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.


News and media are not the only factors that neglect to represent religious minorities, there are also notable crime statistics with minority victims that are not publicized, ultimately protecting and encouraging persecutors. It is noted that minority women are mostly victims of crimes that go unreported, in one case 71 families were forced to leave their homes to protect their girls as they were unable to report crimes to authorities. It is estimated that 20-25 Hindu girls are victims of forced conversions, forced marriages, and abductions each month, yet the numbers shown in crime statistic reports are unrepresentative of the truth. Police and local authorities hesitate to investigate such crimes thus they are not reported and filed properly in national statistics.


The question arises, why is it important to have the numbers be accurate, they're just numbers, isn’t it? If the statistics are not representative of the truth it can cause a lot of damage to the victims and potential victims of such crimes. This results in the mass population being misinformed or willingly blind about the crimes against religious minorities and no action is taken to prevent it and protect them. There are no protests and the system continues while numbers keep rising with no one to report them


One may ask why it is important for the mass population to be aware of the crimes and be the ones bringing the change. Well, another factor where representation goes amiss is government. Despite the democratic system of government, the minority leaders who are aware of such crimes are unable to stand up against them. A Hindu Law-maker, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a leader of the Pakistan Hindu Council was openly reprimanded for introducing an anti-child marriage bill to protect young girls from forced conversions, abductions, and forced marriages. He was unable to prevent crimes against young minority girls, which is another reason for why an accurate representation of such cases with minority victims is needed.


It is undeniable that there has been progress in minority rights and representation throughout media, print, news, and government. However, as noted above, this representation is not nearly enough to allow us to bring the change that is needed. It is not nearly enough to fulfill the promise we made, because if there was no white in the flag, the beauty of the moon and star would never show.



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Sources


Representation of Religious Minorities in Pakistani and Indian Print Media: A Comparative Analysis


Pakistani soap to break stereotypes with Christian protagonist


PAKISTAN: Religious minority women, the forgotten victims of a fragmented society - Pakistan


Pakistani minorities: A one-sided story





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