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Not a minor matter

Pakistan’s portrayal of Shah Rukh Khan as a victim of the majority community’s distrust of Muslims is nothing but a dogmatic reassertion of MA Jinnah’s two-nation theory that has no room or respect for India’s secular ethos. Vinod Sharma writes.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2013 02:30 IST
Vinod Sharma

Pakistan’s portrayal of Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) as a victim of the majority community’s distrust of Muslims is nothing but a dogmatic reassertion of MA Jinnah’s two-nation theory that has no room or respect for India’s secular ethos.

The construct ignores the Indian minorities’ constitutionally protected rights that are on a par with those of other faiths.

The pan-Islamic predilections that prompted Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik to ask India to ensure SRK’s security were no different from those of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed who said the Bollywood star could live in Pakistan if he felt insecure in India.

Saeed’s a law unto himself in Pakistan. But one wonders whether Malik spoke for his Pakistan People’s Party while paying lip-sympathy to SRK.

Such is his crisis of credibility that anti-graft activist Tahirul Qadri, who recently led a siege of Islamabad, ridiculed him as “Shaitan Malik” to pre-empt his inclusion in a government-appointed team that brokered a peace accord with him.

Even the Pakistani media that generously uses Malik’s sound bites takes his utterances with a pinch of salt. Seriously inclined journalists are convinced that the only time Malik isn’t putting his foot in his mouth is when he isn’t talking.

His remarks on SRK were an exercise in duplicity. The irony of it wasn’t lost on Pakistan’s suppressed and terrorised minorities including the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Ahmedias.

Dozens of Hindu families from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) have fled in recent months for safer destinations within Pakistan and in India.

Malik betrayed no understanding of the nuances in SRK’s article in a weekly while proffering unsolicited advice to India. The dichotomy was glaringly evident in his own failure to protect the minorities dispossessed of their properties and businesses in Pakistan.

There has been a spate of incidents of forcible conversion of their children, especially daughters, to Islam.

One such conversion of a Hindu boy, Sunil, was telecast live last year in a prime time Ramazan show hosted by a lady anchor notorious for selecting outlandish themes. She had earlier earned the civil libertarians’ wrath for setting her camera teams on young couples in public parks.

The Dawn wrote in response to the audience-based telecast: “The joy with which the conversion was greeted, the congratulations that followed, sent a clear signal that other religions don’t enjoy the same status in Pakistan as Islam does.”

The TV show served to “marginalise further” the minorities that in many ways were treated as second-class citizens, the newspaper concluded.

Unlike the Indian Muslims who are a political force, the minorities in Pakistan separately elected their representatives until the turn of the century. It was left to General Pervez Musharraf to scrap the exclusive order.

There are some exceptions to the rule. But the Pakistani establishment generally misses no opportunity to reaffirm Jinnah’s two-nation concept in a society riven by myriad ethnic and sectarian feuds resulting in wanton violence.

Flying in the face of the ideology that split the subcontinent are random killings of the Shias and the Ahmedias. The recurring violence is proof that Pakistan isn’t safe for even the Muslim minorities.

If that isn’t enough to silence Malik, may one recall what former Union minister Arif Mohammed Khan told his audience at a seminar in Pakistan before AB Vajpayee’s 1999 bus ride to Lahore.

The question he posed was a comprehensive riposte to Pakistan’s perception of Indian Muslims, very much linked to which is its territorial claim on Kashmir.

Taking head-on the Pakistani propaganda, Arif insisted that Muslims in India weren’t an object of pity, enjoying as they did the rights and liberties available to people of other faiths and persuasions. “You are free to pursue your Kashmir agenda.

But have you ever thought that it’s for us a matter of pride and satisfaction to have a Muslim majority province in a country where we aren’t in a majority?” he asked.

Many among his Pakistani co-panelists conceded they never viewed Kashmir in that perspective. It is about time they did.