A successful state takes care of all its citizens irrespective of their color, caste, creed, gender or religion. But unfortunately, in Pakistan, the minorities are not taken care of properly. They are killed, lynched, tortured and expelled.
Pakistan’s minority population has gone from over one-fifth at the founding of the modern state to a paltry three percent at present.
Christians are currently running from Pakistan; Sikhs have migrated to other parts of the world, and Parsis are now part of Pakistan’s history. Only their graves bear witness to the existence of their once thriving community in Pakistan. It is only a matter of time that Hindus will leave their homeland in the Sindh province. In short, Pakistan is experiencing a mass exodus of its minority populations.
One of the main destinations of Christians fleeing Pakistan is Thailand. A documentary made by investigative journalist Chris Rogers and Wilson Chaudhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association on their dire circumstances was recently aired on the BBC.
The two went undercover to film the plight of thousands Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in stranded in Thailand.
Although it is a country known for its tourism industry and tradition of welcoming visitors, for asylum seekers, Thailand — which is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention 1951 of Human Rights — is not a safe haven for refugees.
Even so, the UNCHR, under a separate agreement with the government, has established offices in Thailand to register asylum seekers and pass them on to different countries. Due to the increasing wave of migrants throughout the globe, however, Thailand is under stress and the military government is not allowing any refugee to obtain more than the standard tourist visa which allows a visitor to stay only six months.
A nationwide crackdown began this past March on all immigrants whose visas have expired. Even though the UNHCR issues ID cards to asylum seekers, these refugees are still considered illegal.
Yet due to the backlog and limited staff of the UNCHR, it is almost impossible to process asylum applications within six months of the immigrant’s arrival. Applicants normally have to wait for years just for an interview!
While they are waiting, asylum seekers are not allowed to work to earn money to feed themselves. Once their visa has expired, their lives become hell. From time to time, they are arrested and sent to the International Detention Centre, known as one of the worst prisons in the world.
Hundreds of people are imprisoned in inhumane conditions, making the center a breeding ground for serious diseases that many do not survive.
Still, Pakistani Christians take the chance and flee Pakistan for Thailand. From time to time, British MPs and Americans Congressmen who are aware of this situation raise their voices, but as Thailand has no legal obligation to deal with this issue, the authorities rarely pay attention to them.
The international community should take notice of the plight of Christian Pakistani asylum seekers in Thailand as they are not economic migrants. For Pakistan’s Christians, who have been severely persecuted, the decision to say goodbye to their centuries-old homeland and sell their properties (those that have not been burned down) and set aside their social ties (if they haven’t been totally ostracized) is heart wrenching for them.
Yet the prospect of being trapped in false blasphemy cases or having their wives or daughters join the thousands of minority women who have been forced into marriages and conversion is the alternatiave.
For the global community, it is time to take up the cause of Pakistan’s minorities’ – or be witness to their graves in a country increasingly on the path to violent, Islamist extremism.