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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Not So Juicy Details

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: February 23, 2012

The year was 1974. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as the prime minister of Pakistan, succumbed to a resolution passed in the National Assembly to declare a minority sect of Muslims known as Ahmedis 'non-Muslims'. In my repeatedly humble and perhaps an utterly flawed opinion, the state never has and never will have the right to be the arbitrator and the sole judge of people's faith. That is not in a state's constitutional purview. The state is solely responsible for introducing and applying legislation that respects and provides equal protection to its citizen, regardless of their faith.

To squarely blame this on ZAB is at least downright dishonest. There was a campaign from the Right, which was very vociferous and created a lot of ripples. In one of his major political blunders, Mr Bhutto thought that by appeasing the mullahs, he would be able to calm the otherwise rhetorical pulpits. Little did he know that three years down the road, the same mullahs would be baying for his blood in a totally different movement. From Tehreek-e-Khatme Nabuwwat to Tehreek-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa, it was a full circle. Unfortunately, a circle of a rope, a noose if you will, that took him away in the wee hours of an April morning. Looking back at both of these movements, they both had a very narrow and specific malicious agenda.

Many believe and attribute ZAB's untimely demise or shall we say execution to this move. You ask some people of the Ahmediyya community and you get the response in the affirmative. To them it was justice from the Divine. For the record, I am a Sunni Muslim, I do not agree with this narrative. There were many other elements behind ZAB's judicial murder. It was just a matter of fate. By the same token, I certainly do not subscribe to the notion that all other sects or faiths are inferior to mine. This fatal self-righteousness is the root of the rotting ills of our otherwise progressive Pakistan.

Certainly no one has the right to alienate any member of society based on their faith. When people contribute to the collective welfare of society, they come together as equal citizens. At that point, when the state collects revenue from them in the form of sales, general, excise or any other tax, it does not discriminate based on faith. So when it comes to the responsibility of the state to provide equal protection to its citizens, it cannot apply any discriminatory standards. No ifs and buts about it.

To those who think that it is a liberal rant and fashionable to talk about Ahmedi persecution, I humbly disagree. It is purely from a human perspective. Today the Ahmedis are in a minority, but if miraculously they multiply and become a majority, then what? If this particular sect were to get even with the present day's majority to settle their scores — perhaps a stretch of imagination but an illustration of how wrong the perspective is. It is not the state's prerogative to determine who will be the messiah for the people. I may disagree with my Ahmedi, Sikh, Hindu or Christian brethren, but I am certainly not the one who adjudicates their ultimate salvation. The reason is plain and simple. I for one have no clue about mine to begin with. When my Prophet (PBUH) stood endlessly at night, begging his God for salvation, while being guaranteed with glad tidings of paradise, then who the heck am I?

When the emotionally charged of the land decided to initiate a boycott of an Ahmediyya-owned product, I was reminded of 1974 again. These boycotts were introduced back then as well. Fast forward almost 38 years and the product is still in immense demand, purely because a product has no faith. It is in a market full of consumers, consumers who belong to every segment of the market. Bless his heart, late Gandhi ji introduced the boycotts of products in our lexicon. In all honesty, the British deserted India for a litany of reasons. The boycott of salt and fibre were perhaps not even on that list. No offense to my Indian readers (amazingly I do get e-mails from our southern friends), I consider Bapu a true leader. Had there been no Gandhi ji, no Jinnah sahib joining the Indian National Congress and no split. With all due respects to my Indian brethren, I may have a totally different perspective on Pandit Nehru.

Getting back to the issue at hand, if this still leaves some doubts about the sheer futility of such actions, please revisit our history. The boycott of Coca Cola (popularly known as Coke), being a Jewish drink, was a total failure. Coke is one of the most popular soft drink not only in Pakistan but around the globe. In more recent days, our emotionally charged boycotted Facebook for a few days. I remember reading the pledges of people to never ever use Facebook again. I see them back on Facebook and just smile at the sheer stupidity.

Just for some fact check, we are entertained 24/7 by Indian Hindus and Muslims. We consume all kinds of cheap consumer goods made by the Communist Chinese. The technology through which we are able to communicate is attributed to American Christians and Jews. The list is way too long. The bigger question to ask is: do we question the religion of those people? Perhaps not and this in itself is a testimony of the hollow argument being presented here.

Pakistan is a plural society. It belongs to a Shia of Parachinar as much as to a Hindu of Mirpur Khas, an Ahmedi of Rabwah or a Christian of Karachi. Everyone has a stake in it, everyone should get a fair share. All of us collectively make the fabric of this nation. People like me across the globe in every continent of the world have their roots firmly in the land. Enough of this religious superiority complex of some of our overzealous crowd. If there is an ounce of shame left in any of those souls, they would come back to their senses.

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