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PML-N Must Distance Itself From Captain Safdar’s Bigotry Against Ahmadis

Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader Captain (r) Safdar has once again spewed bigotry against the Ahmadi community of Pakistan, urging his supporters to follow in the footsteps of Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. While addressing an election rally in Nowshera on Sunday, the former MNA, who also happens to be the husband of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, called on his followers to stand up against the appointment of Ahmadis on key positions even if it means they would be sent to the gallows like Mumtaz Qadri.

Captain (r) Safdar’s extremist views about the country’s religious minorities are not unknown. In 2017, he had lashed out at the Ahmadis community while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly and demanded they be banned from being recruited in the Pakistan Army. Safdar’s frequent bigoted outbursts are condemned widely on social media, even by some supporters of the PML-N, yet the party chooses to ignore his behaviour.

Dangerous consequence of bigotry
Pakistan’s Ahmadi community faces systemic violence and discrimination that has continued unabated due to successive government’s unwillingness to address the issue. There have been several instances of members of the community being attacked after emergence of social media campaign against them. What is worse is that the government cosies up to the perpetrators and has espoused a policy of appeasement towards them.

Safdar’s bigotry is sadly not the only example of public figures inciting violence against the Ahmadis. In April last year, State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan stated that ‘blasphemers’ should be hanged, in reference to the controversy surrounding inclusion of Ahmadi representatives in the government-formed Minority Rights Commission. The news of Ahmadis’ inclusion in the commission had led to a hateful campaign against them on social media, after which the reports were denied by Religious Affairs Minister Noor ul Haq Qadri who said that Ahmadis do not consider themselves non-Muslims which is why they cannot be included in a body comprising minority representatives. This is one of the many instances of the government capitulating to extremists at the expense of enabling further discrimination against religious minorities.

Fight for ‘true democracy’ sans minorities?

The PML-N should therefore realise that upholding progressive causes like restoration of true democracy also entails standing up for the rights of religious minorities. An individual who routinely endangers the lives of Pakistan’s minorities by openly inciting violence against them should not be backed by a party that claims to champion democracy and civilian supremacy. It is about time the PML-N distanced itself from Captain Safdar’s bigotry.

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Naya Daur