KARACHI: Zahid Hamid would not have expected the train wreck he was heading into when he was reappointed law minister in the Abbasi cabinet just three months ago.
The first item on his agenda was the routine task of overseeing the preparation of a new law for the 2018 elections. As it would turn out, the job was anything but routine.
Hamid became a lamb to the slaughter as the government capitulated to the demands of a little-known cleric and his flock.
At the onset of protests against the ‘accidental’ reworking of a clause relating to the Finality of Prophethood – part of the oath of office – Hamid was being called out by all and sundry, including opposition members who had been part of the parliamentary panel that wrote the law. Even though the mistake had been rectified before the protests even began, a few party sages, possibly including Hamid himself, had already concluded that to maintain order, he had to go.
The party boss, however, disagreed. By Monday, after three weeks of paralysing protests in Islamabad, the sages were proven right. Hamid voluntarily tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, hoping it would be enough to quell the protests. His only request, apparently, was that the PML-N makes an active effort to clear his name. The resignation was accepted, but there is no word on the request.
In his own words, he hoped it would “pull the country out of a crisis-like situation”.
Willingness to resign may have turned into deep desire after Hamid’s ancestral home in the Pasrur area of Sialkot district was attacked by protesters on Saturday. Sources said the incident left the minister concerned about the safety of his family.
Hamid is not alone. The homes of at least four senior PML-N leaders have been attacked, and condemnations have been fleeting.
In a statement, Hamid said the Election Act 2017 was formulated by a parliamentary committee comprising representatives from all political parties.
Earlier, the minister had also released a video message on popular video-sharing site Youtube to assure the people that he believed in the Finality of Prophethood.
He read the oath from the corrected law – I believe in the Finality of Prophethood. I am not a follower of any claimant of prophethood, nor do I believe that any such claimant of prophethood is a Muslim…Nor [am I] an Ahmadi.”
He then reiterated that the Constitution of Pakistan declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
“I love Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the core of my heart. My family and I are prepared to lay down our lives for the honour and sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).”
Despite all this, before resigning, Hamid met with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Although the younger Sharif brother had been among the first to call for Hamid’s sacking – without naming him – the meeting was not to broker peace with a party leader calling for his head, but to plead for protection.
The first clause of the government and Tehreek-e-Labbaik’s agreement, or terms of surrender, makes a not-so-veiled reference to the plight Hamid is in. “Law Minister Zahid Hamid should resign or be removed, and Tehreek-e-Labbaik will not issue any fatwa against him.”
The mere fact that the last nine words had to be included is proof that even though the streets may now be clear, a cloud still hangs over Hamid’s future.