October 12, 2017
It was a diatribe both repugnant and
dangerous, not only in what was said but also in terms of its wider
On Tuesday in the National Assembly,
retired Capt Mohammed Safdar, having just secured bail from an accountability
court, launched a vociferous attack against the Ahmadi community, describing
them as a “threat to this country” and demanding that its members be banned
from induction into the government and military service.
He also called for Nobel Laureate Dr Abdus
Salam’s name to be delinked from Quaid-i-Azam University’s physics department,
which has recently been renamed — by his own father-in-law, the former Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif — in honour of the celebrated Pakistani scientist.
The MNA’s words are a repudiation of
history, and if his prescription — that of faith as a condition of military
recruitment — were to be put into practice, it would imperil our future as a
nation. Many officers belonging to minority faiths have served this country
with distinction; to name but a few, Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, retired
Major Gen Maneck Sopariwala and Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat. Some,
such as the latter, and more recently army Sepoy Lal Chand Rebari, have laid
down their lives in the line of duty.
Merit alone must determine the composition
of the armed forces; any other consideration would fatally compromise its
professionalism and its capacity to defend the country’s borders. To its
credit, Pakistan’s military leadership has consistently resisted any attempt to
create communal or sectarian divisions within its ranks. To demand otherwise is
to run counter to that pragmatic approach.
Not only that, Capt Safdar’s tirade — one
that any violent extremist would be proud of — clearly violates the country’s
hate speech laws as well as the objectives of the National Action Plan. The
concept of inclusivity that our leadership is supposedly promoting as an antidote
to intolerance in society brooks no exceptions.
However, when the floor of the assembly was
being used to spew invective against a minority community, the people’s
representatives could only watch in craven silence, sometimes even thumping
their desks in approval. Despite their lofty claims of countering religious
extremism in all its forms, not one legislator had the spine or decency to
Until all Pakistani citizens are deemed
equal before the law, until patriotism or the right to security of life and
property is not contingent upon faith, aspirations for a more peaceful polity
will remain a pipe dream.
Mainstreaming Of Bigotry
Captain (retd) Safdar’s National Assembly
speech against the Ahmadia community is a reminder of the bigoted mindset that
exists in the country. The PML-N leader called for a ban on hiring Ahmadis in
the Armed forces and other institutions. He went on to demand withdrawal of the
decision — of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led government — to name a
department of Quaid-e-Azam University after the first Pakistani Nobel laureate,
Dr Abdus Salam.
Both the PML-N and the government need to
clarify if Safdar’s hate speech is his opinion or if it reflects the party and
the government policy. If it does not reflect either the party’s or the
government’s position, then the least that has to be done is to issue a
show-cause notice to the MNA.
No one can be allowed to get away with
spewing venom against Pakistani citizens for their religious beliefs — least of
all parliamentarians. Safdar’s statement is a clear violation of the National
Action Plan (NAP) as well.
The PML-N’s deafening silence on the
hateful remarks of the former PM’s son-in-law is concerning. The ruling party
has been making tall claims about wanting a pluralist Pakistan. It was just a
few weeks ago that Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif made passionate appeals for
support from the international community to enable the government to rid the
country of its liabilities. These appeals won’t count for much until Asif’s
party and the party’s government first rid themselves of their liabilities.
If the PML-N government does not
immediately disown Safdar’s statement, all its claims about pluralism and
tolerance will be considered dubious.
The Ahmadia community has been on the
receiving end of faith-based violence and discrimination for far too long. Such
statements from political leaders tend to further enable violence against the
The commotion in the National Assembly in
the name of a debate following a ‘clerical error’ in the draft of the Election
Reforms bill had already sent a signal about the misplaced priorities of the
political leadership. Besides, we have the mainstreaming of militant outfits
going on without any debate on its parameters. And now with Safdar’s hateful
speech, it seems like mainstreaming of bigotry is also underway.
This state-of-affairs will serve to reverse
all the progress made so far against terrorism, because the latter cannot be
eradicated without confronting the extremist mindset. *
Wow! This is more than a flicker of hope, or is it the dark smoke that rises of the dying flame?
shamaa bujhti hai toe usmaysay dhuwan uthtaa hai!
It looks like the retired Army Captain also retired his education and enlightenment along with his military uniform and fake medals under the protection of parliamentary privilege!