Khawaja sahib you are a shrewd man. You’re also a man of smartly chosen words – which can often be powerful. You know all this very well.
And so for you to suggest – very opportunistically as you might’ve felt in that brainy head of yours – that Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was sent to jail for blackbuck hunting because he ‘is a minority’ was obviously well thought out as well.
Now, we know that you don’t in the slightest believe in that horrendously ridiculous statement that arguably the most followed Bollywood actor in India right now was sentenced because he’s a Muslim, which as many have already pointed out to you happened to be the religious identity of two other actors accused in the case: Saif Ali Khan and Tabu.
Notwithstanding that Salman Khan has since got out bailed out of prison, or the fact that he self identifies as ‘both Hindu and Muslim’ – the faiths of each of his parents – it is important to dissect the carefully thought out disaster that your statement was.
Khawaja sahib, one can see that you’re very active on Twitter these days, and churning out condemnations of Indian state brutalities in Kashmir, as you should not just as the foreign minister of Pakistan, but also on human rights grounds.
But unfortunately your condemnations of atrocities in Kashmir and your statement on Salman Khan seamlessly overlap to pinpoint why Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir, and its foreign policy continues to be an unmitigated disaster.
Given the bloodshed in Kashmir, the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ and the Hindutva surge in India, the statement on Salman Khan should’ve been a goldmine, you would think. But you would think wrong and most definitely shortsightedly.
For, the fact that the foreign minister of Pakistan could communalise the arrest of a Bollywood star underscores the one allegation against us that has been true since the state’s inception: that we see everything from the religious lens, or more specifically in the region, from the Hindu-Muslim binary.
Therefore, whereas everywhere else the debate surrounding Salman Khan’s arrest was focused on rule of law, justice for all and indeed protection of wildlife, you decided to throw in your Hindu-Muslim template where, arguably, it was least suitable to do so.
This brings us to Kashmir, and how it is precisely this line of thinking that now has the world discrediting Pakistan’s narrative. For, supporting causes on religious grounds forms the very breeding ground for jihadism, which over the past couple of decades has expanded globally to a point where indigenous movements that overlap with radical Islamism are been collectively shunned, much to the detriment of the local population.
Therefore, Khawaja sahib, your statement on Salman Khan has told the world that Pakistan remains an Islam obsessed state, that will only speak up for Muslims because of their religious identity and not on any humanistic grounds – especially considering what’s being done to religious minorities at home – shelving our Kashmir narrative in the same bracket.
And what is even more appalling is the fact that Pakistan isn’t even consistent in ‘supporting the Muslim brethren’ given the silence over suppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang by our ‘Chinese brethren’.
But, of course Khawaja sahib, we know too well that your statement on Salman Khan wasn’t designed to bring the solution to the Kashmir conflict any closer, or to represent your vision of Pakistan’s foreign policy or indeed to support Muslims that feel under threat in India. It was as barefaced an election gimmick as they come.
Election gimmicks are fine, especially, just a couple of months before, you know, the elections. But in this particular case you tried to pander to the lowest hanging Islamist vote-bank, all of whom would be smart enough to know that Salman Khan is not a persecuted or marginalised individual in a country that has given him more love than all non-Muslims put together in Pakistan.
And so the populist idiosyncrasy was completely misdirected at the cost of Pakistan’s Kashmir stance, its global representation and diplomatic foundations, which as the foreign minister is, at the very least, yours to pay heed to.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.