The Human Truth Foundation

Religion in Pakistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2024

#hinduism #india #islam

Pakistan is one of the most religious countries in the world1; its devout Sunni Muslims make up 85%-90% of the population, who are becoming increasingly fundamentalist2. The country struggles with tolerating any non-Sunni beliefs and routinely denies basic human rights in the name of Islam, with women, minorities and LGBT folk all enduring long-term persecution and inhumane restrictions3,4,5. It is impossible for any government to last long if it veers far from the requirements of Islam as perceived by the poorest and least educated caste in the country, and likewise, civil bodies are soon dismantled if they have the slightest hint of liberalism. The worrying and continued increase in religious violence in Pakistan is harming the entire county6 and destabilizing the government. Periods of rule by secularists - who wish to treat religion fairly and keep religion and politics separate - have resulted in backlashes towards more extreme parties7.

Pakistan has suffered a series of bloody conflicts with India, where on both sides of the border Muslim and Hindu communities and minority groups have opposed and slaughtered one-another since 1947; the first few years of this trouble cost over a million lives8,9,10.

1. Adherents and Beliefs

#belief #buddhism #christianity #god #hinduism #islam #judaism #religion #religiosity #secularisation

Religiosity (2018)1
Pos.Lower is better
100Burkina Faso93
World Avg54.3
Disbelief In God (2007)11
Pos.Higher is better
120Ivory Coast0
123Saudi Arabia0
World Avg9.9

Data from the Pew Forum, a professional polling outfit, states that in 2010 the religious makeup of this country was as follows in the table below12:

Folk Religion0.1%

The CIA World Factbook has slightly different data, and states: Muslim (official) 96.4% (Sunni 85-90%, Shia 10-15%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 3.6% (2010 est.)13.

2. Religion is the Overall Cause of Human Rights Problems in Pakistan

#equality #freedom #human_rights #pakistan #politics #tolerance

Pakistan is amongst the very worst places in the world at ensuring any human rights and freedoms, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Pakistan does worse than average in opposing gender inequality14 (one of the highest in Asia), speed of uptake of HR treaties15, supporting press freedom16 and in LGBT equality17. And finally, it sits amongst the bottom 20 in terms of the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)18 (one of the worst in Asia), commentary in Human Rights Watch reports19 (one of the lowest in Asia), supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms20, its nominal commitment to Human Rights21 and in freethought22 (amongst the worst in Asia). Women, religious minorities and LGBT folk face terrible persecution, frequent violent attacks and government persecution "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"3. Security forces are unaccountable for their own human rights violations3. Decades of increasingly strict and conservative Islam has resulted in a situation of violent intolerance towards any other religion or belief6,4. Pakistan has no freedom of religion nor freedom of belief. The law is used to prevent any criticism of Muhammad or those connected to him, including literary and historical criticism5,23.

For more, see:

3. Religious Violence, Politics and Instability

#islam #pakistan #religion_and_politics #saudi_arabia #USA

Religion and politics are intrinsically linked7, but, the country's population has been coasting into increasingly extreme waters, necessitating the government to "tread a tightrope"2. It is impossible for any party to last long if it veers far from the requirements of strict Islam and likewise, civil bodies are soon dismantled if they have the slightest hint of liberalism. For example, the military general Pervez Musharraf ruled for a while along pragmatic and modernist lines, and veered towards helping the international effort against terrorism after the 2001 attacks on the USA7. This caused a backlash amongst the populace, so that the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of hardline Islamic parties, gained their best-ever result in the 2002 elections, and implemented Shariah law in the NWFP province7. Part of the blame for the growth in fundamentalism lays with the large numbers of migrant workers from Saudi Arabia who spread overly strict Islam6.

[In Pakistan] clashes over the extent to which Islamic injunctions on issues of blasphemy or sexual morality should be enforced by the state have led to fierce political battles and to the victimization of individuals, very often women or members of small and vulnerable religious minorities.

