The whole superstructure of Indian government’s citizenship amendment bill, now enacted, is erected on claim that religious minorities have been brutally persecuted and still face discrimination in Pakistan since 1947 and also in Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. The persecution hypothesis is based on faulty statistics. India’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed non-Muslims comprised 23 per cent of Pakistan’s population at the time of independence. By 2011, their proportion dropped to 3.7 per cent. Concerning Bangladesh, he claimed that Muslims comprised 22 per cent of population and their proportion in 2011 fell to 7.8 per cent in 1947. He insisted Pakistan and Bangladesh have witnessed a decline of up to 20 percentage points in their populations of religious minorities. But how true are his figures?
Adulterated figures: The BJP used the 23 per cent figure of non-Muslims in Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) in 1951 and compared it with the 3.7 per cent figure of non-Muslims in Pakistan in 1998. This adulteration of figures led to fallacy that population share of non-Muslims fell from 23 per cent to 3.7 per cent in Pakistan.
Myth of religious persecution: Not only non-Muslims but also Muslims migrated from Bangladesh to India. Better economic opportunities in India was the dominant lure for both non-Muslims and Muslims alike.
BJP quoted no source: India’s home minister did not quote source of his data. He probably picked up the figure from Farahnaz Ispahani’s article titled ‘Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities’ published by the Hudson Institute in 2013. She also did not quote source of her data. Naz is Hussein Haqqani’s wife. Be it noted please that she is married to Husain Haqqani, a senior fellow and director for South and Central Asia at Hudson Institute. After resigning as Pakistan’s ambassador to the USA, Haqqani kept participating in functions that portray Pakistan in poor light. A judicial commission’s report (Memo Gate) alleged that he was not loyal to Pakistan.
Past Censuses: The only credible information emanates from 1951 Census to rely on. In West Pakistan, the non-Muslim population was just 3.44 per cent, while it was 23.20 per cent in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). As per 1951Census, share of Muslims in Pakistan’s overall population was 85.80 per cent, while that of non-Muslims was 14.20 per cent.
In 1951, Muslims comprised 96.56 per cent of the total population in the territory that is today known as Pakistan. The next census in Pakistan was carried out in 1961 which indicated the non-Muslim population in West Pakistan had fallen to 2.83 per cent of West Pakistan’s total population.
By 1972 when Pakistan carried out its third census, East Pakistan had been liberated and was now known as Bangladesh. The 1972 census shows non-Muslims in Pakistan comprised 3.25 per cent of the total population. This was higher than their share in 1961.By the time the next census was done in 1981; Pakistan’s non-Muslim population registered a small rise from 3.25 per cent in 1972 to 3.30 per cent in 1981. After 1981Census, Pakistan did not carry out a fresh census for more than 15 years and the next census was carried out in 1998.As per this census, Pakistan’s non-Muslim population stood at 3.70 per cent of the total population in 1998. Pakistan carried out a fresh census in 2017 but its religious tables have not been published.
Inferences from West-Pakistan Census data: 1. Proportion of non-Muslims was never 23 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. 2. Non-Muslim population in undivided Pakistan was14.2 per cent in 1951. 3. Non-Muslims accounted for 3.44 per cent of the population in West Pakistan. 4. Census data show that share of non-Muslims in Pakistan remained 3.5 per cent over the decades. 5. No appreciable migration due to persecution.
Inferences from East-Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Census data:
Non-Muslims formed 23.20 per cent of erstwhile East Pakistan’s total population in 1951.
Share of non-Muslims in East Pakistan fell by 1961 to 19.57 per cent, then to 14.60 per cent in 1974, to 13.40 per cent in 1981, to 11.70 per cent in 1991 and 10.40 per cent in 2001.
Bangladesh’s latest census carried out in 2011 reflected that the share of non-Muslims went below 10 per cent of the country’s overall population. In 2011, non-Muslims constituted 9.60 per cent of Bangladesh’s population. Thus, during 1951 to 2011, population of non-Muslims lowered from a high of 23.20 per cent to a low 9.40 per cent.
