws that govern the state of minorities in the country and it specifically discriminates against the small community of Jews, Christians and Muslims that want to observe their rights.
I want to observe the Passover (Pesach) Seder in Jerusalem next year in April, and as the situation stands at the moment, I am unable to do so. But we need to realize that even though laws are not meant to be broken, they are supposed to evolve, so that any flaws can be ironed out over time. If the lawmakers today realize how the law banning Pakistanis from travelling to Israel, despite their desire to just perform a religious pilgrimage, is contradictory to the rights highlighted in the constitution, then I implore them to amend the laws accordingly.
The writer is based in Karachi and can be contacted on twitter: @Jew_Pakistani