The White in the Flag - Nur us Sahar Kamran

Across the world, Pakistan is represented with the Moon and the Star, with the green and the white. The moon and star symbolizing Islam and their colour representing the minorities. Pakistan without religious minorities would be as plain as a green flag.

What does the white in the flag mean? It’s a promise to protect, respect, and support the religious freedom and rights of the minorities as citizens of the country. A promise that some would say hasn’t been kept. Pakistan is a country with a population of 216.6 Million with 3.53% of the population being religious minorities. At the first glance, it’s a small number, till you realize that number represents millions of different individuals. Individuals grouped as they had beliefs that differed from the masses.

Throughout the years it can be noted that Pakistani media, literature, and news have neglected sharing the beauty of this diversity. There is an average of nine different dramas shown on one broadcasting channel per day, yet if asked to count how many of them contain main roles with characters of religious minorities, we would fail to answer. There is an abundance of Pakistani dramas that consistently depict empowering Muslim characters that serve as role models for young audiences yet not one for religious minorities. In 2017 a drama called “Baji Irshad” aired on Express Entertainment. It was a beautifully written story with a Christian maid as the female protagonist. Despite this, the question arises, is it enough? If religions are promoted through the entertainment industry, why is it that the role of a low-class maid or ayaa is the only one where there is room for representation of religious minorities?

According to a research paper by Dr. Sumera Batool published by the Pakistan Social Sciences Review, the total negative representation of all minority representation in Pakistani print media is 12%. Comparing this to the positive 68.4%, it may seem like a success till we consider the promotion of negative representation. As we all are avid users of social media, we can recognize and compare which news travels the fastest. Negative representation is more likely to spread quickly and is ultimately promoted and shared more, this results in the 12% of representation of minorities being a dangerously high number. The paper further concluded that ‘‘there is an unequal and biased representation of religious minorities in Pakistani print media’’, thus introducing issues such as ‘model minorities’.

Not only is there a lack of representation of minorities in Pakistani media but also mainstream news. As noted by Muhammad Aftab Alam; executive director of the Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development, there is an abundance of opinion-based, analytical talk shows on Pakistani news channels yet “a very tiny percentage of them reflect the diversity and pluralism on the ground”.

Minority heroes are indeed applauded in the national news. For example; Cecil Chauhdry, a noted war hero and fighter pilot for Pakistan Air Force, was greatly appreciated throughout news and media. It is important to note why this is necessary. As children, most of us have searched for role models through television and media. The ability to recognize someone that represents you, your culture, and religion on a tv screen, gives a sense of empowerment to minority youth. They can recognize they are appreciated and it allows for positive role models encouraging minority children to become assets to the country. Further, some other minority heroes recognized by the government include; Dr. Ruth Pfau, Anthony Theodore, Gertrude Lemmons etc. However, there remain hundreds of minority heroes and experts who, if highlighted through news and media, would serve as beautiful role models for young children as they’d feel represented in their country.