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Pakistan's minority population is shrinking
Non-Muslim numbers have dropped from 40 percent to 4 percent since independenceChristians protest religious intolerance in Lahore
- ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
- June 25, 2012
Non-Muslims now make up less than four percent of the country's 170 million residents, a drastic decline from the 40 percent when modern Pakistan was formed in 1947.
â€śAttitudes towards non-Muslims became more aggressive under the prolonged military regimes, while the democratic governments failed to address the situation,â€ť said Nasira Iqbal, a retired judge of Lahore High Court. The introduction of blasphemy laws has made non-Muslims more vulnerable to persecution, she added.
â€śAt present, there is not a single Jew in the country,â€ť Iqbal said. â€śInÂ Lahore, there are fewer than 20 Parsi [Zorastrian] families. The number has almost halved in only three years.â€ť
Iqbal spoke Friday at the Peopleâ€™s Convention on Ending Religious Discrimination and Violence: Stake-holders Responsibilities, organized by the Peace and Tolerance Alliance (PTA).Â The PTA urged the government to put checks on discrimination, end forced conversion and excise religion from the legal system.
Amar Nath Randhawa, president of the Hindu Sudhar SabhaÂ (Hindu Welfare Society), said more than 400 Hindu families have left Pakistan in the past year.
â€śThere are about half a million Hindus inÂ Punjab,Â but we have no representation in the provincial assembly,â€ť he said. â€śWe have to observe our religious rituals at home since temples and cremation grounds are being forcefully occupied. Educated girls have to stay at home for fear of abductions and forced conversions.â€ť
Kanwal Feroz, editor of a Christian monthly, said the emigration trend has increased among Christian families as well, especially among the young generation.
â€śThere is a wave of disappointment every time culprits of anti-Christian violence go unpunished,â€ť Feroz said. He also pointed out that gaining asylum can be more difficult for Christians than Hindus, who are more easily accepted in India.
â€śMany Christians lose huge amounts of money seeking asylum abroad,â€ť he said.
Religious violence in the country is not limited to non-Muslims. The Sunni majority also targets Shi'ites, such as the Hazara sect in Balochistan province, where five Shi'ite students were killed on June 18 by a remote-controlled bomb planted in a university bus.
Local police claimed terrorists targeted the bus because it carried mostly Shi'ite students.
Over the last decade, more than 700 Shi'ites have been killed in the province, gripped by separatist insurgency, sectarian violence and Taliban suicide attacks.
Hindus in fear after temple attack
Hindu migration a concern inÂ Pakistan