Data refutes BJP’s claim: Official data does not bear out BJP’s claim that: (1) Population of non-Muslims in Pakistan has dropped from 23 per cent at the time of Independence to 3.7 per cent in 2011. (2) Population of non-Muslims in Bangladesh was 22 per cent at the time of Independence and has been reduced to 7.8 per cent in 2011. (3) This decline in population share of non-Muslims in these two Pakistan and Bangladesh was due to widespread religious persecution.
Based on Pakistan’s Census 1951, the BJP cherry picked and mixed-up data for the then East and West Pakistan to corroborate its hypothesis. Non-Muslims in the East Pakistan’s population constituted 23 per cent, not in both wings, as the BJP claimed. Clubbed together (East and West Pakistan), share of non-Muslims was 14.20 per cent (the highest ever) in 1951. BJP’s claim that non-Muslim share fell from 23 per cent to 3.7 per cent in Pakistan is incorrect. It averaged about 3.5 per cent from the first census onwards.1951: 3.44 per cent, 1961: 2.80 per cent, 1972: 3.25 per cent, 1981: 3.33 per cent, and 1998: 3.70 per cent
Partial truth: As alleged by BJP, non-Muslim population did decrease significantly in
Bangladesh, but from 23.20 per cent in 1951 to 9.40 per cent in 2011, not from 22 per cent to 7.8 per cent, as alleged.
The persecution argument more aptly applies to Nepal (Rohingya), Sri Lanka (Tamil settlers) and Bhutan (whence Christians trek to Indian churches for worship).Five Indian states have already disowned the enacted citizenship in its present format. The writer is the editor The Consul.
Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A
The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?
The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.
In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat. Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions? Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.
From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!
The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now?
Politics in Pakistan is unfortunately leaving scars that will fade away not that easily. Islamabad today is wrapped in thick political clouds since past few weeks. These last few weeks have altered all assumptions and calculations in the national political matrix. While the political landscape today is sizzling with intensity, aggression and strain the economy is shattering every day. Who is to blame for? What will happen now? And will sanity prevail?
The entire edifice of the “conspiracy mantra” which even made PTI commit violation of the constitution stands demolished today. It was one of the worst advices Imran khan could ever get from his party among the list of many others. Sadly he made his entire politics captive to this conspiracy myth. But today no one questions them on the impact it had on our foreign policy. US today feels betrayed, Saudis not ready to give aid, Chinese worried about their stakes and it continues. So diplomatically this conspiracy mantra has damaged Pakistan like anything.
Imran Khan’s followers see nothing wrong in what he says and what he does. They absolutely reject all the facts, all the logics and embrace the rhetoric which is fuelling more today with a greater intensity. Imran khan is leading this campaign more aggressively. Khan very well knows that bringing large crowds to Islamabad will have an impact only if there is some kind of aggression. The leaders on different occasions already hinted towards an aggressive March. He very well realizes that the figure of 2.5 Million is unrealistic but keeping in view the size of Islamabad, 0.1 Million crowd will even be perceived as a bigger crowd. So can he force the early elections at this stage? How will the government react to it? For instance let’s accept this narrative that the pressure of crowd aids PTI in getting an early election call and PTI wins it. So now what next? How will you deal with the mighty US? The economy is already sinking. You need aid to feed it but no one is providing you that. Then how will you stop dollar from going above 200? How will you provide relief from the soaring fuel prices when you won’t have money for a subsidy even? Forget about one lakh jobs and 50 lakh houses.
From the past few weeks we haven’t heard any PTI leader telling any economic plan or any diplomatic plan to revive relations. How will you deal with the IFI’s, World Bank & IMF when they’re all US controlled and as per your narrative you won’t accept “Amreeka ki Ghulami” or USA’s dictatorship.
So now what options the present regime has? The government would of course like to stop this building dangerous momentum of “Azadi March”. They would not like any big clash in Islamabad which results in bigger mess and chaos. The PDM government also has a much bigger fish to deal with, the same sinking economy. They came into power with this narrative to fix economy as former Premiere was unable to do it. The key cabinet members made more than two different official visits. The instructions are coming from London today as a decisive power so who will run the government? Who will run the system? Will the IMF aid? What will be the upcoming budget about? This upcoming budget is a bigger risk for this government along with an already announced to Long march call. Khan has already played a dangerous narrative especially with the blame of another conspiracy being made about his Life.
