There is nothing in the slightest surprising about Maryam Nawaz Sharif and her party playing the religion card in the build up to the NA-120 by-election on Sunday. In fact, many would argue that the ruling PML-N considering the Christians a vote bank worth wooing is in itself progress of sorts. But what happened at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on September 1, a day before Eid-ul-Azha, has shocked many in the Christian community.

While the plan was to offer prayers for her mother Kulsoom Nawaz – who has been diagnosed with throat cancer – just as she had done a day before at Data Darbar, Maryam Nawaz ended up giving the usual politically loaded rhetorical speech from the pulpit. That a holy place was used to deliver a political speech, with clear intention to lure voters, has outraged many Christians.

Now, on principle, merely a religious community – or a significant enough percentage of it – being offended shouldn’t automatically establish the offence. And those of us asking the Muslim minorities to be more open and tolerant about perceived attacks on Islam should apply the same rule elsewhere as well.

But there are two fundamental differences between these cases.

First, the Muslims that are asked to tolerate others’ right to critique Islam live in societies where freedom of speech is equally applied to all ideologies, religions, theology, holy individuals, etc – basically they’re free societies, whereas Pakistan constitutionally endorses Islamo-supremacism.

Secondly, there is a clear double standard in Maryam Nawaz’s actions, because she chose to speak outside Data Darbar – and wouldn’t ever dare deliver a political speech from inside a mosque – while somehow deeming it appropriate to use the church’s pulpit.

This only reaffirms what Pakistan’s law and its enforcement have unambiguously clarified for a good part of the past seven decades: that non-Muslims can never enjoy equal status, even when they are being sent the same political bait as their Muslim counterparts.

The thought didn’t even cross Maryam Nawaz’s mind that she could possibly do something inside the church that could offend Christians. For that the Christian community would have to be considered as individuals whose sentiments have importance bearing some semblance to the emotions of Muslims, whose right to be offended is perpetually kept on a pedestal. This is why even though the Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw has issued an apology; Maryam Nawaz hasn’t even mustered enough a sufficient number of damns to regret what she might have inadvertently done.

Forget the ubiquity of outrage in many Islamic countries where the Muslims are the majority, even when we are a minority we often demand special privileges for ourselves, breaching which can result in violence regardless of the religious demographics of the realm in question.

Even Hindu supremacists in India are replicating the same, by deeming their offended sentiments as worthy of another individual’s life. If it carries on like this, it’s only a matter of time before the beef ban evolves into a capital crime a la blasphemy.

But let’s ignore, for a bit, what other brands of supremacism are orchestrating elsewhere. If we claim to be the purest of the pure, and self-identify as a world leader in respecting religion, we need to be at the forefront of protecting the sentiments of the minorities.

Then again, Islamist supremacy takes pride in not only discarding, but even subjugating anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the narrowest brand of Islam.

Even so, it wasn’t a religious supremacist – not overtly anyway – who has quite clearly upset the same people she wanted to seek votes from. This is someone that the ruling family presents as the heir apparent of what now poses as a tolerant pluralist party, whose erstwhile head had asked to ‘make religious diversity Pakistan’s strength’ as recently as this year’s Holi.

And so, considering that Maryam Nawaz literally has nothing to lose – and all to gain – by sending out a simple message to the Christian community that whatever she did was done in ignorance, without the slightest harmful intent, it is evident what the rights of anyone not a Muslim actually mean to those arrogantly believing it their divine right to rule this country.

Now considering the bubble that the Sharifs live in, it wouldn’t be shocking at all if no one has even told Maryam Nawaz that her actions from almost two weeks ago have upset quite a few people. For, surely if the party strategy wanted to pose as custodians, saviours – or whatever self-aggrandising impression they might have of themselves – for the Christian community, if something has caused the opposite, the natural reaction would be damage control, if nothing else.

This is where, perhaps, Maryam’s advisers are equally to blame – most notably Federal Minister for Statistics, Kamran Michael. First, for not preventing the political speech taking place from the pulpit; second for not properly conveying what her actions had caused, and advise accordingly.

It might be ages before we have leaders with the required compassion for religious minorities. Till then the best we can hope for is for vote seekers to display some form of respect in the bait they’re egotistically throwing down.