Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ashan Iqbal survived an assassination attempt near his hometown Narowal. He was lucky that the bullet wound did not prove fatal and he survived. The attacker, who was arrested and is in police custody, disclosed that he shot Ahsan because in his views the minister is a blasphemer. The ruling PML-N is accused of trying to change the law related to the finality of the prophethood. The religious cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi accused the incumbent government of trying to bring amendments in the law last year and his sit-in at Faizabad instigated countrywide protests against the government to withdraw any change related to the law. Since the religious card is considered very useful to dismantle political parties and political leaders, both visible and invisible opponents of PML-N exploited the issue of blasphemy and it resulted in the assassination attempt.
The religious cleric Molvi Khadim Husain Rizvi, who launched the blasphemy campaign against the PML-N, could never have initiated such a large campaign without the backing of hidden hands. He along with his followers damaged and destroyed public and private properties during the Faizabad sit-in but till date in spite of his arrest warrants, he is still at large. The freedom to make hate speech against anyone and accuse the opponents with the allegation of blasphemy has resulted in the situation where it is very easy to eliminate anyone who is not ready to accept the hegemony of the faith merchants on religious interpretations or differs with the narrative of the invisible forces.
The religious card was also played against Zulfikar Bhutto in late '70s and a movement of PNA was launched to dismantle him. It seems that history is repeating itself and it is Sharif and his close aides who are at the receiving end this time. The assassination attempt on Ahsan is a clear indication that PML-N will find it very difficult in the days to come to run its election campaign freely even in its own fort of Punjab. This will leave the field open for Zardari-led PPP and Imran-led PTI to take advantage of the situation. The lesser the public gatherings in the election campaign the lesser the number of votes. The attack on Ahsan has certainly created an atmosphere of fear among the ranks of PML-N and many party members will think to contest the election as independents rather than contesting on party ticket fearing the attacks from the religious fundamentalists.
There is a number of senior members in the ranks of PML-N who are of the view that the attack on Ahsan is a clear message that the next general elections will be delayed after creating law and order situation. While the authenticity of these claims is still to be verified, the fact remains that using a religion card against the political opponent means that there is no other way of ousting him, and our history is evident to this fact. Ayub Khan used this religious card against Fatima Jinnah only to win elections, Zia first used the same card against Bhutto and then against all his political opponents. Even Sharif while once use to side with the invisible forces played this card against Benazir Bhutto. Now it is the invisible forces and his political opponents using the same card against him. The problem with playing the religious card is that not only it weakens the already fragile political structure of the country but it is also weakening the social fabric of the society as well. The faith merchants who use religion to exploit the masses as a result of this, enforce their own interpretations of beliefs resulting in the hatred for each other interpretation. This also gives them the hegemony to declare anyone a blasphemer who do not buy their interpretation
Politicians like Sheikh Rasheed who openly gives hate speeches just for the sake of political point scoring and the journalists and analysts who fuel the fire by accusing the PML-N of alleged blasphemy are all responsible for inciting uneducated and emotional people for violence. The invisible forces who supported Tehreek-e-Labbaik movement may have temporarily damaged the constituency politics of PML-N by turning the right vote bank against it but this temporary victory came at the cost of bringing a bad name to the country as the world is pointing out that if the interior minister who is responsible for the safety of its citizens is himself not safe in Pakistan then for sure the country needs to do more to get rid of extremism.
The reaction from the voters in Punjab is also very unusual and surprising as far as the invisible forces are concerned. Soon after the attack on Ahsan Iqbal, the supporters of PML-N not only caught the attacker but they gathered and protested on the roads in the different cities and it was the invisible forces they were blaming for using people like Khadim Husain Rizvi against them. Whether this perception is true or not, but for sure the invisible forces have to work even harder now to improve their impression as any agitation movement from Punjab with a population will prove catastrophic for the state itself. Gone are the days when the conspiracies were hatched to topple governments and dislodge political parties from behind the curtains. It is almost impossible in this age where information flows within seconds, to remain behind the curtains and hatch conspiracies.
It is time for both the political and non-political stakeholders to understand that the distrust among them and the blame game is only weakening the state and it is not going to bring any solution to the problem. Ahsan is a political leader and as per the words of justice retired Wajihudin a bullet fired on a political leader is like firing bullet on the masses. We have seen the worst of times and lost 70,000 citizens to understand that violence breeds violence and it is extremism that is the biggest threat to us. By exploiting religion for political gains we are heading towards violence. The worst thing is that this time it seems that we are moving towards a civil war where people will be pitted against law enforcement agencies and institutions. It would be much better if the power players will solve their problems on the table instead of inciting violence against each other through proxies or indirect verbal attacks.