Pakistan’s economy is under tremendous pressure, the country is facing a once-in-a-lifetime humanitarian disaster, and at a time like this when the political elite should work together, instead politicians continue to spew hate against minorities.
Recent anti-Ahmadi remarks by PML-N leader Mian Javed are a reminder that the use of religion is not new in Pakistan’s politics. In targeting PTI what Mr Javed forgot is that PML-N leaders have been the target of hatemongers. One of their ministers was forced to resign, and another survived a murder attempt provoked by a malign, religiously motivated smear campaign. Apparently the PML-N has forgotten that in 2010, after two Ahmadi places of worship in Lahore were attacked, then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself had said that members of the community were his brothers and sisters.
As columnist and security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana wrote, “It scarcely needs repeating that the plight of smaller religious communities in the country, both Muslims and non-Muslims, and reports about their persecution keep surfacing on mainstream and social media quite frequently.”
Yet, it is difficult for Pakistanis to accept this reality because “the ideological design of the state here has helped internalise hate. Now, both power elites and ordinary Pakistanis feel insecure about people who seem different from themselves — in terms of religion, sect, race, ethnicity or social status. Power elites and a major segment of the religious clergy thrive on such divisions. Communal and sectarian hatred ultimately weakens cohesion within society, undermines the Constitution, and erodes a sense of equal citizenry, although the fear of an external enemy has provided a glue to bind people of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds against a threat to their collective interest.”
In conclusion, Rana warns: “It is not the actions of India or the civil society in Pakistan, but shortsighted political and religious leaders that are painting an ugly picture of this country.”