By : Huzaifa Ali Ahfaaz
Dear Prime Minister Imran Khan, I would like to congratulate you on your stunning victory in the 2018 General Elections of Pakistan. When you started politics in 1996, no one would have ever thought that you would be the dweller of the office of Prime Minister in just 22 years. Bravo! You have indeed done what seemed to be impossible in Pakistan: breaking the two party system of the country that allowed power to be amassed between Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N).
Although your win has been clouded by allegations of rigging from the opposition parties, you seem to have sailed smoothly from this sea of calamity that your politics have been cruising through. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan, I would like to highlight an issue that not only other parties are guilty of, but for all your talks about campaigning against the status quo, your political life has been stained with the same blot. Yes, Prime Minister, I am talking about the state-sponsored persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community.
Prime Minister, it is no secret that the Ahmadis have been subjected to great perils in Pakistan by the ultra-religious outfits. However, unfortunately, your Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf is also involved in making Ahmadis more vulnerable. The very 6th day of Naya Pakistan was tainted with more Ahmadi persecution – this time in Ghaseetpura, Faisalabad. After a silly row regarding a rooster between some Ahmadis and Sunnis escalated into a serious dispute, The Ahmadiyya Bait-ul-Zikr was burnt by the enraged Sunni mob that tried to turn the dispute into a religious one.
Of course, Prime Minister Imran Khan, the attack on the Ahmadi Bait-ul-Zikr is in no way a direct fault of you or PTI. However, as a prime minister who campaigned on the slogan of ‘change’, the response from your government – or lack thereof, is extremely disappointing, especially to Ahmadi PTI supporters, who were smitten with your ideas about Naya Pakistan. Unfortunately, you have chosen to remain silent, at least till the moment I am writing this piece. The only response the government sent out was in a press conference of the Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, and a tweet by the Human Rights Minister, Shireen Mazari. Even those responses were not up to the mark. The Information Minister disregarded the whole religious nature of the incident, instead claiming that it was merely a dispute between two groups. On the other hand, the Human Rights Minister at least acknowledged the ‘mob violence’ that burnt down the Ahmadi place of worship, but there has been no practical action from the ministry on this particular issue.
Dear Prime Minister Imran Khan, while we talk about the unfortunate Faisalabad incident, it is very fitting to discuss another incident regarding an Ahmadiyya Bait-ul-Zikr. Prime Minister, while you were busy formulating PTI’s election strategy in late May, an Ahmadiyya Bait-ul-Zikr of historic importance in Sialkot was destroyed by an enraged mob. The violent mob was allegedly instigated by a certain Hamid Raza, a local leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf. Yet, Dear Prime Minister, you did not bother to investigate the link between the attack and PTI, and Hamid Raza was allowed to roam free. The incident is merely a few months old. It is not yet too late for you to look into the matter. Prime Minister, I urge you to provide justice in both scenarios.
It is nice to reduce the numbers of car you use, or the number of dishes that were to be served on your oath-taking ceremony. Tackling corruption is very important; there is no doubt about that. In spite of this, ensuring that religious discrimination has no place in the country is one of the fundamental steps that need to be taken by you and your government. Your record in these matters might not be so good in past, Prime Minister, but it could be changed. You of all people should know that best. Please, when you implement your plans about changing the status-quo, do change the status-quo that allows for religiously motivated attacks on Ahmadis – or any other religious group.
It’s true that the previous governments of PPP and PML-N were not the champions of Ahmadi rights either. In fact, PPP’s founder, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, is responsible for the first anti-Ahmadi legislation in Pakistan. Most of the times the aforementioned parties merely condemned the incident without taking any practical step to counter the anti-Ahmadi rhetoric that is responsible for incidents like these. However, Prime Minister, you promised change. You promised a ‘Naya Pakistan’. You promised that PTI would not be a party like PML-N or PPP. That rhetoric changes the whole thing for you. You have to prove that PTI is different from PPP and PML-N.
Regrettably, Prime Minister, you have yet failed to establish yourself as any different from the previous rulers of Pakistan when it comes to Ahmadi rights.