Facebook status today: Looking at the chants of Allah hu Akbar from across the border, feeling emotional with 22 million others, how about you?
Don’t forget, Ahmadis chanting Allah hu Akbar will end up spending three years in Pakistani jail. But let’s just focus on Karnataka, because we Pakistanis will show passionate solidarity for minorities anywhere but in Pakistan. The Indian envoy in Islamabad was told about Pakistan’s “grave concern and condemnation” against what it called the “deeply reprehensible act of banning Muslim girl students from wearing hijab”. If statements from government ministers weren’t adequate, then Friday will be ‘Solidarity Day with Daughters of Hind’. Having lived through many Fridays and solidarity days under the Imran Khan government, this means: standing from 12 to 12:30 pm in the sun and doing nothing. Or maybe in 2022, we can try sunbathing for 30 minutes. Anything is possible since the Indian schoolgirls’ “ghairat” provoked emotions in the entire Islamic world. Yet, Pakistan chose only the 30-minute standing exercise. Thekedari more, solidarity less.
Staying on the topic of solidarity days, this annual ‘Kashmir Day’ was marked with the usual promise of freedom, renaming of parks to Kashmir and the president of Pakistan finding time from his busy Wordle schedule to take part in the events of the day. Now, no one should blame President Arif Alvi for confusing solidarity day of 5 February with siege day of 5 August – blame India for this conspiracy.
A blind eye inside Pakistan
This year also featured Hindu Senator Krishna Kohli presiding over the session on Kashmir. Hopefully, one day, beyond the tokenism Kohli will get a chance to chair a Senate session on the plight of Hindu minorities in Sindh, who since January have lost seven girls to forced conversions to Islam, the youngest being 11, killing of a Hindu trader Satan Lal who was being threatened to go to India if he wanted to stay alive, attack on the Shiranwali Mata temple and the under-construction Hinglaj temple. To top it off, there is life imprisonment sentence handed to Hindu principal Notan Lal for blasphemy allegation by a 14-year-old student. All and more in just the first six weeks of 2022.
The Ahmadi community is demanding justice for the desecration of 45 graves, from which tombstones with Islamic verses were removed. But who is even going to get them justice when those responsible for justice are the perpetrators, local police, in this case. As if their persecution in life isn’t enough, Ahmadis won’t be allowed to even die in peace in this land of the pure. And they’ll not be allowed to build places of worship that, even at a glance, look like mosques — by law, they can’t be called mosques. If constructed, they will be razed down, with impunity. Hundreds of Ahmadi places of worship have been destroyed since the constitutional amendment that declared them non-Muslim in 1974.
The killing of pastor William Siraj after he attended the weekly Sunday service at the Martyrs of the All Saints Church brought back memories of the 2013 suicide bombings at the same site, which killed 87 people. To show solidarity with the Christian community, PM Khan’s advisor on interfaith harmony headed with a delegation of Islamic scholars to Peshawar and was seen offering prayers in the church. Going and saying prayers in the victims’ place of worship reeks of majoritarianism in the garb of solidarity. Beyond grabbing eyeballs, will pastors ever be asked to lead prayers in Pakistani mosques?
‘Image kharab hota hai’
The solidarity rings hollow when Pakistan government officials link attacks such as the targeted killing of minorities with Islamophobia. To say that such incidents create problems for Muslims across the world by fuelling Islamophobia is another problem. You essentially are preaching that people at home shouldn’t kill non-Muslim citizens as it will create problems for Muslims in other countries. What kind of solidarity is this? And then there’s the decades-old obsession with the “image of Pakistan”, don’t kill because image ‘kharab hota hai’. If persecution of minorities threatens the ‘image’, then legislate to protect the communities and don’t persecute, maybe. Or like President Alvi, chase fashion designers to show a better image of Pakistan to the world. Take your pick!
Targeted killings, attacks on places of worship, forced conversions of minor girls, blasphemy death sentences — 2022 has been more of the same for religious minorities in Pakistan. But let’s continue to focus on what Justin Trudeau might have said on Islamophobia or continue to convince the world how the genocide of Uighur Muslims is just an obsession of the West. And let’s appreciate China for ‘inka level hi aur hai’. Or worry about the Muslim girls in Karnataka and not in Afghanistan, for one we think is a strategic ally, the other remains a strategic foe. Worry for anyone but your own. Be emotional for anyone but your own.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)