Will Maulana play the ‘religion card’? Shafqat Mehmood thinks he will. And that’s why he says his government won’t let Maulana’s ‘Azadi March’ enter Islamabad. Other leaders of the ruling PTI have also been saying similar things. But the question is, is it really a bad thing to play ‘religion card’?
To me, it is. That’s precisely why I wasn’t able to appreciate PM’s speech at UNGA. It wasn’t that the PM had failed to advocate Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. He did that quite comprehensively in fact. But I couldn’t bring myself around appreciating him for a speech where he spoke on ‘Islamophobia in the West’ for 17 minutes out of the total 47. Notices like ‘Qadiyanis cannot enter this shop’ are a common sight in Pakistani markets. We often come across government advertisements in national newspapers seeking job applications from ‘Christians’ for the post of ‘sanitary workers’. Forced conversions of Hindu women have become so common that they don’t even arouse a Twitter outrage anymore. In what part of the country do we not see ‘Kafir Kafir Shia Kafir’ slogans written on walls? Those should be the priorities of my prime minister, not the ‘rising Islamophobia in the West’. But more importantly, I couldn’t appreciate it because it was yet another attempt on Imran’s part to present himself to his voters as the champion of Islam.
I mean, look at what he’s been doing. Imran has repeatedly attended, and addressed, ‘Khatam-e-Nabuwwat’ Conferences. He’s been visiting shrines and the footage is almost always released to the media. He has vowed to never ‘let people forget that PML-N made changes to the election nomination papers’. His party’s official page has been posting pictures of him praying. And in 2018, his was the most bigoted election campaign in the 70-year history of the nation by any mainstream political party.
From the first address after becoming the prime minister to the one he made last week at the Langar launch, Imran Khan’s speeches have been loaded with references to ‘Riasat-e-Madina’. He has boasted in the past about having convinced people to convert to Islam.
How can someone with this kind of track record ban a protest march on the grounds that ‘religion card’ might be used in those rallies? Is it the fear of this card that’s causing panic in the government’s ranks? Do the ministers fear that they might have to face the same kind of violence that Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, and Nawaz Sharif were subjected to, and they were the architects of?
I’m not supporting Maulana here. There’s no doubt he will use ‘religion card’ in the march. Thousands of his supporters will not be sitting through those cold November nights of Islamabad for the ‘restoration of the 1973 constitution in its original form’ or a ‘free and fair election’. We must not forget that Maulana has been calling Imran Khan a ‘Jewish agent’ for years now. And this is going to get dirtier. But we used to warn Imran Khan against it too.
So now on one side, we have a maulana, who became prime minister after a controversial election and wants to create a utopian ‘Riasat-e-Madina’ but doesn’t have a beard. On the other side, we have another Maulana who does have a beard but failed to get a share in power for the first time in three decades and is now dying to get it.
What do we do now?
I think it’s a fight between two Maulanas. And neither of the two would listen to us. So let’s just grab our popcorn and hope for something good to come out of this mess. May God bless us all!