14 April | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Neither a hawk nor a dove: Asif Sardar working for a change

From regular email hacks, phone tapping and deliberate delays in legal documents for travel, human rights defender Asif Sardar is still active to protect Christians, other marginalized communities

The world, despite thriving on diversity, has a history of shunning uniqueness and imprisoning inclusivity. As we step into yet another year awaiting opportunities, it becomes critical to recognize and protect the rights of individuals who, by virtue of their identification, find themselves on the fringes. To broaden knowledge about those around us, we must first begin to break out of the shells of ignorance and step into theirs. In terms of Pakistan, this Muslim majority country is home to millions of people from different faiths and religions who rise each day to demand justice for being minorities.

Let’s go down the horrifying memory lane. On March 9, 2013, the foreign media went ablaze with the fire that burnt down tens of homes in Lahore’s Joseph Colony, with the local media falling short to perform their duty. An enraged mob torched a row of homes in the mentioned Christian neighborhood on false charges. Two years went by with a growth in extremism, resulting in two explosions outside the Roman Catholic Church and the Christ Church during a Sunday Mass in Lahore’s Youhanabad that took fifteen lives, leaving dozens injured.

Asif Sardar demands dedication to preserve rights of minorities

After a three-year battle with the deadly Covid19 virus, 2023 was yet another year filled with hatred and bloodshed for the Christian community. An enraged mob gave the nation its daily dose of irony by torching homes and holy books just days after 14th August. According to the consensus of 2017, Christians are the third largest religious group with a percentage of 1.27, minus the forced conversions of community members. As numbers spike up with each catastrophe, enthusiastic human rights defenders take the lead to prevent from yet another church being destroyed and an innocent family being lynched.

Asif Sardar, a human rights defender, is brought up in Lahore. As a young fellow, he studied in a local missionary school and is now among many who have become a pillar for the Christian community in Pakistan. Kicking off his career in 2005 as a crucial part of Youth Activist Training, the rights defender in his decades worth of activism has left no stone unturned in this struggle for freedom by conducting protests, theater plays, and conducting regular interfaith harmony gatherings to promote inclusivity on a national level.

Asif Sardar demands creation of a National Commission for Minorities

In Pakistan, blasphemy and other strict laws have generated debates which often have a deadly outcome. Asif Sardar bravely calls out the constant misuse of these laws that mandate death penalty or a life imprisonment for anyone who will be imprisoned under these religious law. As protective, these laws may be of the sentiments of majority community, they have, proven time and again to be life threatening for the minorities. Asif Sardar pushes for an increased dedication to the preservation of minority rights in Pakistan. In his argument, he highlights the creation of a National Commission for Minorities, similar to the current human rights and women’s rights commissions.

He raises significant points, particularly about the accountability strategies employed against the perpetrators of church bombings, connecting parallels with the recently settled Zainab case. “Were the culprits arrested like in Zainab’s case,” he asserted, emphasizing the essential truth that minorities are not only valued parts of the society, but also entitled to their rightful place as equal citizens. When asked how he tackles the trauma induced in the youth after each catastrophe, Asif Sardar stressed upon the need to develop a secure identity in the young minds.

He said that he believes providing youngsters with the required tools of knowledge, compassion and extracting the hate material present in the curriculum to prevent any internalized religious phobia is the best way to go about it. The government has yet to develop an enhanced strategy in regards to issues surrounding the minorities. Commenting on the ‘non-serious’ attitude of the human rights representatives in the National Assembly, Asif Sardar asserted on electing individuals with a firm grasp on the subject and holding those accountable who are hyper focused on personal gains.

Asif Sardar continues to strive for a secure country for all

He further said that proper consensus needs to be done for minority people to secure seats that align with the correct population percentage. As we approach the mid of February 2024, there are 300 youth groups from different religions working around the country to promote interfaith harmony, with Asif Sardar being at the forefront, providing food and shelter to the victims of the extremist attacks. These efforts have earned the activist the Peace Award from National Peace Community, making him a prominent voice for the minorities at the UN.

No activist in history has gone down without the shadows of constant threats looming in the background. While expressing his unwavering strength to stand guard for this noble cause, Asif Sardar quietly mentioned the severe discrimination against him and his family. From regular email hacks, website crashes, phone tapping and deliberate delays in legal documents for travel, Asif Sardar experiences it all on a daily basis, yet continues to strive for a secure country for his people and for every marginalized group in Pakistan.