"Religion and Politics" by David Taylor (2005)7

The worrying and continued increase in religious violence in Pakistan is harming the entire county and destabilizing the government. The Economist24 in 2011 reports that "with the rise in religious observance society has become less tolerant" and bemoans that Pakistan "has become a very violent place. Over 30,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in terrorist-related violence in the past four years. Even in the comparative lull in suicide-bombings in late 2011, the newspapers carried a litany of horror stories: terrorist attacks; honour killings; ethnic violence in Karachi; assassinations"6.

The country stands in the growing shadow of a new dark ages, inspired by fundamentalist Islam. The mass media is singularly biased. In 2011 the country faced a series of crises, but the press "still agonised over the antics of Veena Malik, a Pakistani actress who had posed on the cover of an Indian men's magazine, apparently wearing nothing but a tattoo"6,25. This distorted perspective seems to go down increasingly well with the masses. In 2011, the Pakistani Taliban was said by 10% to be the greatest threat to Pakistan26 probably because of the destabilisation, negative effects on education, their barbaric beliefs, and their political interference. But how come only 10%, then, say that the Taliban are a threat? 60% said the USA is a bigger threat. It is a culture that is losing its way, misinformed about the world, and many of the most educated (i.e., doctors) take themselves abroad. Few return.

4. Blasphemy

#blasphemy #christianity #islam_blasphemy #pakistan #religion_in_pakistan

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are infamously strict and unjust5,27,3 and tied to the country's overall culture of intolerance and prejudice. There are hundreds of people queued for the death penalty, awaiting trial3. In 2017, the interior minister described blasphemers as "enemies of humanity" and implied the "logical conclusion" is their murder. Mob violence against those accused of blasphemy causes a steady stream of horrific murders and assaults, with the government doing little to prevent it - the security services themselves are sometimes complicit.

The laws are often employed against minority groups, even where there clearly was no intent, and against non-Muslims within non-Muslim communities in Pakistan28. Knowing that the consequences can be life-destroying even when the claims are false, accusations are often made against competitors during feuds or to resolve grudges27,28.

Dozens of politicians, lawyers and campaigners have been assassinated and others are subjected to mob violence for opining that the blasphemy laws should be relaxed. The Punjab state governor was assassinated in 2001 by his bodyguard for asking for leniency for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death27. Demonstrations broke out in favour of the bodyguard. Such is the temper in a country that is being dragged backwards into a barbarous theocracy by religionists, amidst a wave of fear. The concept of blasphemy is their primary weapon.

For more, see:

5. Religious Conflicts Between Pakistan and India

#Bangladesh #Hinduism #India #Islam #Pakistan #Religion_Intolerance #religious_conflict #religious_war #Sikhism

During the early 20th century, Muslim communities grew in strength especially in the north-west, and north-east, edges of India. Mass intolerance and misunderstandings borne from religious differences caused gradually worsening relations between Hindus and Muslims. The CIA World Factbook describes the 1940s as a period where 'large-scale communal violence took place'8. After India achieved independence from Britain in 1947, violent demands for Hindu and Muslim states led to the breakoff of Pakistan as an Islamic state in the north-west of India8,9, and "East Pakistan" in the north-east, which became Bangladesh.10

The division led to a flood of 'left-behind' Hindu and Sikh migrants into India, and of Muslim migrants into Pakistan. Approximately 15 million such people moved, and 'many engaged in a vengeful bloodletting'9 as they went, with the estimates of the total lives lost starting at one million9.

For more, see:

Some regions did not clearly fall into either Pakistan nor India; there are have been three wars and enduring conflicts, especially over the Kashmir region.

Through the 1990s the spectre of inter-communal religious violence continued, with 1995 being a particularly bloody year in many Indian towns and cities "in which people have been brutally killed simply for belonging to the 'wrong' religious community"7. These attacks have been encouraged by political parties such as the BJP and its ally, the Shiv Sena, who "have been complicit in attacks on religious minorities"7.

An ongoing arms race led to both India and Pakistan becoming nuclear-armed states9, with both places conducting nuclear weapons tests in 19988,2. It is often stated that this conflict marks the place where nuclear armaments are most likely to be used29.

In November 2008, terrorists originating from Pakistan conducted a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India's financial capital.

CIA's The World Factbook (2013)8