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What should be more concerning for a Pakistani? Khan’s bow or his decision to field hate mongers and bigots like Amir Liaqat?

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In a video viral on social media, recently wedded couple, Imran Khan and Bushra Maneka can be seen bowing in front of the shrine of 11th century Sufi scholar Hazrat Fariduddin Ganjshakar in Pakpattan Sharif. For a Pakistani, who is going to be voting within just a month’s time, should this act of Khan’s bowing in front of a grave be a matter of serious concern?

My answer is: not at all.

For common Pakistanis, Khan’s bow is not or should not be a bone of contention owing to its inability to be religiously as well as physically harmful. As a Pakistani and as a voter, it does not haunt me because it incapacitates to endanger my political rights, it is not scary because it is inconsequential and does not threaten my personal or political safety. But, keeping in view some of PTI’s political decisions in KP in the past, on-air statements of Imran Khan and Khan’s decision to field controversial religious candidates for upcoming elections, there are several other factors of Khan’s politics that should be concerning for a Pakistani, especially those Pakistanis, who are looking forward to seeing Imran Khan as their future Prime Minister. Before I come to those factors, I feel an urge to say something which, I reckon, is incumbent to state vis-à-vis religion, its practice and never-ending debate of right-and-wrong application of Islamic jurisprudence.

Religion is personal

I believe, as a nation, we have developed this inflexible habit of looking for wrong things at wrong places with wrong perspectives. In one of my earliest writings for The Nation, I argued that: religion is what most people look up to as very imperative for the maintenance of discipline and organization in their day-to-day lives. What constitutes most of the definition of religion is belief — developed through relentless efforts of practising ages old religious sermons, prescriptions, values and practices — and beliefs are subjective; hence susceptible to impressionistic interpretations for others.

Any ritual, tradition or an act worth of at least some religious sentimentality that is religiously lawful for me and for my faith can be as much wrong and religiously unlawful for others as much as it is right for me.

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Believers must respect non-believers too

Religion is very much about deeply embedded sentiments which makes it worthy of due respect out of courtesy for those who believe in it. Regardless of what their faith is, everyone deserves our recognition and appreciation and the reason is that their hard-earned sentiments are attached to it. But this mantra of courtesy and compassion must be applied from the other end as well, which means believers patiently and respectfully tolerating views and personal space of non-believers or those who differ from their religious views. To make our religion and its doctrines more universal and applicable, it is time to demolish black and white parameters and build a new ‘grey’.

Khan’s bow to grave, Nawaz Sharif greeting Pakistani Christians or Bilawal celebrating Holi with Hindus ought not to fall in one of those factors which thwart a voter from voting for them.

Miss Maneka’s fully veiled outlook or Khan’s personal prayers of faith should not irritate anyone, because their actions do not break personal protocol of any voter. Those mocking Khan’s bow or Miss Maneka’s fully veiled outlook in the past are attacking on personal liberties of individual citizens which is severe breach of personal protocol. Their actions are fine as far as they are personal and don’t infringe upon political rights of a common Pakistani. Khan’s bow to grave, Nawaz Sharif greeting Pakistani Christians or Bilawal celebrating Holi with Hindus ought not to fall in one of those factors which thwart a voter from voting for them.

What should matter to the voter?

Instead, factors that should lead a voter to ballot box for any leader may include his insight on issues like foreign policy and chequered economics of our country, their stance on basic issues like water, electricity, safety, health, corruption, education, law, unemployment and country’s ever-growing population, their opinion on consistent subjugation of press freedom and dissent in Pakistan, their point of view on transition of powers to the lowest level and their defence of human rights as well as democracy.

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Bowing before grave isn’t the problem, the problem is awarding ticket to a bigot

Coming to the question in relation to concerning factors of Khan’s politics and its toxic connection with religion, Khan’s bow is not matter of political controversy but his decision to field ultra-conservative infamously controversial so-called religious scholar Aamir Liaquat should be a matter of deep concern and disturbance for voters. To me, Pakistani politics is strange, and the way it functions is hard to figure out. I noted some of my Insafi friends on social media accusing Khan of practising polytheism and bashing him for something that is between him and his creator while the same people were ironically defending a hate monger and bigot like Aamir Liaquat.

Awarding ticket to Aamir Liaquat isn’t even an isolated event

I wonder, how can a person contentious to an extent of being a national shame and threat to public safety be a national treasure for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its followers? It does not stop here. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, time and again, had used religion for personal and political gains in the past as well. One example is KP’s provincial government funnelling millions of rupees to Darul Uloom Haqqania – a toxic school known for training and harbouring the likes of Mullah Omar — by allocating 300 million rupees from its 2016-17 budget and later granting Rs 27.7 million later. Giving party ticket to a hate monger who wrongly accused innocent citizens of sedition and apostasy on-air for his own vicious agendas and constantly bolstering jihadists speaks volumes of PTI’s politics and its pernicious linkage with religion.

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