Nothing symbolises a spectacular irony better than Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated sermons on the status of minorities in India. His remarks on the perceived ill-treatment of Muslims in India are not only divorced from reality but also reflect a devious ploy to stoke fires in India. It is not only paradoxical but preposterous for a leader of an Islamic nation, where a steadily declining population of minorities lacks even the basic rights, to hold forth on treatment of minorities in a secular and democratic country like India, which is guided by a robust Constitution and core values of equality. Widely seen as a prop of the all-powerful military, Imran, whose support for the anti-India militant outfits is well known, would not have made such observations without a nod from the Rawalpindi bosses. While participating in an official programme at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, he said that Muslims are being treated as second-class citizens in India. On earlier occasions too, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader made uncharitable observations on the perceived plight of minorities in India. At a rally to mark 100 days of his government, Imran had boasted that he would show the Narendra Modi government how to treat minorities and claimed that they would feel safe and protected in ‘Naya Pakistan’ that his party had promised. Predictably, his remarks evoked a widespread outrage across India.
The calculation in the Pakistani establishment appears to be that such remarks would cause unease among Muslims in India ahead of the general elections. However, it is puerile and preposterous to make such assumptions about people in India who are bound by a sense of oneness, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Hyderabad MP and president of AIMIM Asaduddin Owaisi has rightly hit back, saying that India didn’t need to learn about inclusiveness and communal amity from Pakistan. In fact, Imran’s promised ‘Naya Pakistan’ has a lot to learn from India’s inclusive values, secularism and equal rights and opportunities for minorities. It is not just the non-Muslims but also people from other sects of Islam, like Shias and Ahmedis, who are routinely targeted and persecuted in Pakistan, a country that was carved out in the name of religion. Despite its share of aberrations and inadequacies, India prides itself as being a secular, open and democratic society which has assimilated all major religions of the world and people of different faiths live together in harmony and enjoy equal rights. Unlike Pakistan where the draconian blasphemy law hangs like a sword over minorities who are routinely killed, forced to convert or driven out of the country, India is home to thriving diversity where people practising different faiths are made equal partners in development.