Disaster Averted

2018-08-31T22:59:01+05:00

Disaster has been averted. After evoking fury from the Muslim world, particularly Pakistan, by announcing a blasphemous cartoon competition, Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has cancelled the planned caricatures contest following "death threats and concerns other people could be put at risk". The competition had prompted outrage across Pakistan, with politico-religious party, Tehreek-i-Labbaik (TLP) planning another mega protest to demand that Pakistan expel the Netherlands ambassador and cut off diplomatic ties with Holland.

Now that the alleged war has been won, the parties are left to battle over who can reclaim the victory. PTI certainly is congratulating itself for the cancellation of the competition, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi declaring that the issue had been resolved due to the effective diplomatic efforts of the government. TLP, after a disappointing election performance, will also try to cash in on this victory for Islam. The real facts, that Geert Wilders is an extremist opposition politician, not representative of the Netherlands government, who had set up this situation in order to provoke a violent reaction, may remain ignored.

Nevertheless, whatever mysterious force prompted the competition to end, we should all say a prayer that it was cancelled before any major causalities could take place in Pakistan. Previous such incidents, such as Faizabad, have taught us how volatile and violent these situations can become. Perhaps the biggest victors out of this is PTI, which has evaded what could have been a highly disruptive protest, avoided breaking relations with Netherlands, and placated Khadim Rizvi, who is probably disappointed at missing an opportunity for another bombastic protest.

However, blasphemy still remains a thorny issue, and with tempers high, there is still risk of inflammation. PTI should now focus on cooling the enraged sentiment of the population, not rile up any more features on this issue, and focus on actual in-Pakistan human rights problems.

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