Daily Times: What has happened to the minorities in Pakistan over the last few months could not be taken as spontaneous or scattered events. The burning down of temples, the instant verdict of a death sentence in Sawan Masih’s case and now the arrest of Tahir Ahmed, an Ahmedi, on the charge of desecrating the Quran indicates that a concentrated, manipulated and motivated effort is underway to create an atmosphere of intolerance and harassment against the minorities, particularly in Sindh and generally in Pakistan. Not that we are not familiar with the pattern that rages against the minorities or even at times against Muslims on charges of blasphemy. However, the rise in tension and the ensuing traction within the ranks of the clerics is disturbing to say the least. The signs indicate that Pakistan is apace towards a future that has no place for divergent religious views leave alone people from different religions and sects. Pakistan’s religious culture has always had a strong imprint of Sufism that inherently preaches tolerance, patience and congeniality.
The history of the subcontinent had been an account of coexistence between people of different religions and sects. To the Mughal kings and even those famous for their ruthlessness against non-Muslims, the idea to create a wedge of differences between communities through extreme interpretations of Islamic values was never implemented. The crux of Sufi Islam and the reason for its popularity in the hybrid ethno-religious culture of the subcontinent was its appeal that threaded Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus together. They celebrated each others’ religious events and respected others’ religious beliefs, notwithstanding the ultra-radical spoilers who could never influence the dominant discourse of tolerance within religions and cultures. Even today the tombs of Sufi saints are frequented by both Muslims and Hindus alike. They are revered by both, not only in India but also in Pakistan. But the imported imprint of Deobandi and Salafi interpretations of Islam and the official backing given to extremist elements for our adventures in Afghanistan have changed the complexion of the religious narrative. On top of all ths, Ziaul Haq’s penchant to Islamize Pakistan has resulted in a legal vacuum that wolfs down the innocent but leaves the wicked untouched.