Politicians in Pakistan are these days vulnerable to semi-educated “heaven seekers” who can disservice anyone they presume have disrespected Islam’s Prophet.
A recent assassination attempt on the federal interior minister of Pakistan, Ahsan Iqbal, a minorities advocate in the country, has painted a grim picture of the esteem of country’s political leaders. Before this attack, he was hit with a hurling shoe during a worker convention in his hometown earlier this year.
However, the danger of rapidly increasing youth radicalization had never diminished and is now on the brink of exploding. Moreover, it will not be wrong if I opine that there will be many, like this shooter, preparing themselves to attack or dishonor the political leaders of their constituency in the approaching corner gatherings.
The shooter, who is just 22 years old and had a dream to assassinate Iqbal, was detained at the spot and confessed to the assassination attempt. He also professed to be the follower of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an extreme Sunni majority coterie that came about after the assassin of Salman Taseer, former Punjab governor, was hanged.
Although the majority of parliamentarians, irrespective of different political backgrounds, had sturdily condemned this unfortunate event, some are still justifying the attack and playing with this fire. Charlatans and demagogues associated with Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), are incessantly fueling this fire of hatred in already deluded minds of simple folks in defiance of official warnings.
TLP has swiftly emerged as an extreme right religious party, that only a little while back had manifested their leverage by paralyzing the busiest traffic junction in Islamabad for 22 days as a backlash against the sitting government’s move to slightly amend the finality of prophethood declaration in election reform bill of 2017.
This controversy emerged after a bid was made for a trivial modification in the oath of elected representatives. It was only partially subdued after then Federal law Minister Zahid Hamid resigned. These pseudo-religious clerics reckon such reforms as an attack on the finality of prophethood declaration and the Muslims’ religious sentiments.
A brief history of this country reveals that debating over “blasphemy laws” along with Ahmadiyya community, the children of a so-called lesser God, is a hot potato in the country and even its mighty military generals eschew from commenting on it. Back in 2016, a famous TV anchor’s show was banned the very next day after only offering to discuss topics related to the matter considered controversial in Pakistan.
After Salmaan Taseer’s assassination by a member of his security fleet, such terrible episodes are becoming a norm. For instance, in recent past, we have observed deplorable events when folks have hurled shoes and ink on political leaders including a former prime minister and other executive cabinet members at public gatherings.
In the past, nearly all political parties have resorted to this tool of hatred against a religious minority in order to whip up sentiment and emotion. And none have deemed that one day this fire will engulf all and sundry who seldom speaks over the blasphemy laws and rights of minorities. At this time, when election campaigns are in full swing, such tragic incidents are inevitable and practically impossible to eradicate.
Based on the current plight, envisioning Pakistan as an inclusive and tolerant society where the community will overlook differences of sect, language, caste, creed, and opinions remains merely a dream. Moreover, this seated anathema against a vulnerable community has already established a sense of social exclusion among its members, and it continuously impacts their participation for the betterment of the society.
However, such terrible episodes carried out in the name of religion must be curbed. The state, its political class, intelligentsia, and the media, all ought to be on the same page to fathom this regression of the society, and to take measures aimed at curtailing this increasing radicalization.
It is the collective responsibility of every political party to play their role in diminishing this predicament than exploiting it to attrition others because this fire will not discriminate partisan loyalties. Despite different polarization milieu, political leaders must abstain from humiliating and maligning each other and know the ropes to negate this quickly spreading wildfire.
Besides that, local media needs to promote the principles of social integration, cohesion, participation, and tolerance. The water is not over the dam yet; we can still go back to the drawing board and take this bull of hatred by its horns! Otherwise, “heaven seekers” are set to harm the impotent political leaders.