The PPP Chairperson’s origination of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir election campaign on Saturday in Kotli, was discolored by the prejudice of the country’s former Prime Minister for probably the most persecuted religious community in Pakistan. The remarks eulogized the PPP government of its founder Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for the execution of the ‘Qadiani’ (a derogatory term for the Ahmadiyya – Muslim community) question; hence closing the mouth and severing the neck of it thereof. The spleen disgorged by the person who no more than three years ago engaged the most sacrosanct spot in the government, is not wholly disconcerting and comparable of hate speech, but also factually erroneous and disingenuous demonizing the epicenter of Pakistani populism and its highest leader in prestige- next only to Jinnah.

Anecdotes of the founder’s trusty involvement with the Ahmedi community in the years that led to the foundation of Pakistan- the most prominent of them being Muhammad ZafarullahKhan who chaired the All India Muslim League for a term, sketched the momentous Lahore Resolution and served as the debut Foreign Minister of Pakistan. The middling Pakistani mind has been doctored with vitriol for decades and is barefaced in the treatment parceled out to the country’s first Nobel laureate, renounced for his adherence to a religious faction disbanded by the self-righteous majority and the elegy of his grave defiled for removing the name ‘Muslim’ from it. The perplexing biasness is positioned on partial awareness which is perilous and has misinformed the discourse on the matter.

The buoyancy of the ‘old’ Pakistan comes out mind-boggling in the present commotion. The anti – Ahmadiyya uprising in 1953 prompted by the Jamaat-i- Islami and MajlisAhrar was effectively trampled by the state which snubbed the claim of pitching the Ahmadiyya out of the crease of Islam and proscribed the movement’s leaders for instigating violence against the state. The feat lasted for no more than couple of decades. The issue resurfaced in 1974 after a group of IslamiJamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) rose anti – Ahmadiyya catchphrases and cursed their spiritual figurehead at a railway station in Rabwa provoking clash with members of the community.

JI’s unfair rage on an episode of their making was convoyed by parties of centre and right. Agitation in Punjab reached the community’s doorstep; they were victimized and their properties and businesses razed. Mobs called for their exclusion from Islam-fold and state’s institutions. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto discarded the idea of trading religious rhetoric in the National Assembly, stating that the upshot of such verdict would be deleterious and the opposition was ‘hell-bent on destroying the country’. Unabated, incongruous remonstrations of the right and in the streets forced him to authorize the Parliament to vote on the issue which led to the passing of the 2nd Amendment to the constitution of Pakistan – a patent act of apartheid but soothing to the zealotry of the large.

Newspaper headlines cited the occasion as a laudable landmark. Bhutto, however abstained from alluding to it as an achievement because it hurt the religious sentiments of a population that rather pioneered the Pakistan Movement and served its cause enthusiastically by their constructive contribution to the country they deemed was theirs – and which had voted greatly for the PPP in the 1970 elections, also because it was completely at odds with the policy of the left-wing political party founded by him and very tenets on which the country came into being. Furthermore, he also maintained that the amendment did not deprive them of their citizen- rights as preserved in the constitution of Pakistan.

The purification mission ignited the country to permanent disaster in 1977 with ziaulhaq’s military coup (who referred to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a ‘threat to Islam and Pakistan’ both despite having ceded to the right’s most ostentatious demands), eventually resulting in ZAB’s judicial murder on April 4, 1979. In 1984, Ordinance XX was issued which barred the Ahmadis from professing their faith in public and forbidding them from using Islamic salutations, call to prayer or quoting from the Quran along with other diminutions which could lead to a sentence for a period of three years. Incessant tyranny forced their expulsion in large numbers evident in the May 28, 2010 massacre in Lahore causing fatalities in hundreds; the culprits of which hang about scot-free.

The switch to religious nationalism and muddying of the country’s ideology – which was never created to gratify the caprice of clergy-cum-politicians and who heatedly contested the establishment of Pakistan - is the most spiteful legacy of Operation Fair Play. Minorities already reside on the edge in Pakistan. The smoldering of three churches and 200 houses belonging to the Christians in Lahore’s Joseph Colony in March, 2013 on accusations of blasphemy for example, or the burning alive of a Christian couple in a brick kiln in Kasur in November 2014 illustrates the ruthlessness and viciousness of the head-eating religion card that has transformed the country into a den of vigilantism and religiously incited violence. The dissemination of political Islam has been toxic to the cultural vibrancy and multi - ethnicity of the original nation we were when we came into being in 1947. Iqbal and Jinnah’s spirit will be ripping apart in the firmaments to see the course their envisioned land has taken.

Al Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist associations use their sort of faith to validate bloodbath. The caricature unfurls in bizarre ways. – it is not only the temples, synagogues and churches that are crushed; bombings in the mosques are recognizable clamor too. Militant Islam tags the disciples of an adaptation of Islam dissimilar to theirs as heretics depriving them of their cardinal right of existence. The phenomenon is not novel to Pakistan. Anti – Shia graffiti are regular sight in the homeland; targeted attacks directed towards them and the ethnic cleansing of the Hazara Shia community only makes to the last lines of the news bulletins. A National Assembly debate on their faith next? One cannot rule this out in a turbulent, harried environment subjugated by all types of fanaticism and bigotry.

Religion is a double-edged sword. Once in motion, there is no curtailment. April 30th chapter was repellent, more so because Raja Pervez Ashraf made these remarks at a political rally of the PPP, the only centre-left, federal, liberal political party of Pakistan and which many, including myself, view as the sole citadel of pluralistic politics. One must be mindful of the fact that it is the same brazen speechifying that goes unbridled in the name of religion which fuels the likes of Mumtaz Qadri and is a vote – winning ploy adopted by political parties. This is precisely what instigated the murder of former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who is undeniably a true martyr for braving bullets in the fight for justice for an aggrieved Christian woman synonymous to the teachings of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH):“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” The PPP Chairman’s rejoinder to the former Prime Minister’s bile-dipped speech: ‘politicians have no right to comment or question peoples’ faith. History has taught us politicization of faith has lethal consequences for all.’ exemplifies a glow in this sinister abyss of bigotry and fittingly how a conscientious political leader and citizen must conduct himself.

Religious discrimination must not be spared to swallow up our generations to come. It is regrettable that the battle to salvage Jinnah’s Pakistan is yet to start on!