It’s not easy being Kaptaan. Everyone wants a piece of him. Even when he is as happy as Larry, flourishing his magic wand, for which he will have kept the receipt, naturally, to grant overseas Pakistanis their hearts’ desire. Namely, the right to vote in Naya-Naya land. For hard currency alone is all it takes for them to be considered premiership assets.
Yet the PTI chief took his eye off the fast-bowl when he failed to anticipate the all-round extent to which the traditional chattering class would feel cuckolded; and all within 100 days. Howzat! And so it is that his former playmates have turned to towards social media’s warm embrace of virtual vindication. Tapping away at warrior keyboards about the unfairness of it all. That fatal flaw in across-the-board accountability that allows those unbound by the rule of law to participate in creating its future. Though a handful remain committed to showing the newly-crowned King exactly what he is missing. As they throw down the loaded gauntlet. To call on those in Fortress Europe and beyond to shut up corner shop and follow the yellow brick road all the way back to this hardest of countries. All the while coyly pulling that most unpalatable of trump cards from their sleeves. The one that shotguns security as being the preserve of the elitist West. While they would have everyone and their cat believe that they are slum-dogging it here in the world’s most dangerous nation.
Yet this group remains defiantly silent when it comes to doing or daring. From failing to stand up for the Ahmadis; those who live, work and suffocate here. To refusing to speak out against the injustice of separate election rolls that seek to subjugate by means of systematic disenfranchisement. And in all of this, the chattering class can’t help but favour its very own hidden hand. The one that craftily seeks to maintain the status quo. By persistently shunning calls to collectively boycott the ballot-box as a means of showing unwavering solidarity with a group in the line of state-sponsored autocratic fire. Instead, the d-word is dropped. Democracy rocks. And suddenly the focus is on the electoral process as the only hope of shaking things up. But only for those sufficiently privileged to be able to vote for self-serving change. Cheque please.
Naturally, hurtling along this hellish road paved with complicit complacency will do no good. Not to anyone. With the exception of course of the un-fairest nemesis of them all: the violent and resurgent religious right. Who can always smell the blood of an ‘unbelieving’ man. That entity which has become so expertly adept at holding the federation hostage to the point of sheer capitulation. Though quite possibly someone somewhere needs to have a quiet word with Immy; to rudely awaken him to the fact that failure to rein in the religious right may well risk his grand plan of luring the overseas wage packet here permanently. For there is nothing quite like the whiff of ‘Talibanisation’ to put off international investors.
And all the while civil society will only bother to rise like lions from slumber to roar the mantra of “One people, One nation” after religious extremists have done their murderous worst. And in between, the persecuted are expected to be grateful just to be alive. Or at least not dead
Bluntly put, it is the job of the Centre and the provinces to safeguard the rights of those whom they are mandated to protect. Regardless of the question of ‘incentives’. Yet this was all forgotten in the run-up to the elections which were, for all intents and purposes, contested from a largely anti-Ahmadi platform. From the oath-taking saga to calls for obligatory declarations of faith for all public office holders to endeavours aimed at preventing this community from ‘concealing’ their identities behind Muslim names. And all the while civil society will only bother to rise like lions from slumber to roar the mantra of “One people, One nation” after religious extremists have done their murderous worst. And in between, the persecuted are expected to be grateful just to be alive. Or at least not dead.
The time for such collusion is through. Indeed, tackling this downward trend that has plunged minority rights into the red decade after decade represents the most crippling deficit facing the country; even more so than the financial one. This is something that global rights defenders have long understood. With Human Rights Watch (HRW) having recently penned an open letter to Kaptaan and his team to offer a provisional roadmap of sorts to try and right historic wrongs. Such as including amending the man-made blasphemy laws as a first step towards ultimate repeal and doing away with the ban on the Ahmadi right to worship. Pakistan must try once more to initiate a national dialogue towards these ends. For inaction has not worked. Except by further empowering the fundamentalists.
There is much riding on a Naya Pakistan that honours the social contract for all. For this is not a question of competing rights but about inalienable ones. And a clean slate.
The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times. She can be reached at email@example.com and tweets @humeiwei
Published in Daily Times, September 2nd 2018.