The curse of intolerance

A myriad curses afflict Pakistan. One of them is intolerance of views – religious and other. In this intolerant climate, the news of an innocent Ahmedi’s death at the hands of bigots points at the rot in our society. Naseem Ahmed was assassinated in Faisalabad late night on Saturday. For the past few months, the All Pakistan Students Khatam-e-Nabuwat Federation has been distributing pamphlets with the names and addresses of prominent Ahmedi businessmen, senior teachers and doctors residing in Faisalabad. These pamphlets openly give a call to kill members of the Ahmediyya community in the name of Islam and wrongfully accuse the Ahmedis of “conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan”. It is not the first time that such hate campaigns have been launched against the Ahmediyya community in Pakistan. Ever since the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslim by parliament back in 1974, they have been treated with utter contempt and nauseating hate by most of their fellow Pakistanis. What is even more deplorable is the indifferent attitude of the Pakistani state. The Ahmediyya community has sustained targeted attacks by fanatics and lost thousands of members at the hands of religious extremists and yet no government has taken action against the culprits.

This begs the question: which religion and/or law allows killing of innocent people? That the worst crimes against the Ahmedis have taken place in Punjab should have been reason enough for the provincial government to be more vigilant. But the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tries its best not to ‘annoy’ the religious right and extremist organisations. The PML-N’s attitude is out there for all to see; hence it is important that the federal government should take note of the hate campaign in Punjab if the provincial government is not doing its job. After all, the Ahmedis are as much citizens of Pakistan as anyone else. Mr Naseem Ahmed’s death is a clear case of neglect and perhaps even the authorities’ collusion with murderers and terrorists. Pakistan is in the grip of an insane mindset. We have been afflicted by terrorism for far too long; it is time to get back to our moderate roots. For this, the security establishment too has to play a role. It must abandon its policy of supporting terrorist groups, which is the root cause of increased intolerance in Pakistani society. Not just that, the military must get rid of all extremist elements within the army in order to strengthen the country. Moderate Islam was the defining ethos of Pakistan before jihadis were unleashed upon us by our security establishment. Intolerance in Pakistan is not just hurting the people but the country and the region as a whole.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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