Fazal-ur- Rehman Khokhar, UK
On the 9th of October 2017, National Assembley Member, Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar of Pakistan stood trial on charges of corruption. On the 10th he delivered a speech in Parliament that shook and shocked the nation.
Captain Safdar, son-in-law of the former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had been arrested upon arrival at Islamabad airport and escorted to the court, yet in spite of this frosty reception and the even more chilling prospect of a guilty verdict looming over his head, Safdar somehow found the time to deliver a speech in Parliament against Pakistan’s already heavily persecuted Ahmadi Muslim community. A speech broadcast to the nation of over 200 million.
In his speech, Safdar accused the Ahmadi community of posing a threat to the constitution and ideology of Pakistan which, according to Safdar’s version of history, was built on the foundations of Islamic conservatism and the idea of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of Prophethood). In this he pandered to the extremist clerics who hold sway over much of the country’s masses (read: voter base). Many of Pakistan’s clerics consider Ahmadis to be apostates due to their acceptance of Mirza Ghulan Ahmad of Qadian as the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi of this age. Given the penchance of clerics for violence, one shudders what sort of messiah they are waiting for.
For good measure Safdar also went on to lament that the Physics Institute of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad this year had been named after Dr. Abdus Salam, a distinguished Pakistani Ahmadi Muslim scientist. Dr Salam, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, remains the only Pakistani to date to have received this honour. But Safdar suggested that Pakistan should have no association with him, and called him an ‘infidel’, simply because Dr Salam belonged to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Captain Safdar’s tirade against the community is mind-boggling in light of the historical contributions made by Ahmadis in Pakistan’s short but turbulent history – Dr. Abdus Salam we have already mentioned but there are countless others among them, such as Sir Muhammad Zafarulla Khan, who was the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan. He was also the first Asian and the only Pakistani to have presided over the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.
Perhaps even more painful and cruelly ironic was Captain Safdar’s call on the military to ban Ahmadis – despite a long and impressive history of Ahmadi servicemen many of whom heroically sacrificed their lives for their country and were decorated with the highest military honours. Among them were Major General Iftikhar Janjua, Zafar Ahmad Chaudhary, Lieutenant General Abdul Ali Malik and Lieutenant General Akhtar Hussain Malik to name only a few.
Captain Safdar’s comments were not just irresponsible, they were outright provocative and served no purpose apart from fanning the flames of hatred and division in order to sway a few voters and distract attention from the scandals he and his family are currently implicated in. To Captain Safdar, I have only this to say: please leave the already persecuted minorities of Pakistan out of your political games. High time Pakistan acted on its much vaunted plan to end hate speech and uphold human rights for all.