Imran Khan’s tweet shows what happens when you grow up in a country whose Constitution is not fundamentally equal.
Imran Khan wished “all” his country’s “Christian citizens” a happy and peaceful Christmas on Twitter. Great, right? Actually, the greeting clearly demonstrates why the Pakistani prime minister continues to get it wrong on the fundamental difference between India and Pakistan.
Wishing all our Christian citizens a happy and peaceful Christmas.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) December 24, 2018
The fact that Imran Khan is wishing only his “Christian citizens” and not all of Pakistan surprises no one in Pakistan. Who else would he wish, they would likely ask.
The answer is: All of the people of Pakistan. Even Narendra Modi forgot his own Good Governance Day this year to wish all Indians Merry Christmas.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
We remember the noble teachings of Jesus Christ and recall his efforts towards creating a compassionate and equal society.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 25, 2018
Imran Khan’s tweet shows what happens when you grow up in a country whose Constitution is not fundamentally equal. Of course, Jinnah was a great guy and it is terribly unfortunate he didn’t live to translate his own speech telling Pakistan’s minorities that they were “free to go to your (their) temples” on 11 August 1947, days before a “moth-eaten” country was given to him to rule.
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But even if Pakistan’s Hindus were allowed to safely pray in their temples and Pakistani Sikhs in their gurdwaras without the fear of ISI intelligence agents lurking around, Pakistan would not fundamentally be either secular or egalitarian because it is a single-religion dominant nation – an Islamic Republic.
This is not the time or place to go into why India’s Muslims wanted a separate country for themselves where they would feel secure and empowered. Pakistan chose its destiny in 1947 and its deeply creative and talented people have since sought to circumvent as well as stand up to the horrific army crackdowns, martial law, dictatorships, coups, and assassinations that have scarred our unfortunate western neighbour in terrible ways.
But when your citizenry is told, on a daily basis, that according to the Constitution, Muslims are citizens first – in fact, not all Muslims are equal, for example, the Ahmadiyas face threats to their lives every second – and everybody else comes second, then the fact of inequality subverts everything else.
That’s why the prime minister wishes only his “Christian citizens” because only they celebrate Christmas. Why would anyone else?
Perhaps it would surprise Mr Khan that all over the world, including in Hindu-majority India – people celebrate all kinds of festivals irrespective of the religion they are born into. When everyone is theoretically equal – even in Narendra Modi’s Bharat – then you can theoretically do what you want.
In single-religion countries such as Pakistan, that is simply not possible. It is surprising that Imran Khan, once married to Jemima Goldsmith, who is said to be Jewish, simply doesn’t get it.
Even at the Kartarpur groundbreaking ceremony late in November, Imran tried to explain the significance of Kartarpur Sahib by comparing it with Medina, and the importance that site held for Muslims. “I want to tell my Muslim brothers that just as Medina is important for us, Kartarpur Sahib is similarly important for our Sikh brothers,” the Pakistan PM said.
The fact that Imran had to make that comparison in the first place – Medina and Kartarpur Sahib – tells you that the people of Pakistan had no clue about Kartarpur Sahib. Question is, why?
The answer is: when you’re not a secular country, shrines of other faiths become less relevant.
Of course you can argue that Imran Khan, with a lot of help from the Army that is standing rock solid behind him, is trying to change that. Even in his recent comments, marking 100 days of the Punjab government, the Pakistan PM said his government was taking steps so that Pakistan’s minorities get their due rights as per the vision of Jinnah.
Certainly, by opening up Kartarpur Sahib, Imran Khan not only won many hearts and minds within India for creating a major confidence-building measure, but also demonstrated his own personal belief that all faiths can live together even when one of them is more equal than the rest.
This brings me to why Imran Khan’s remarks earlier this week that “we will show the Modi government how to treat minorities”, in the wake of Naseeruddin Shah’s angst about mob violence under the Modi government, created such a furore in India.
A friend and fellow journalist Nirupama Subramanian, who has worked in Pakistan for several years, pointed out that one reason for the controversy in India could be our own growing unease over Modi’s Hindutva politics subverting the very nature of the Constitution without changing it – which, effectively, means that India, just like Pakistan, is becoming a single-religion dominant state.
The well-known Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz said it best a long time ago. “Tum bhi hum jaise hi nikle (You turned out to be like us).”
So let’s think about this, this Christmas Day. The prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan not only infantilises his own people when he compares Medina with Kartarpur Sahib – they already know, Imran Sahib – he then confounds that lack of understanding by selectively wishing only Pakistan’s Christians instead of all the people.
What’s worse is, he doesn’t even see what he’s doing.
And then there is India, seemingly angry and frustrated that Prime Minister Modi has brought out the fault lines within, more than anyone else since Partition.
Still, it’s the season of good cheer. So, Merry Christmas, everyone!
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