The stakes, the narrative and the politics of every party is at risk today. But above that, Pakistan is at risk. The dread is in the air. The end of May will be heated ferociously in Islamabad, whether politically or meteorologically.
Sri Lankan economic crisis and the China factor
After the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is the sole member of the United National Party (UNP), was sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Wickremesinghe will be holding the position of Sri Lankan PM for the sixth time. While the new Sri Lankan PM is a seasoned administrator, the task of restoring even a modicum of normalcy to the island nation’s economy, which is currently facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 seems to be a Herculean task (Wickremesinghe has clearly indicated, that his first task will be ensuring the supply of electricity, diesel and petrol to the people).
The grave economic crisis, which has resulted in acute shortage of food and essential commodities have brought ordinary people on the roads and demonstrations have resulted in violence and loss of lives (the Sri Lankan President had to declare a state of emergency twice first last month and then earlier this month). There had been a growing clamor for the resignation by President Gottabaya Rajapaksa but Wickremesinghe was sworn in after the exit of Mahinda Rajapaksa (protests have been carrying on even after the swearing in of Wickremesinghe)
During his previous tenure, Wickremesinghe had tried to reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence upon China, and in his current tenure he will be compelled to do the same. He had also been critical of the previous government for not approaching the IMF for assistance (Wickremesinghe has been repeatedly accused of being pro-west and having neoliberal leanings by many of his political opponents).
It would be pertinent to point out, that the PM had also batted for a coordinated regional response, by SAARC vis-à-vis the covid19 pandemic. The new Sri Lankan PM has also been an ardent advocate of improving ties with India.
While it is true, that Sri Lanka finds itself in the current situation due to economic mismanagement and excessive dependence upon the tourism sector (which faced a severe setback as a result of covid 19), it is tough to overlook the level of debts piled vis-à-vis China, and the fact that the Island nation was following China’s model of economic growth with a focus on big ticket infrastructure projects.
Another South Asian nation — Pakistan which witnessed a change last month where Shehbaz Sharif took over as Prime Minister, replacing Imran Khan, also faces daunting economic challenges. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be a little over $ 10 billion on May 6, 2022 and the Pakistani Rupee fell to its all time low versus the US Dollar on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Shehbaz Sharif ever since taking over as PM has repeatedly reiterated the importance of Pakistan’s ties with China and the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto in a conversation with his Chinese counterpart alluded to the same, with Pakistan’s Foreign office in a statement released after the conversation between Bhutto and Wang Yi said:
“underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum in the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation”.
Yet, China has categorically said that it will not provide any financial assistance until Pakistan resumes the IMF aid program. Pakistan has been compelled to look at other alternatives such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, which have also said that without the revival of the IMF program aid will not be possible. Only recently, Chinese power companies functioning under the umbrella of the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) have threatened to shut down their operations if their dues (to the tune of 1.59 billion USD) are not cleared. China had also reacted very strongly to the terror attack on Karachi University in which three Chinese teachers lost their lives, this is the second such attack after 2021. China in recent years had also indicated to Pakistan, that it was not happy with the progress of the China Pakistan Economic (CPEC) project. The current government in Pakistan has repeatedly pointed to this fact.
One point which is abundantly clear from the economic crisis in Sri Lanka as well as the challenges which Pakistan is facing is that excessive dependence upon China has disastrous consequences in the long run. If one were to look at the case of South Asia, Bangladesh has been astute by not being excessively dependent upon China – it has maintained robust economic relations with India and Japan. Given the changing economic situation it is becoming increasingly important for developing countries, especially in South Asia, to join hands to confront the mounting challenges posed by excessive dependency upon China. US, Japan and western multilateral bodies and financial institutions need to find common ground and provide developing countries with an alternative economic narrative. It is also time for India along with other countries in the South Asian region to find common ground and focus on robust economic cooperation.
Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A
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