At the peak of the Parachinar protests a few days ago, Imran Khan decided to visit and promise around 70,000 people that he would do everything in his capacity to fight against the foreign agenda of spreading sectarianism in Pakistan. Even Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Bajwa, termed the attacks as an attempt to disrupt Eid festivities rather than an attack on the religious minority residing there, despite eventually mellowing down the situation by reaching an agreement with the protestors. Since attacks on the Shia community are often overlooked and masked as attacks on the Pakistani people, protestors lauded Imran Khan for being the only political leader to visit the sit-in and own the problem of sectarianism.

However, just two days later, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) was allowed to conduct a rally in Battagram in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The outfit, banned by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), openly professed their hatred against the Shia community and labelled the protest an anti-Pakistan move. At the same time, they also claimed that all Shia Muslims of Pakistan are agents of Iran. All of this reinforces the sectarian mentality that people of Pakistan have and which is growing day by day.

These statements coming at a time when Imran Khan has only recently promised efforts against sectarian elements, and ASWJ being allowed to conduct a rally of this sort, is a sign of how these politicians cannot stand by their words. ASWJ was a banned outfit being allowed to conduct a rally in Islamabad, when PTI was not being given the permission. It becomes acceptable when it happens in your own province?

Yet again, a very sensitive issue has been hijacked to gain political points. The same was true when the Mashal Khan incident happened. Imran Khan was at the forefront of those protesting against the brutal murder, but eventually succumbed to the pressure of extremist elements and no more was heard from the party about it. No wonder Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI) is in charge of the curriculum of KP.

These are grave issues that affect the average citizen of Pakistan, who may not subscribe to the specific views of Islamic groups. Policy and law should be made for all, not imposed and dictated by religiously motivated intimidation. The PTI survives in KP because it gives in; the party has done next to nothing to help lessen religious extremism in KP. People have hope attached to actions of political leaders and that should not be taken for granted; especially not when the new elections are nearby.