Hate speech at a bigoted rally

Difa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council) held a grand rally in Lahore on Sunday. The cast of usual suspects was present, including PDC chairman Maulana Samiul Haq, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, former ISI chief General Hamid Gul, Ijazul Haq and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed among others. It is beyond comprehension why the Punjab government gave permission to the Difa-i-Pakistan Council to hold a rally when those who were going to address it are people with extreme views. They were bound to cause embarrassment to Pakistan in terms of their hardline stance and condemnation of a number of countries and this is exactly what happened. Vowing to attack the US, Russia, NATO forces and India, these extremists then turned the tirade completely against India. This was expected since the JuD is just a front for the banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT).

At a time when Pakistan is trying to normalise its relations with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks said to be conducted by the LeT, Hafiz Saeed and company declared jihad against India at the Difa-i-Pakistan Conference. Pakistan is quite rightly trying to resolve disputes with India through political and diplomatic means. Terrorist groups should not be allowed to derail the peace process. Despite being banned by the UN Security Council (UNSC), Pakistan has so far not officially banned the JuD. The PML-N is known to have a soft spot for militant organisations but this does not mean that an ostensibly banned organisation should be allowed to hold rallies in the country. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan could not attend the rally but sent a note that was read out there. PTI’s tacit support of extremist organisations will not do any favours to the party’s image.

Those at the rally condemned the war on terror and urged the government to get rid of it. What they failed to mention was that Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, as opposed to the sacrifices we keep harping on about, has been intervention through its proxies. Over the last 40 years, supporting extremist formulations have led us to a mess. Hate speech by jihadi outfits will further add to Pakistan’s problems.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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