If a Muslim can head India’s Intelligence Bureau, can a Hindu ever be DG ISI?

Imagine a Hindu DG ISI, imagine an Ahmadi prime minister and imagine a Sikh foreign minister. Imagine.

Hamza Mannan January 04, 2013
Salman Khurshid, Altamas Kabir, Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Syed Asif Ibrahim.

The Khan brothers, Imran Hashmi, Saif Ali Khan, the Pathan brothers, Sania Mirza.

(The roll call continues...)

Though the names on the second line may perhaps be more familiar, the names that shine bright on the first line are of keener interest. Unlike in Pakistan, some of India’s highest political perches are occupied by Muslims.

Yes, the God-fearing Musalmans.

Take Salman Khurshid, for instance. He was recently appointed to serve as Foreign Minister of India, a position which likens him to the soon-to-be Secretary of State, John Kerry, and on our end, Hina Rabbani Khar. In the case of Pakistan, it is a position that has historically been occupied by a Muslim.

Altamas Kabir holds the mantle of being the highest judicial authority in India. As Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court, he is endowed with supreme power. Though a reticent figure, he is said to be prudential in his rulings and as the newly appointed Justice, he is sure to take hold of India’s judiciary by virtue of constitutionally astute and righteous decision making.

Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi is the former Chief Election Commissioner of India, and was tasked with one of the most pressing of assignments: holding free and fair elections. It may seem to be the case that the task is of little merit, but Pakistanis have had their share of rigged elections, and understand the need for partiality. In fact, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the 1990 election should have been an awakening to strengthen and reform electioneering laws, and with the help of the CEC, Pakistan can be put on sound footing when it comes to elections that are free of impartial intrusion.

Hamid Ansari is the Vice President of India, and is the only person to have served two consecutive terms in the office he currently presides over. Therefore, it shouldn’t be judged that India’s appointments are mere placeholders; rather one should acknowledge the genuine political participation of Muslims.

Lastly – but perhaps most importantly – India recently tapped Asif Ibrahim to be the director of India’s Intelligence Bureau. In the Indian press, he is described as an able successor, and a champion of national security. Given that the Intelligence Bureau seems to be perpetually interlinked with the ISI – for reasons pernicious and well-documented, this is soon to be a household name, if it isn’t already.

What Pakistanis across all stripes need to reflect on is that India as a government institution is becoming increasingly tolerant of religious minorities, and it’s time we do the same.

At present, to suggest the appoint of a Hindu to the post of director general of the ISI would surely be met with derision and scorn. Such is the case because we’re seemingly bred in a political environment that looks upon religious minorities as inferior.

This year Foreign Policy Magazine, the flagship publication in international politics, ranked the mending of Indo-Pak relations as one of the top 10 stories of the year. Both New Delhi and Islamabad have taken genuine steps towards reconciliation.

Sure, easing visa-restrictions and getting rid of the positive list of goods that may be imported from India is a needed step in the campaign for Aman Ki Asha, but it will only be through establishing trust with the residing populace that Pakistan will manage to progress towards understanding.

To restore confidence in minorities of their safety and their belonging, the least the government of Pakistan can do is to appoint – on merit, of course – members of religious minorities to offices where they most belong.

This is one step that doesn’t require the approval of India. It is an initiative that can be taken on our own will, with our own conscience.

Imagine a Hindu DG ISI.

Imagine an Ahmadi prime minister.

Imagine a Sikh foreign minister.


The ball is in our court, and it will stay here for the time being. It is time we execute.
Hamza Mannan Hamza Mannan is a freelance writer and his work has appeared across various newspapers.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.