Moment for Sanity

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Religion and politics tend to go hand-in-hand in a country whose founding father had very straightforwardly asserted, “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” Thus, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal should be celebrated as a rare voice of reason daring to steer away from the norm and stand out of the heated crowd. Going against one of his own, PML(N) leader Javed Latif, who resorted to the much-beloved tactic of casting doubt on the religious credentials of PTI chairman Imran Khan would not have been an easy decision: something bound to draw the ire of many in the Nawaz camp. However, his word of caution against playing on the wicket of the “religion card” as a victim of violence fuelled by heated, politically-motivated statements could not have come at a better time. Because had Mr Latif actually thought before he fiercely fulminated against his rival, he would have realised that the banter would do little to undermine his popularity before the eyes of millions. All the former prime minister needs to do is prepare one eloquently impressive testimony of his faith, punctuated by his affirmation as a messiah entailed the task to lead an astray nation, to once again–with great ease–take the nation by storm. But what about the community that lives in perpetual fear against both its living and its dead? The targeted quip might have made sense had it come from a party that had gained popularity for representing a particular branch of faith. After all, a populist narrative with a reek of bigotry remains a foolproof plan to win hearts and connect with souls. But doesn’t he hail from a political camp that tried hard to sing to the liberal, democratic choir in its last tenure? When Mr Iqbal had urged the clerics to join the cause against handing out fatwas for jihad, wasn’t he, too speaking as a representative of a PML(N) government?
To our great misfortune, dabbling in such controversial matters for the sake of easy fame has been an oft-followed mantra for all and sundry in our politics. Determined in their drive to smear ink on the faces of adversaries, those who should have helped revolutionise the societal mindset away from repugnant rhetoric have, instead, become the poster child for extremism. That whatever is done in the name of religion achieves nothing else than propagating a negative reflection of its ideals conveniently slips out of the back exit while the elite keep on twisting the lever to gain their share of the control. Never mind that the struggle for Pakistan was one spearheaded by the secular leaders of the time who not only wished to create a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent but also offer “adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards…for minorities in these…regions.”