The first piece of news I came across Monday morning was an article in Express Tribune about the Difa-e-Pakistan rally in Karachi. What stood out to be was the fact that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) senior vice-president Ejaz Chaudhry was also present at the rally.
I will admit, it came as no surprise to me, and neither should it come as a surprise to anybody that a senior Tehreek-e-Insaaf representative was present at a rally that had leaders from banned organizations mustering up jingoism and hyper nationalist sentiments in the awam as PTI has been traditionally more aligned with right-wing religious organizations. According to the article:
He has voted with the MMA, a coalition of hardline Islamic parties, in the national assembly. He has also followed the mullahs’ lead on several policy issues – opposing operations against al-Qaida militants in the tribal areas, railing against madrassa reform, and criticising women who participate in mixed-sex road races. But his most famous stand came last May when, brandishing a story in Newsweek magazine about the desecration of the Qur’an at Guantánamo Bay, Khan declared to journalists that Islam was “under attack” – a widely publicised gesture that inflamed sentiment across the Muslim world and sparked a week of riots in neighbouring Afghanistan that killed at least 16 people.
There are also a bunch of other things that Shibil Siddiqi in his article published in November last year talks about with regards to Imran Khan and his deep ties with such right-wing ideology. For example, Khan opposed the Womens’ Protection Bill in 2006 just like MMA and even though he cites the real problem to be in Hudood Ordinance laws, he did not “introduce any amendments to the Bill, sponsor any separate legislation, or even propose a Parliamentary resolution to deal with the Hudood Ordinance”. What is interesting to note is that he has not talked about it since then.
The above cited article also mentions that the same Ejaz Chaudhry present at the Difa-e-Pakistan rally last Sunday was kicked out of Jamat-e-Islami for facing corruption allegations and now in addition to being the senior vice-president of Tehreek-e-Insaf. He is also PTI’s advisor on religious affairs and Imran Khan’s point person in the Punjab along with being in charge of PTI’s youth wing, the Insaf Students Federation. Another article tells us that these activists wear ‘Al-Jihad’ head bands to PTI events which should clearly tell us about the mind set being fed into the youth by PTI attitudes.
Moreover, this is not the first time PTI’s religious advisor has visited or has been linked with banned outfits/personnel. Ejaz Chaudhry was also rumored to be in attendance of SSP (Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) conference on 15th November last year at Shahadat anniversary of Hazrat Usman Ghani (R.A) at Press Club Lahore.
Add that to dozens of SSP flags regularly seen at PTI rallies and one can see the dots connecting.
Ejaz Chaudhry was also present at the Istehkaam-e-Pakistan rally in May of last year along with Hafiz Saeed, head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)and founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) praising Osama Bin Laden calling him a ‘martyr of Islam’ and offering his Namaz-e-Janaaza.
Same Ejaz Chaudhry is a regular visitor and speaker at the ‘Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat’ conference, representing PTI. This is the same conference that haunts the Ahmedia community for their beliefs, and has later also celebrated the murder of Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer.
Coming to blasphemy laws, less than a month after Salman Taseer’s murder, Ejaz Chaudhry along with party activists attended a large rally at The Mall in Lahore on January 30th saying that PTI will stand behind the archaic laws and would not allow any changes to it. The blasphemy laws have not been discussed in either the Lahore jalsa on 30th October 2011, or the 25th December 2011 Karachi jalsa of PTI.
Not only that, Imran Khan personally visited Darul-Aloom-Haqqania, the alma mater of Jalal-ud-Din Haqqani and the university nickname ‘University of Jihad’ before his Peshawar Dharna. This is also the same university that the FIA has charged with hatching the Benazir Bhutto assassination plot. Imran Khan also opposed military operations against militant insurgents and al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters, even in Swat after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took over the region back in 2009.
What is irrefutable is that Imran Khan rarely condemns the hateful activities of right-wing extremist groups that are consistently linked with him and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. Shibil Siddiqi in his piece actually mentions that:
“From the bombing of Benzir Bhutto’s reception procession, to the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the bombings on Ahmadi congregations or Salman Taseer’s and Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassinations, Imran Khan blames the victims, the government or “foreign elements” only, never the terrorists”.
When asked about PTI’s representation at Difa-e-Pakistan Karachi rally, Imran Khan gave another of the ambiguous answers that he has become famous for: “We did attend the rally and presented our own point of view as it was purely the issue of the defence of Pakistan.” Enough beating around the bush. Its about time Imran Khan and PTI make an explicit distinction as to what is tolerable or not and their stance on religious fundamentalism and/or having chai samosa, halwa pooori or jalebis with representatives of extremist organizations.