No one is asking, yet for some reason, Pakistan feels the need to reassure a non-existent audience that it not just believes but also “solemnly swears” upon the finality of the Prophet (PBUH). The change of the words in the Act in no way alters the meaning or casts doubt on Khatam-e-Nubawat, yet it has beaten many pertinent issues to become the cause for outrage. This issue has further been exploited by certain politicians as well, Shahbaz Sharif being one, for their own agendas and convenience. This is why Ahsan Iqbal’s speech in the National Assembly comes as a relief that sat least one authority figure in the government had a sensible response.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal called on clerics and religious leaders to denounce “the fatwas for jihad” posted by people on social media; which were the result of enemies of the state wanting to create communal violence. He reiterated that only the state could punish someone for apostasy or declare jihad and that vigilante fatwas only created chaos, for which they should be punished under cyber laws.
This was a much needed statement from the government and an act of leadership in a spiralling outrage. The backlash from a clerical error was escalating out of control and the conflicting response from Shahbaz Sharif had only served to exacerbate it. Any further fuel to the fire could have led to outbreak of violence and this statement from the Interior Minister, no less, was needed to contain the situation. It also highlights the difference in approach between Ahsan Iqbal and the previous Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar, who often succumbed to pressure and sympathized with the guilty culprits.
The statement from Ahsan Iqbal also speaks volumes about the invisible violence of the perpetuators of violent words, and how they almost always escape the cybercrime laws. It cannot be stated enough – the person who suggests a conversation on a religious subject is not in the wrong; the person who threatens violence is. For too long our leaders, both religious and political, have been speaking that language of violence.
Therefore, we expect our responsible religious leaders to condemn these fatwas, and the government to book people with the same zealotry as they book blasphemy cases. It is time for the often defunct cyber-crime courts to prove that cyber-crime laws were made for purposes other than just silencing dissent.