Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith harmony, Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, who earlier this month proclaimed that Pakistan was a country with equal rights for minorities, has taken a hammer to his own fantasy and proposed a “cleric and preacher exchange” with Saudi Arabia. There is no good way to put this. It’s a terrible idea. The idea is so awful in fact, so unequivocally horrible, that had the good minister announced he would be giving away free Amir Liaqat lawn to the nation’s Christian community as a gesture of goodwill, we would probably have analysed the move with greater solemnity. Perhaps a quick overview of the religious situation in Saudi Arabia would suffice to illustrate how bad exactly, the idea is. In Saudi Arabia, people are still publicly stoned to death for committing religious offences such as blasphemy, adultery, and “sorcery.” Tolerance for Shias hovers at about 0 percent. In Pakistan, since the beginning of the year, at least 105 Shias have been killed through terrorist attacks targeting persons and places of worship. Couple that with an import of Wahabi clerics preaching in Pakistan’s mosques, and the figures are almost sure to rise.

In the midst of apparent seminary reform endorsed by the government, the proposed memorandum of understanding (MoU) that the Religious Affairs minister is negotiating with his Saudi counterpart, is a frustrating sign of the utter lack of depth (and common sense), within official quarters. Ironically, Yousaf announced the proposal for the MoU after inaugurating an inter-faith harmony seminar in the Capital. What about religious harmony could possibly have inspired a Saudi-led religious agreement, remains to be seen. What is clear however, is that in the interests of national security, the national narrative and the lives of our citizens, any potential no matter how small, for foreign unmonitored hate speech in our mosques and institutions, must be strongly dismissed. There are many ways to achieve inter-faith harmony. Unfortunately, importing preachers from the Kingdom, is not one of them.