Imran Khan: The hero that stole Christmas
If Imran Khan does not reschedule his rally, he runs the risk of alienating the country's largest religious minority.
In a recent letter addressed to Imran Khan, the Lahore-based umbrella organisation for NGOs, the Centre for Human Rights Education (CHRE), expressed its ‘concern’ to the PTI chairman on his party’s plan of holding a public rally in Karachi on December 25 which marks the celebration of Christmas the world over.
While recognising the right of the party to hold a public gathering on a day of its choosing, the organisation asked the PTI chief to change the day for the rally that is scheduled to be held in Karachi on Christmas. The letter states that holding a rally on December 25 will not only ‘negate the existence’ of millions of Christians in Pakistan, deny them of their political right to participate in the rally but will also disturb the festivities of the Christian community on the religious event.
The CHRE, consists of more than 20 member organizations from across Pakistan, and its letter seems to have ignited a debate on the ‘emerging mainstream political party’s policy regarding religious minorities. While preparations are underway for the rally in Karachi, the letter has initiated a debate which on one hand questions the party’s policy regarding religious minorities while on the other indicates a degree of affinity (and even expectations) the religious minorities hold with the new player in politics.
What is interesting is the fact that while the letter stresses on Khan to reconsider the date for the rally in Karachi, it also points to the issue of political participation of the Christian community in the rally. This indicates, perhaps, a popular trend in favour of the PTI among the members of this religious minority who find themselves having to choose between their religious duty and political leaning.
The Insaf Students Federation, the student wing of PTI, in a recent press release showed their resolve to hold the December 25 rally in Karachi in commemoration of the birth anniversary of the Quaid-e-Azam. Supporters of the decision claim the reservations are immature considering several Muslim minorities in different countries across the globe continue with their daily life on their religious events including Eid. But the question is whether it is wise to conduct a political rally on the biggest religious event of the largest religious minority in the country?.
After the historic turnout at the PTI rally in Lahore, it is but natural to associate ‘great expectations’ with the December 25 rally in Karachi. However, by ignoring the concern expressed by the largest religious minority in Pakistan, Khan would perhaps be alienating almost 3 million Christian population of the country.
Holding the Karachi rally on December 25 may not be an attempt to intentionally exclude a segment of Pakistani society but to unite the nation on a date that holds equal significance for every Pakistani. Since December 25 marks the birth anniversary of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, it seems suited to hold a public rally in the country’s metropolitan centre by an emerging party that hopes to garner support from people of all religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that other parties won’t play politics using this concern. A provincial minister from Sindh has already said that the rally will “hurt the sentiments of the Christian community.”
Ironically, the minister is a member of the ruling party whose Christian member of the Sindh Assembly recently resigned, on the grounds that the government had failed to safeguard the rights of the religious minorities.
Despite all the arguments, what remains to be seen is how the Christian community, especially those who support Khan, addresses this situation and how, if at all, it is to affect the popularity of Imran Khan.
A shorter version of this post was published earlier.