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Mr Khan & Minorities

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have exacerbated attacks on minorities by fostering religious frenzy, violence and persecution. Police frequently fail to record and investigate complaints, and justice is impeded by the biased attitude of some judges against religious minorities. Pakistan’s national discourse, aided by its school curriculum, generates religious prejudice against minorities

Praful Goradia |

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has offered to teach India how to treat its minorities. Is it not likely that when he said this, he was experiencing a flashback to his cricketing days, when our fast bowlers were not comparable to his country’s pace attack?

Traditionally, in undivided India, it was the Punjab that produced pacemen. The one outstanding name that comes to mind is Mohammad Nissar, the fastest opening bowler that the subcontinent had produced in his day. Certainly, even now, the pack of speed merchants may have something to teach our players.

An Oxonian had once said: “Imran is cricket and cricket is Imran.” Similarly, Zubin Mehta is music and cannot be imagined in terms of cricket. So too, it is difficult to reconcile the Imran image with prime ministership.

It is not impossible that while he was talking of minorities, his mind was on how to teach India to play cricket and to play cricket in India at the Eden Gardens. It goes without saying that he has not seen the holocaust of Hindus and Sikhs starting with Rawalpindi in 1947, nor would he know how his Christian compatriots had rejoiced at the birth of Pakistan only to subsequently regret it, plus being frequently accused of blasphemy. The Communist Party had wholeheartedly sponsored Partition, later to beat its breast; it was simply eliminated by the torrent of Islam. As late as 2012-13, 37 murderous attacks against the people of Christ were reportedly perpetrated. The same year saw 16 Hindus and three Sikhs bear the brunt of attacks by the zealots of the ‘peaceful’ religion, who of course, are committed to cleaning their land of all impurities.

The Ahmediyas, whose hero Sir Mohammad Zafarullah Khan had drafted the Pakistan Resolution of March 1940, also have their taste of the glory of Pakistan. Imran Khan was certainly not born then to witness the magnificent work done by Sir Zafarullah. Nor perhaps in 1953, when the latter’s house in Lahore was set on fire, which induced him to flee Pakistan and not return until his dying days. The rest of the years he spent at The Hague in the Netherlands to bring majesty to the glittering benches of the International Court of Justice. In the meantime, the charismatic Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto expelled the Ahmediyas from the sanctified garden of Islam.

Another Ahmediya hero who brought glory to Imran’s country was Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, whose thuggish doings in the Netherlands enabled him to obtain the secrets of the atomic bomb, all of course in the cause of Khidmate-Allah, the first Islamic nuclear bomb. He too was rewarded by his faith being expelled.

Well known scholar Farahnaz Ispahani in her book Purifying the Land of the Pure (HarperCollins Publishers, India) states the reality of Ahmediyas being the target of Pakistan’s rulers. As late as 2012-13, according to her book, 54 lethal attacks against Ahmediyas were carried out.

The writer was educated by two men. The first was his grandfather, one of whose friends was Ahmed Ali Jinnah, younger brother of M.A. Jinnah. He relished Parsi humour and claimed to be culturally a Parsi. Although he was not a practising Muslim, he acquainted his grandfather with his insights into Islam. That when a Muslim wishes to convert someone, it is with the best intention of opening a possible chance of the convert entering jannat. No other god can enable a non-believer to cross the gateway of heaven.

The second gentleman who taught the writer was his spoken Urdu teacher, who did not overtly suggest a conversion but did say that the future lay with Islam.

Just extrapolate the progress of a number of religions. The Yehudis (Jews) have reduced in number and shrunk to a fraction of what they were. The Christians have scattered into many denominations. Many a worshipper in Europe has given up worship.

Christianity’s priests have come to Asia, where according to the late Pope John Paul II, there are innumerable souls to harvest. Contrast these performances with the progress of Islam, whose tide is continually rising.

However, this was an enthusiastic opinion; all is not that well in the new Medina. Once the Ahmediyas were expelled from Islam in 1974, it was the turn of the Shias for similar persecution. While they have been the target of the regime’s hostility for years, violence against them began rising after the 1970s. During 2012-13 alone, they were subjected to 77 attacks, including suicide terrorist bombings during Shia religious occasions.

Not to talk of Shias, the Barelvi school considered the Deobandis and Wahhabis outside the pole of Islam and were liable to the death penalty if they fell within the definition of murtad or apostate. On the other hand, the Justice Munir equality report of 1954 had revealed that a fatwa of the Deobandis had called all Asna-Ashari Shias kafirs and murtaad for believing in the sahabiyyat of Hazrat Siddiqi-Akbar and Qazif or deniers of the status of Hazrat Aisha Siddiqa.

In its 2013 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) described Pakistan’s failure to protect its minorities as having reached ‘crisis proportions’. According to the report, “The government of Pakistan continues to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.’ Violations reached unprecedented levels, it said, because of growing incidents of sectarian violence against Shia Muslims.” The government also failed to protect Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus, it said.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have exacerbated attacks on minorities by fostering religious frenzy, violence and persecution.

Police frequently fail to record and investigate complaints, and justice is impeded by the biased attitude of some judges against religious minorities. Pakistan’s national discourse, aided by its school curriculum, generates religious prejudice against minorities.

In Pakistan, there are Lashkars who are anti-Shia, but the single-minded enemy of the Shias is the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) whose avowed objective is to cleanse Pakistan of them, who, incidentally comprise about 20 per cent of the country’s population. Balochistan, which has many Shias, is a popular theatre of genocide. The head of the LeJ has gone to the extent of issuing a public letter declaring the Shias to be wajib-ul-qatl (ideally suitable for elimination). Despite this large-scale genocide, Pakistan’s government has admitted that only 2,000 Shias were killed over a five-year period. The Shia-Sunni conflict has a dimension much bigger and beyond the borders of Pakistan.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are arraigned against each other. Iraq comprises two-thirds Shias, while the civil war in Syria was fought between the Shia sympathetic government and the Caliphate-aspiring ISIS.

However, the concern for India, are the 25 million Shias in our neighbouring country. If the terrorism becomes collectively unbearable, where do they seek refuge?

(The writer is an author, thinker and a former Member of Parliament)