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Minority Rights And Moving Beyond Causal Tokenism – A Case For Imran’s Nobel Peace Prize

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In this article Miranda Husain discusses how PM Imran must do away with the discrimination against the non-Muslims and minority sects at home before hoping for a Nobel Peace Prize.

It wasn’t so long ago that much of the world was patting Immy on the back. Over his exceptional handling of the recent standoff with India. And as luck would have it — there wasn’t a slow-clap anywhere to be heard. For even his detractors found themselves reluctantly acknowledging this premier league statesman’s utter panache. Despite the one-upmanship of his party possibly securing re-election some four years from now; as per murmurings in retired military circles. But then along came Jacinda Ardern. To steal PTI’s global thunder. Yet this was hardly a targeted strike.

Faced with the worst terrorist atrocity in her country, the New Zealand prime minister responded with compassion. Not hatred. Thereby winning hearts and minds everywhere. Touchingly reminding everyone and their cat that pulling back from the brink oftentimes takes place on home turf.

Within national borders. Such steadfast commitment to rewriting the social contract between state and minority communities was rewarded by a standing ovation at the memorial service for Christchurch massacre victims; attended by some 20,000.

Sadly, most avowals to fast-track cultural and socio-economic integration typically come in the wake of unanticipated bloodshed. Though Ms Ardern’s supporters hope that her “humane” response to anti-Muslim hate crimes will offer a blueprint of sorts to western governments grappling with the rise of white supremacy; fuelled by a global shift towards right-wing politics. Particularly in Europe. Where linkages between extremist fringe groups and incitement to murder can no longer be ignored.

So far so good. Except for the subsequent pandering to states and the refusal to recognise their own unhidden hand in unleashing a chain reaction. Even while getting a medal when lost in action. Regardless of whether minority groups are victims or aggressors.

‘The Satanic Verses’ was published some three decades ago; neatly coinciding with the run-up to the Bosnian war. British Muslims were cast in the role of “mad mullahs”. A people willing to up arms to defeat the power of the written word. Far-right groups emerged as the only winners from this macabre spectacle; finding themselves the unlikely recipients of gift-horses galore.

Fast-forward to the 7/7 bombings and a singular message bombarded the chattering class: failure of the multicultural model. Conveniently circumventing any exploration of possible blowback from a militarised foreign policy in the Muslim world and radicalisation at home. The fallout of which was to overlook toxic co-dependancy between white supremacists and Islamist fundamentalists.

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This is where Kaptaan can step forward to fill in the blanks. For the march of the far-right isn’t exclusively restricted to those pluralist societies of the West. It also resonates in a hard country like Pakistan. Where constitutional provisions discriminate against non-Muslim and minority sects alike.

Duly providing the necessary breathing space for a Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to unilaterally throw out meritocracy with the democratic bathwater. In the form of a single ruling requiring all civil servants to declare their faith. While additionally calling on Ahmadis to self-identify and not shake and shiver behind ‘ordinary’ Muslim names.

All of which ought to have recalled the Yellow Star worn by Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe; as a precursor to one of the world’s darkest episodes. Not insignificantly, the IHC chief wasn’t removed for incitement to religious hatred. But for alleging ISI interference in stalling judicial proceedings against Nawaz Sharif and his heir apparent until after the 2018 general election.

Cats and citizenry alike were force-fed the same line. The one about how casting ballots — engineered or otherwise — for Team Khan would usher in the dream of Naya Pakistan. Of course, no one, felines included, expected the new set-up to reverse overnight decades of institutional anti-minority malice. That being said, however, the PTI government hasn’t got off to the best of starts. In fact, the U-turns have been both cruel and devastating. From kicking Dr Atif Mian out of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) on account of his Ahmadi faith being unpalatable to the resurgent and violent religious right. To kowtowing to the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Khadim Rizvi by directing the Supreme Court to review its own verdict in the Asia Bibi case; effectively placing the ruling regime in the dock for judicial contempt.

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That the Christian farm labourer is still not free despite being twice acquitted on all charges of blasphemy represents a blatant perversion of justice. Nothing more. Certainly nothing less. To dismissing the recent forced conversion case involving two Hindu girls as an “internal matter”.

For when combined with lofty claims of Pakistan somehow transforming into a nation where minorities enjoy full citizenship rights — unlike Modi’s India — it risks reducing real-life suffering to mere political point-scoring. Casual tokenism at its worst.

And from there it is but a small hop, skip and jump towards establishing a veritable hierarchy of inalienable safeguards. Meaning the powers-that-be can talk of Kashmiri rights while remaining unforthcoming about those pertaining to the Hazara and Pashtuns. All the while actively reminding the latter of external red-lines. Not only does this sound an awful lot like attempting to intellectualise ethno-religious racism. It also serves to fuel the right-wing agenda. Both at home and abroad. When honest introspection is urgently required.

If Khan Sb is sincere about remonstrating against western hypocrisy on human rights — he must lead by example. Thus if he is committed to garnering worldwide goodwill on this front he would do well to have Asia Bibi released in accordance with due process.

Not least because this will earn the respect and support of minority groups here in this country. As a long overdue first step. But mainly because this is the right thing to do. And ultimately more valuable than being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Then Immy really will look like the cat that got the cream.

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