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Sentimental rule

  • We are bound by chains of bigotry

Blaming past rulers for the state of affairs today, Imran Khan took oath with a promise to deliver the people in a manner never adopted before. The betterment of Pakistani society was the goal. How far these ideals would actually go has been unveiled. The prime minister appears weak.

Within days of coming into power, Khan has been cowed down by the echelons of religious power within our country. Towered by the antagonising pressure of intolerant mindsets, he was forced to backtrack on his decision. A decision not made for personal gains but rather to steer the country away from its economic woes. Atif Mian was appointed to the economic advisory council and at first the government defended the choice, rightly so. Hours later, religious sentiment kicked in. Not just kicked in, but roared in rage over the appointment.

As some would expect, Imran and his government should have stood their ground, only to be disappointed when the removed the US based economist from the council. Nobody debated that Atif Mian had not been appointed to the Council of Islamic Ideology, nor had he been put in a position of power. He was merely appointed in advisory capacity where he would have given his expert opinion on Pakistan’s economic adversities.

But as luck would have it, or I’d rather say the nation would have it, religious sentiments intervened. How can we be ruled by a person belonging to such a faith, questioned one eager critic of the appointment. For the record, he was not going to rule the country. The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provides that only a Muslim can be appointed as the head of the state. So the answer to my friend’s query lies within the constitution. Appointment to the economic advisory council, firstly, is not part of ruling, secondly, such appointment has nothing to do with religion.

If religion is the foremost criteria, then might as well remove the minority members from holding seats in the Parliament. How dare a Christian or a Hindu sit in the prestigious halls of parliament? After all, they do not possess the necessary pre-requisite; Islam. Khan Sahib should move forward and remove all non-Muslims from all the posts that they currently hold throughout the country. If bigotry is going to have its way, then let’s kick out all the Chinese from the country. How can they be part of Pakistan’s development? What about all the foreign professors educating the youth of this nation? How can non-Muslims be the tutors of the Pakistani youth?

Let’s form a body of clerics and request its honourable members to carve out policies which would help stabilise our currency and steer us out of our debts

To begin with, the problem isn’t the bigotry and intolerance of our society. That part is a harsh reality which we have embraced over time. The more daunting part is when the leader of the nation bows down to protect the sentimentalities of the religious cadre. If that indeed was to be done, then the appointment should not have been made in the first place. However, once it has been notified, Khan should have had the spine and courage to come forward and explain to the nation that merit knows no religion. Economic council has nothing to do with the faith and beliefs of any religion. The very same Pakistan often seeks guidance from international economic agencies. All of them are non-Muslims. They hold different opinions when it comes to faith and religion, and yet we embrace their ideas for the betterment of our country. The same could have been done by retaining Mian as a member. Or, the entire situation, could have been avoided by not choosing him in the first place.

Quaid e Azam whilst addressing on 11th August, 1947, said “You are free…You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” Well, I’m sorry to break it to Mr Jinnah, we are not free. Not free to do anything. Not free to be part of the state of affairs, subject to our faith, of course. Not free to express our opinion on matters. Not free to live our lives as we so desire.

We are bound by chains of bigotry. Held by the roots of partisanship. Towered over by the driving force of fanaticism. Blinded by the curse of intolerance. Enraged by the sermons of firebrand clerics. Ruled by the sentiments of religious extremists.

Difference of opinion cannot be tolerated. It is either their way or no other way. Such difference is punishable by death. We are the followers of the last messenger of Allah, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) yet, we have failed to learn the beauty of tolerance from him. Failed to comprehend the practical examples he gave to teach illiterates like us.

Nobody is defending the faith practiced by Atif Mian, nor would one ever. The only argument being brought forward is that his faith, belief and religion are inconsequential to his economic expertise. The kind of expertise which Pakistan desperately requires. I wonder how the old Pakistan was different from the new one if merit is to be down sided by religion.

Let’s form a body of clerics and request its honourable members to carve out policies which would help stabilise our currency and steer us out of our debts. From the viewpoint of many, they might be able to help us progress. We will certainly progress, one way or the other. The only difference would be of opposite directions. Intolerance would be viewed as the beauty of the society.

PTI and Imran Khan have disappointed not only their followers but also common citizens of the country. From the beginning days of their rule, it has been cemented that sentiment will blackmail them into recalling decisions and religion shall be the highest merit. Their backtracking has not only cost the country one expert economist but the other two foreign based advisors too.

Syed Kaswar Gardezi

The writer is a lawyer and a columnist. He can be contacted at kaswargardezi@gmail.com

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Syed Kaswar Gardezi

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