A Synopsis of The Representation of Religious Minorities inPakistani Press: A Three Month Study of the Daily Dawn and Daily Jang. A Thesis to be submitted by, Mahrukh Mohsin For the award of the degree of: Masters Department of Television Film and Theatre Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan. Spring, 2012.
IntroductionPakistan was established in 1947, not only by the efforts of the Muslims of the Sub-Continent, but also by the joint efforts of many Christians in Punjab along with manyZoroastrians (Parsees), and even Hindus in Sindh.At the time of Independence, it wasdeclared to be a secular state that would guarantee the freedom of practice of all religions andsafeguard the interests of the minorities by its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.In his openingspeech to the Constituent Assembly, presided over by Mr.JogindranathMandal, whobelonged to the Hindu community, Mohammed Ali Jinnah said: “You are free; you are freeto go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship inthis State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing todo with the business of the State.” He in particular highlighted the democratic features ofEngland in his speech and said,“Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our idealand you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims wouldcease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of eachindividual, but in the political sense as citizens of the Statei”. However, soon after Jinnah’sdeath in 1948, the first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, proposed a resolution upon whichthe first Constitution of the Country was to be formed. He proclaimed that the futureConstitution would not be modeled upon a European pattern, but on the ideology anddemocratic faith in Islam. Starting from 1953 till 1973, riots against Ahmedis began to takeforce ultimately declaring them to be non-Muslims. This discrimination was taken from thestreets to the Constitution 1973 with the inclusion of Article 2. Based on therecommendations of the Objectives Resolution, Islam was declared to be the State Religionin the same Constitution. Also, Muslims were declared to be the Majority and important postswere reserved for them, such as the President, Prime Minister etc. In 1980, the Blasphemylaw was passed, and in 1985, Zia-ul-Haq tampered with the constitution. The clause relatedto the ‘Freedom of Religion for Minorities’ was expunged from the Constitution andabolished from the Objectives Resolution. An unwritten policy was adopted by the armedforces, under Zias’s regime under which officers not belonging to the Muslim faith were notpromoted to high positions. This proved detrimental to the Christians who, before, this policyheld large numbers in the armed forces. The situation of the religious minorities of Pakistanhas been deteriorating since then. However a ray of hope emerged with the recent 18thAmendment that was enacted on the 18th of April, 2010.
MotivationRegardless of the 18th Amendment, the impact of the mindset generated over decades is hardto overcome easily. The controversial yet cruel Blasphemy Law has not yet been revoked,nor has the Muslim majority accepted Religious minorities as rightful equal citizens ofPakistan. Furthermore it is increasingly difficult for the religious minorities to acquire socialacceptance, jobsand to freely and openly practice their religion. Christians in particular arelooked upon as the appropriate employees for Blue Collar jobs and are even derogatorilyknown as ‘Chooras’ (Janitors) even though they are present in almost all fields of life withhonorable jobs. Ahmedis are nowadays being subjected to an economic boycott and theirbusinesses are being frequently threatened. Most of the Hindu citizens of Sindh live belowthe poverty line and are forced into converting to the Muslim faith. Even in these tryingtimes, the Religious Minorities have never posed a threat to the security and sovereignty ofPakistan and have diligently worked towards the success and development of the Country.As Citizens of Pakistan, there should be no differentiation between the Muslim majority, andother religious minorities, rather they should be treated with mutual respect and worktogether amicably towards mutual development. As newspapers are an important source ofinformation throughout Pakistan, it is essential that all sectors of the society receiveconsiderable coverage and their joys and woes be understood by the society at large. Sincethere is a larger readership by the Muslim population of Pakistan, many a times certain newsregarding the religious minorities gets left out of the newspaper to compensate for the limitedspace of the paper, however there needs to be a considerable voice of the minorities in thepress that can accurately inform and educate the masses about an essential part of theirsociety and teach them the lesson of tolerance towards each other. Other than rectifying andreflecting upon the society, newspapers also inform about the measures taken by theGovernment and the various state institutions for the betterment of all citizens. It is also ofimmense importance that all citizens of the country, regardless of their religious beliefs, forma cohesive society that is empathetic and sensitive to the needs of the other.The main motivation behind this research is to find out whether the print media is doing itsjob fairly and treating the religious minorities of Pakistan as equal Pakistani citizens.
HypothesisThe Pakistani print media is biased against the religious minorities of Pakistan.Objectives and Scope The analysis of the content in the widespread newspapers: Daily Dawn (English) andDaily Jang (Urdu), about the religious minorities of Pakistan, over a period of three months,should be able to highlight the average Representation of Religious Minorities in PakistaniPress. The main questions arising during this research are as follows: 1) Do religious minorities receive sufficient coverage in Pakistani press? 2) How accurate is the reporting about the religious minorities? 3) What is the tolerance level of an average Pakistani Muslim, towards the religious minorities of the Country? 4) Is the society at large concerned about the religious minorities of Pakistan? 5) Are the State Institutions biased/insensitive towards the religious minorities of Pakistan? 6) Do the Religious Minorities of Pakistan consider themselves Citizens with equal rights?Description of the Research Work The two widespread Dailies Dawn and Jang were chosen for the purpose of thisresearch as they are widely circulated all over the Country. The Daily Dawn is one of theoldest newspapers of Pakistan and has a subtly stated right wing to centered policy. Knownfor its objectivity and accuracy of news, it is rampantly distributed amongst the Englishspeaking (Elite) class of the society. On the other hand, The Daily Jang is a populist Urdunewspaper that has a more center-winged to leftist approach to news reporting and one of thelargest readerships in Pakistan. An analysis of both dailies together will provide accuratewholesome and interesting reports and an intelligent review of the representation of theminorities.
The three months selected for the purpose of the research are February – April 2012. Thesethree months have been chosen in order to research the average representation of theReligious Minoritiesduring a random time of the year while ensuring that the researchconducted is able to depict the current trends in the representation of minorities in the Pressalong with the mindset of the average citizen depicted through the press.Along with the analysis of the newspapers, a few interviews/survey will be conducted to findout the views of the people responsible for what appears / is left out in the press (editors /beat editors); what do the minorities think about their representation in the press; the opinionof media watchdogs/ non-profits and NGOs concerned with human rights to reevaluate ifissues regarding the human rights of the minorities are being accurately reported.Summary of the Work The research about the Representation of Religious Minorities in Pakistani Press,should help create awareness about the exact status given to citizens of the same Countrywho belong to different faiths. It should bring to attention the need for tolerance andacceptability in our society especially at a time when both these values seem to be runninglow. Also, it aims to uncover the various methods with which the press and the governmentalong with various institutions are trying to form a cohesive and caring society for the overallbetterment of the country.i Mr. Jinnah’s Speech to the First Constituent Assembly, Dawn, Independence Day Supplement, August 14,1999