There is a fine line between active debate and discussion and indulging in callous hate speech, designed to incite anger against those mentioned with rancor. In Pakistan however, the two are often twisted and combined to form one jumbled mass that usually ends up sounding very much like a ridiculous conspiracy theory that has no basis in facts. For instance, certain groups like the Khatm-e-Nabuwat demonstrate in their hundreds, with slogans, banners and all manner of paraphernalia, that all Ahmedis are enemies of Pakistan, should be barred from holding public offices and should be put to certain death, as they are “poisoning the minds” of the rest of the population. Is this legal?!

A theological debate is of little or no interest, but when one side — specifically, just the one side — actually advocates murder against the other, then you know that this is not a ‘discourse’. The ‘us and them’ attitude against minority communities is nothing new. On the case of Ahmedis, declared non-Muslim by then Prime Minister Z A Bhutto was just the start of a tradition of living as second class citizens. The list of charges the Khatam-e-Nabuwat brigade lay at their door may as well be a list of discriminations the community has itself been a victim of; case in point, attacks against their homes and ‘places of worship’ that are so commonplace. Open incitement to murder on the basis of religious affiliation is a criminal offence. It must be punished by the state. As previously mentioned, theological debates are irrelevant here, and of no interest in general. Incitement to violence, on the other hand, is intolerable and must be resisted, pointed out, censured and punished.

Groups that thrive on hate speech will not look to change their spots anytime soon, and in such cases, the responsibility falls on the government to intervene and put a stop to such senseless claims before they leave a lasting impact on society. That ship seems to have sailed for this country, but that does not mean that the government should just idly stand by and watch minority after declared minority be systematically purged from Pakistan. Free speech has nothing to do here, and the state needs to remind these delusional individuals that every single Pakistani citizen will be protected with the full force of the state, and that religious affiliation makes one neither less of a Pakistani, nor more of a Pakistani, as the Nabuwat people would claim. Hate is the real enemy of the state, and those that seek to bring the structure of Pakistan on its knees, use it to their advantage, behind a veil of self-righteous patriotism. There is no point fighting about who is wrong or right with regards to their personal beliefs. This pastime of hating those that are different only succeeds in giving a false idea of winning a war that is not even real.