We have become a nation that no longer distinguishes between public and private behaviour. Any country that makes a question of private morality a matter to be settled by the courts and other public bodies is one that is no longer guaranteeing its citizens freedom of thought and expression. The latest victim of those who would like everyone to conform to their narrow interpretation of morality is Deputy Attorney General (DAG) of Pakistan Khurshid Khan who has been ‘accused’ of polishing shoes, sweeping floors and washing dishes outside various places of worship on a recent trip to India in a bid to promote interfaith harmony. This has now become a public affair with the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) sending a show-cause notice to him to explain his conduct. The actions of the SCBA are reflective of an intolerant mindset. What the DAG did in India is entirely his own business but that his actions should become so controversial show just how much hatred some in Pakistan have for our neighbours that even a simple act of humility and kindness is being questioned.
Yet, the SCBA’s actions should come as no surprise. Many people in Pakistan discriminate against Ahmadis because their interpretation of religion is different from the majority and Hazara Shias are murdered because they belong to a different sect. The laws against blasphemy have been used to murder, imprison and deny the rights of non-Muslims. The law has been used as a cudgel to make sure that only the dominant group gets to define private morality.
It should be ironic that lawyers, who should be working to secure the rights of everyone, are targeting the DAG and have taken it upon themselves to target those who offend their narrow sense of morality. It was the lawyers who showered Salmaan Taseer’s murderer with petals. Now, it looks like the DAG will be the latest victim of their crusade to define Pakistan in their own image.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.