Intolerance: can we save our future generations?

Intellectuals, judiciary, political parties, rulers and leaders have been giving space to extremists and bigots since as early as 1970s. It began with the popularly elected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto giving in to the unreasonable demands of Islamic parties followed by the Zia era which unleashed extremist Islam on Pakistan for a decade. Zia’s Islam was used to justify Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war and a generation was raised rooting for an extremist approach supporting a single sect of Islam. In the 90s this syndrome was toned down but after the September 11, 2001, incident; another uprising of the Taliban took place in Pakistan.  From 2007 onwards came Qadri’s version of Islam and governance, holding an entire city hostage for days to the new movement of Tehreek-e-Labbaik, who in the last three years have gained power by blackmailing the sitting government to give to their bigoted demands.

The PTI government has also given in to them, during their first thirty days. Considering that religious-right parties only garnered 7 million votes, in comparison to all other parties who received over 40 million votes; it is clear that the majority of the Pakistani population does not want these religious parties in power. Then how come PTI, the majority vote-takers are failing to stand up to these bigots, or do anything about the deep rooted causes of terrorism in Pakistan?

Given the electorate verdict against extremism, it was questionable that the Prime Minister in his maiden speech didn’t even mention terrorism nor delineate his government’s policy on tackling the extremist issue. How many more civilians will die at their hands? How many more politicians will be shot? And how many more a soldiers will lose their lives fighting these bigots?

All these religious movements are about power whether it’s Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Lal Masjid or ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.  It is power control through religion based terror used by some to impose their rule or others to retain their power and those who do not give in are finished. The Atif Mian episode is the tip of the iceberg. Sadly in his container speeches popular leader Imran Khan mentioned this very person to be a saviour for Pakistan and within 48 hours of his appointment gave in to extremists demands.  The Prime Minister whom we had high hopes from, has given us a clear message that “extremists rule and Pakistanis lose”. Captain! This was a jolt to those who believed in you. It has disillusioned Pakistanis and overseas, letting the world know how blatantly discriminatory we are.

The Prime Minister whom we had high hopes from, has given us a clear message that “extremists rule and Pakistanis lose”. Captain! This was a jolt to those who believed in you. It has disillusioned Pakistanis at home and overseas, let the world know how blatantly bigoted we are

Had ZAB not given into these intolerant parties in the 1970s, maybe we would have had a different Pakistan today. Had enough protested Zia’s Islamisation; it would have saved us from terrorism today. And had the PTI not taken grotesque steps to remove the pictures of Christmas cakes from text books in KP, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing the crisis of removing Atif Mian today. In the end, ZAB went to the gallows, wishing he had taken a firm stance against the unreasonable demands of religious zealots. Of course the 80s did worse to Pakistan and the damage still resonates in our generations. Past actions have always haunted leaders and governments but we still have not learnt our lesson.

In all institutions bigotry has seeped in, forcible observance of religion is the norm and non Muslims are not welcomed to key positions. 90 percent of Pakistan is Muslim and our religion is still under threat? This justification for Islamist movements that Muslims and Islam in Pakistan is under threat simply does not make sense to any reasonable person, especially when it comes from popular public leadership.

There are more Muslims living outside Pakistan as compared to those living in Pakistan. Many Muslims, including Pakistanis, are given jobs, key public offices in their governments and equal citizenship in UK, Canada, USA, Australia and European countries. In UK leaders of opposition, secretary state, ministers and the mayor of London are not only Muslims but of Pakistani origin. There is representation of Pakistani origin parliamentarians in Canada and in America, many other such examples can be found. Just imagine if they were removed from offices on basis of their religion how would the world react? How will Pakistan react?

By public showing of extreme actions of intolerance, Pakistan has infact left a question mark for equal opportunity for Muslims abroad. How will we react if a western country did this to Muslims? Why are we criticising Trump if we are exactly doing what he does? The history of giving into these forces who in the name of Islam have leashed a reign of terror on forcing politicians and leaders to give in to their extremely unreasonable demands robbing, this nation and its generations from peace for the last four decades and the nightmare is not stopping! Tomorrow these same forces will turn on sects within Islam — as some already do — then what?

When donations are asked for hospitals, schools, orphanages, flood funds dams should we discriminate there too? Maybe non-Muslim donations should not be accepted. Our leaders keep shoving us down this dark abyss of intolerance and bigotry, which will most likely be our undoing.

Today Pakistanis need to think very hard on what kind of Pakistan they want to live in and leave for their future generations.  If we do not agree with this policy of supporting or giving in to bigotry, by any government, then it’s time that we take firm stand as people and force the government to “not to give in”. Government should be forced to listen to its electorate and seek the opposition’s support to unite against elements like TLP, otherwise soon politicians will be held hostagesn too by these extremists. Who would save us then? only we can save ourselves. The people of Pakistan have had enough of four decades of religious terror being forced on multiple generations. It is time to say “No” loud and clear and stand united and force the government to bow to the people’s will. Only this can save our future generations.


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