But the modern reality is very different. Most people in Pakistan are Muslims and Jinnah’s imagined secular state has become increasingly theocratic after decades of dictatorships and official Islamism. Christians, particularly the poor belonging to the agricultural center and north of the country, are considered outcasts by many and find themselves pushed to the edge of society.
Islamabad’s Christians allege rampant discrimination by the conservative Pakistan Muslim League government. They say their small proportion of the population means they don’t stand a chance at the ballot box and are now demanding a voice.
Recently retired cook Rehmat Masih has lived in Islamabad for four decades. The 65-year-old offers a bleak assessment of life in a Christian slum.
“I think being Christian, in this place, this Pakistan, is a crime,” he said. “If we speak out, our corpses will be on the road.”
Masih lives in “100 Quarters,” a litter-strewn slum tucked between Islamabad’s posh Margalla and Hill Roads. It is named after the first 100 apartments granted to Christians by the government in the 1960s, but it has since grown and now houses more than 1,000 Christian families.
“They say that Islamabad is a great capital of a great nation,” said Masih, standing next to an overflowing drain. “But they let us live like this in middle of Islamabad. Officials drive by every day in BMWs and see this. Yet we are kept like this. Why?”