Pelting politicians isn’t funny
The political climate in Pakistan is turning violent, said Imad Zafar. During a recent campaign rally for July’s general elections, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had ink thrown in his face; at another, a tossed shoe struck former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the neck. In both cases, the culprits were members of the opposition Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik, led by fanatic mullah Khadim Hussain Rizvi. This is the same group that shut down the center of Islamabad for three weeks last fall with a sit-in protest against a small change to the oath that all incoming Pakistani parliamentarians must swear. The party argued that the words “I believe,” used to replace the stronger “I solemnly swear” in the proclamation that Muhammad was Islam’s final prophet, amounted to blasphemy. The government eventually capitulated to Tehreek-e-Labaik and the wording was restored. That victory merely emboldened the religious extremists. Now Pakistan is seeing “the rise of a new breed of fanatic” who “believes blindly in the propaganda of religious hatred and patriotic bigotry.” What’s particularly dangerous is that Sharif’s party, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz, has strong support among religious progressives. If Sharif decides to fight back by using religious imagery to fire up his own supporters, no one will be able to “stop the anarchy and riots” that will result.