The test of courage


The recent outrage by Captain Muhammad Safdar Awan in the national assembly floor was met with reservations from politicians and citizens from all walks of life. The PML-N member of the national assembly adopted a venomous rhetoric against the Ahmedi minorities of Pakistan, calling upon the national institutions to refuse service opportunities to the Ahmedi minorities. He also demanded that the future political candidates should attach affidavits confirming their belief on finality of the prophet of Islam.

Captain Safdar did not stop there. According to the media reports, he not only raised hateful slogans against the Ahmedi community during his speech but, was seen in the lobby of the national assembly building, chanting for the extremist terrorist Mumtaz Qadri who was given death sentence for brutally murdering Salman Taseer, the then governor of Punjab.

Media handled this issue with baffled anxiety and distaste. Previously, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif had towed a different and magnanimous approach towards Pakistan’s religious minorities. And in the days to come the contrarian approach from among the party oscillated between extremes and served to entertain both sides of the minority right’s debate.

Sadly, despite ensuring the religious minorities rights in the national constitutions, the governments have been at loss to even showcase the will to protect its citizens’ livelihood. The contributions of major Pakistanis, belonging to the minority sects, are questioned continuously and viewed with distrust. The national heroes, belonging to religious minorities, are suspected even after their death. Hence the conservative majority of the country works as a pressure group to eliminate names of national heroes from textbooks and from the road signs.

Is it a matter of pride for a country where the first Nobel prize laureate’s name, when adopted as the physics department’s name at the Quaid-e-Azam University, is considered an attack on Islam? What Dr. Abdus Salam inspired in the world was a great service to humanity through his work towards theoretical physics. Switzerland realized this. A road in Geneva is named after Dr. Abdus Salam.

The whole confusion around the minorities’ rights may have served as a distraction amid the looming atmosphere above the leading party of the country: who are faced with multiple corruption charges and possible political extinction. In the midst of this political circus, hate speech was left unchecked. Prime Minister Pakistan said that he would tend to the matter and talk to Safdar but no mention was made of how a criminal offence was made as a member national assembly took advantage of his position and aside from protecting the minorities made them further vulnerable.

Human rights spokespersons are of the view that despite the fact that hate speech has been regarded as a criminal offence, the crimes against the religious minorities have increased over the last couple of years. The chair of the national assembly and the courts should heed the precarious situation religious minorities are lead to as a result of such tongue ashing.

Finally, The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.

We have tested Pakistan’s religious minorities enough.

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