Tahir Ashrafi’s Appointment As ‘Religious Harmony’ Representative Is A Cruel Joke
Allama Tahir Asharfi, who has recently been appointed as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative on religious harmony, is on record spewing bigotry against the religious minority communities of Pakistan. Therefore, his appointment as a government official and that too as a representative for ‘religious harmony’ is nothing but a cruel joke.
In 2014, Ashrafi went on a Twitter outburst against the Ahmadi community of Pakistan, calling them liars and enemies of Pakistan.
He had also had Twitter arguments back then with Shia activists calling them ‘muttah ki pedawaar’ (product of temporary marriage).
Although his act of condemning Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s murder over alleged blasphemy made him popular among progressive circles as a ‘moderate’ Mullah, the fact is that Ashrafi is anything but moderate. The cleric’s links with members of banned sectarian outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) are well-known. He is also said to have played a role in LeJ chief Malik’s release from jail in 2014, who was later killed in a police encounter in 2015. He frequently held meetings with the members of these banned outfits. His links with such elements should have been enough reason for the government of Pakistan to refrain from appointing him at such a position. But it appears that the PTI government is hardly concerned about the optics anymore. His appointment also shows that the government does not intend to uphold religious harmony in Pakistan in true sense of the word because if it did, they would have appointed a non-controversial person as representative to the PM on ‘religious harmony’.
Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that Tahir Asharfi’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s representative was done in order to appease Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s ties with the kingdom suffered a blow when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi issued a statement that if Saudi Arabia didn’t support Pakistan over Kashmir, Islamabad will seek support from other Muslim countries. Pakistan government officials and the powers-that-be then began to control the damage done and COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited Saudi Arabia amid the tensions between the two countries.
It is also well-known that Tahir Ashrafi is close to the Saudi regime and he had also visited Saudi Arabia amid the diplomatic row between Islamabad and Riyadh.
Pakistan government must not throw its religious minorities under the bus to appease a country that has long been funding terror in Pakistan. Tahir Ashrafi’s appointment sent out a message within Pakistan that the government does not mean business when it talks about ‘religious harmony’.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.