The domestic pressure from a section of the powerful religious lobby requires PM Imran Khan to increasingly cater to religiosity to prove his commitment to Islam. His claim to turn Pakistan into Riaste Madina, the decision to make Arabic language a compulsory subject in schools of Islamabad, banning 100 books in Punjab for profane and anti-Pakistan content, the announcement of Punjab Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill 2020 and sanctioning a stipend of Rs 10,000 per month to 20,000 prayer leaders in KP are all aimed at negating the damaging charges leveled against the PM by some of the religious parties. Meanwhile the measures introduced by PM Khan are contributing to the spread of religiosity and extremism.
Of late, Imran Khan’s mixing of politics and religion to gain support from religious quarters has taken a dangerous direction. Posing himself as the standard-bearer of Islam against the wave of Islamophobia the PM is taking positions that could create problems for the country. In a number of Western countries malcontents have attacked religious personalities held in high esteem by the Muslim community by making derogatory films or sketches which is highly condemnable. The FO has rightly censured such actions in the strongest terms.
Foreign policies are devised by countries keeping in view their long term interests and not on the basis of the political needs of a ruling party or an interest group. This is the reason why Pakistan has not allowed its relations to be affected by China’s policies concerning the Muslim community in Sinkiang, and rightly so. Why shouldn’t Pakistan adopt the same policy towards its Western friends and allies with whom it has close trade and investment ties and needs their help in dealing with international financial bodies and the FATF? Pakistan is already facing problems due to Omar Saeed Sheikh’s acquittal. The PM needs to consider if his appeasement of the TLP would not add to the difficulties the country is facing. Malala Yousufzai, the country’ symbol of struggle against terrorism, enjoys considerable prestige in the West. What was the need on the part PM’s spokesman to claim that Ehsanullah Ehsan’s threatening tweet to Malala Yousuzai was fake instead of letting the terrorist speak for himself? France’s Islamist separatism bill might be discriminatory but how many Muslim heads of state have come out against it publicly?