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‘Secular’ PPP’s Ahmadiphobia

  • This is where PPP cochairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been in a particular fix

Pakistan People’s Party leader Shehla Raza’s rants against a ‘Qadiani’ (derogatory term for Ahmadis) being appointed to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s economic advisory body isn’t new for her or indeed her party. Shehla Raza has taken to Twitter in the past as well to highlight how her party ending a ‘90 year old fitna’ is one of its legacies.

Her reference, like that of many PPP leaders around and before her, is of course to the ‘official’ excommunication of the Ahmadiyya community through the second amendment to the Pakistani Constitution.

When Shehla Raza was ‘boasting’ about her party having addressed the ’90 year old’ problem she was actually echoing her party’s founder who had used these very words to claim ‘credit’ for ‘resolving’ the issue.

This is why time after time PPP party leaders have brought up the apostatisation of Ahmadis to appease the Islamist groups.

Needless to say that providing any ‘resolution’ to the Ahmadiyya question, ZA Bhutto and his party actually paved way to veritable apartheid against the community, something which it shamelessly takes ‘credit’ for in its continued manifestation of Ahmadiphobia.

And these aren’t fringe echoes within the PPP. In 2016, it was Raja Pervez Ashraf, former prime minister of Pakistan, who ‘boasted’ about ‘breaking the backs of Qadianis’.

Yes, Shehla Raza has apologised since then, but there needs to be an official apology from the Pakistan People’s Party as well, and a message in support of Atif R Mian

In any civilised part of the world this would amount to violent bigotry and gravest hate speech, but in our neck of the woods, a party can continue to claim to be ‘secular’ and the champion of minorities’ rights while upholding the apartheid of a religious community.

Indeed, this continued PPP venom against the Ahmadis would be grotesque coming from any mouth, but when it comes from one that self-identifies as secular, it’s especially rotten.

This is where PPP cochairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been in a particular fix. He himself says all the right things when it comes to religious pluralism and tolerance, but simultaneously has to deal with his party’s veterans spewing such filth. When Raja Pervez Ashraf attacked the Ahmadis, Bilawal was swift to condemn the statement.

It’s pretty obvious what Bilawal believes should be the resolution of the Ahmadiyya question – a complete 180 degree turn from what it is right now. But he really can’t say on record that his grandfather – without whose name he’d just be a progressive social media commentator and not a politician, let alone a parliamentarian – was at fault.

In fact he can’t even openly say what he personally believes with regards to this issue, given that it would simply take his party down. Even internationally, when Bilawal is asked about the Ahmadiyya question, he dodges the most critical bits with masterful eloquence, while maintaining his dedication to granting the community all basic human rights. Well, the right to self-identify is a basic human right, isn’t it?

But right now we’re not even having a debate over granting that basic right to self-identify, the freedom of belief, religion and conscience. What is under the radar right now is the PPP continuing to spread hatred against the community that is already constitutionally subjugated. We’re taking about a provincial minister for the development of women – another marginalised section of the society – attacking an economic expert for being Ahmadi.

Yes, Shehla Raza has apologised since then, but there needs to be an official apology from the Pakistan People’s Party as well, and a message in support of Atif R Mian. Maybe one day the PPP can formally apologise for what they did in 1974 as well.

Meanwhile, they should rally behind Imran Khan’s decision to include Atif R Mian, even if they can’t rally behind the premier and his Economic Advisory Council.

K K Shahid

The writer is a member of staff

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