One characteristic that defines populism in Pakistan is people’s hate for religious minorities in general and one such group, in particular, that is Ahmadis. An ugly social media campaign started as soon as people knew that one of the members on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Economic Advisory Council was Ahmadi. Members of political parties on both sides of the political spectrum tried to highlight the non-issue for political gains. The most disappointing posts on social media came from members of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s brave stance against the hate that hatemongers and religious fundamentalist have been spewing on social media indicates that PTI will not kowtow before the religious extremists. Denying someone the right to serve one’s country for his beliefs and faith is a symptom of a rotten society and state. Rejecting the criticism of political parties over the appointment of Dr Atif Mian is a step forward towards the constitution of a pluralist society that we are in need of. PTI need to adopt such a vigorous defence of other minorities as well. Not succumbing to the pressure of religious zealots is the very least that the government can do and should be doing.
It seems that slowly and gradually the state is learning that statecraft does not depend on people’s faith; instead, it needs experts for effective dissemination of services to the masses. Fawad’s understanding of Islam is the correct one as he asserts that every Muslim is obligated to protect minorities living in Pakistan.
While Fawad Chaudhry deserves all hail for valuing merit over religious affiliations, PTI needs to remain steadfast should religious parties like Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah organise a possible protest. The government needs to forcefully refute the narrative of hate and bigotry that has been plaguing Pakistani society for the last seven decades. This editorial expects that PTI will maintain the principle stance of equality of every citizen as the constitution of the country guarantees. Nevertheless, it is also true that the ruling party has some elements in its rank and file who eulogise Mumtaz Qadri even today. These members not only hold him in high regards but also visit his grave to show their respect for him.
Imran Khan the Prime Minister (PM) of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who wants to see Pakistan as a welfare state is yet to come out in defence of minorities openly, start with such a strong rebuttal to the message of hate is praiseworthy.