Dangers of weaponising religion

Avoid religious card

The remarks by PML(N) leader and Federal Minister Javed Latif accusing PTI chief Imran Khan of “attacking the basic principles of Islam” and thus calling into question the former PM’s identity as a Muslim are highly provocative, divisive and condemnable. What is more, these can lead to attacks on an already persecuted religious minority. The PML(N) has presumably decided to play the religious card after losing Punjab, its erstwhile stronghold, to the PTI and fearing defeat in the forthcoming by-elections also. It is ironical that a party which was itself a target of religious bigotry a few years back should succumb to using the religious card against the PTI. Unless the statement is denounced by the PML(N)’s topmost leadership, it would tarnish the party’s image and continue to haunt it for years to come.

Unfortunately former Mr Khan too has all along weaponized religion to defeat political opponents. He says he wants to make Pakistan a welfare state. His reference to the 7th century state of Madina comprising a few thousand citizens, with primitively simple requirements, is out of place and meant to provide a religious flavour to power politics. Mr Khan has even taken the stand that those supporting his opponents would be violating Islamic injunctions. Soon after losing power he told his supporters to take his message to the people as the Companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) carried his message. In an inappropriate comparison, Mr Khan said that in the days of the holy Prophet (PBUH) also the youth embraced Islam while the older generation opposed it. He has profusely used Quranic verses to justify his political line of action which is yet another example of giving an Islamic touch to ventures aimed at gaining power.

During the last two decades Pakistan has lost over 80,000 innocent lives to religious extremism taking the form of terrorist attacks. There is a need on the part of political leadership to display maturity and avoid the dangerous policy of using religion for gaining political mileage in their bid for political office. There is a dire need to revert to the Quaid-e-Azaqm’s advice of keeping religion and politics apart in Pakistan. As he put it in his landmark address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, ” You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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