United we stand

Two deadly attacks against the Ahmediyya community on May 28 have made many in Pakistan finally realise the gross human rights violations that have been going on for decades now. Those who dare to defend the rights of religious minorities are usually labelled as being ‘anti-Islam’. Mian Nawaz Sharif has been called many a thing in the past except this – until now. Mr Sharif was at the receiving end of the mullah brigade’s hateful tirade after he expressed solidarity with the Ahmedis and called them “brothers and sisters”. He said the Ahmedis are an asset for the country and are equal citizens of Pakistan. These comments drew the ire of many religious and political quarters, including the Wafaqul Madaris, Jamiat Ahl-i-Sunnat and Al-Hadith, Khatm-e-Nabuwat Movement, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami and the PML-Q.

Those who are criticising Mr Sharif want the PML-N chief to seek forgiveness from Muslims all over the world because Ahmedis are not Muslims and thus cannot be called a Muslim’s ‘brethren’. It is not hard to understand why these religio-political quarters are giving a religious tinge to Mr Sharif’s statement. Misusing religion for their own vested interests has been their bread and butter for years, thus seeing a centre-right party’s leader giving these statements is perceived as a threat to their ‘business’. What they do not understand – or are pretending not to – is that Mr Sharif is doing what a responsible political party’s leader should be doing. He is only reiterating that all citizens are equal before the law of the land and targeting one section of citizens because of their religious beliefs is unlawful. No religion authorises the killing of an innocent human being, regardless of one’s personal beliefs. The PML-N has defended Mr Sharif’s statement. Ahsan Iqbal said that Mr Sharif has only reiterated what Mr Jinnah had already stated about all Pakistanis being brothers “irrespective of their religion, language or caste”.

Mian Nawaz Sharif’s statement has dispelled, to an extent, the impression that the PML-N has been very cautious in supporting the Ahmedis at a time when they are in need of healing and security. Though the Punjab government has still not spoken directly against the Taliban, Mr Sharif’s stand on the Ahmedis should be appreciated. As a nation we must all understand that united we stand, divided we fall.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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