All For One, One For All

Yasser Latif Hamdani hears the religious parties starting to make overtures to tolerance and law and order in the society, but asks when this will transform into actions that will result in improvements for the people:

For days now we have heard the right noises but no action. We have heard religious leader after religious leader preach how Islam treats minorities equitably and justly. One wonders, then, why all the ulema of Sunni Tehreek and other sectarian groups are so unwilling to follow the glorious traditions of Islam and treat minorities generously? The rhetoric of the ulema sounds quite hollow given their actions. It was the bearded gentlemen of the Sunni Tehreek who had threatened the people who condemned Taseer’s murder with death. For them to turn around and condemn Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder is strange to say the least. Perhaps they realise that the world is not going to allow them to carry on with impunity. Therefore, every mullah and his mother-in-law are claiming the existence of a hidden foreign hand as being behind the atrocity. There is no foreign hand behind it. It is the three decades of General Ziaul Haq’s warped ideology that is behind it and it is the remnants of his illegal rule, the Jamaat-e-Islami and other self-styled thekeydars (guardians) of religion who are responsible.

But Yasser includes an important reminder for liberals and minorities also – it’s not enough to be outraged. We must come together as a united group.

However, there is a very important lesson for the minorities and liberal groups in the country. Silence is not an option and supporting the PPP as the lesser of the many evils is not going to work anymore. Even by conservative estimates Pakistan’s religious minorities number close to 10 million. That is more than the populations of Libya, Bahrain and the UAE combined. All religious and sectarian minorities need to come together on one platform with the Left and liberal groups in the country and form a grand coalition on a one-point agenda — holding the state to Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s August 11 pledge to the people of Pakistan and the world. The clearest duty on the part of every church and minority community organisation is to gather together their flock and take a cue from the civil rights movement to mobilise them in order to achieve real equality of citizenship and their stake in that ever-elusive Pakistaniat. Depending on the good behaviour of the majority is bad strategy, especially when we have a majority that is not only callous and cruel but is incapable of doing the right thing even in its own interest. The minorities and liberals must forge the power required to protect themselves constitutionally and legally. Only then can Pakistan be pulled back from the brink.

It is well known that even under the Zia regime, religious parties could only get a small percentage of the votes in an election. This is a matter of basic maths – there are more moderate, tolerant people than extremist fundamentalists. There is no reason for us to live at the mercy of extremists. We only must choose to unite together to defeat this menace. All for one. One for all. Pakistani Zindabad.

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