Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari dropped hints that he will work towards abolishing Pakistan’s controversial laws against Ahmadi Muslims. The 28-year-old politician admitted that Pakistan had a lot to answer for the way how minorities were being treated in the country.
Responding to a question about the role of Pakistan People’s Party in introducing the legislation against Ahmadis in 1974, Bilawal said:
We can go into the past and keep talking about what people have done at various points in our history…..What I look forward to doing is showing the leadership that’s necessary today and coming up with a practical progressive agenda of something of what we can do and what is achievable and the peoples party is focusing on that and really been taking the lead.
PPP has tried to establish itself as Pakistan’s progressive and liberal party but has faced criticism for failing to protect minorities in its stronghold of Sindh. The province of Sindh which has the largest population of Hindu community in Pakistan has been swamped with hundreds of forced conversion cases where young Hindu girls have been abducted and forced to convert to Islam.
He further said:
I look forward to working with other political parties to create an atmosphere of equality amongst all minority communities of Pakistan. It is a long road ahead and it’s not something that is gonna be able to take place in one election cycle.
Bilawal who is the only son of former two-time premier Benazir Bhutto said he plans to take Pakistan towards a positive and more liberal direction. Taking a shot at the Islamization drive of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the ruling PML-N political party he said:
This is the conservative PML-N Muslim League-Nawaz that used to try and be the AmeeulMomineen (Leader of Muslims)
In his remarks, he further indicated that these “soft power issues” would require more than one election cycle and a broader consensus. He said:
It is a long road ahead and it’s not something that is gonna be able to take place in one election cycle. I am hoping that we will be able to build a more broader consensus on such issues, there is not that space at the moment
Responding to a follow-up question about PPP’s role in the institutionalization of discrimination against Ahmadis and how will PPP go on about changing the discriminatory laws, Bilawal said:
I think it takes a lot of bravery and leadership to break out of what has become a vicious cycle of otherization in Pakistan and where there is a complete and utter lack of empathy and not treating your fellow human beings as equal citizens
I understand there is a lot of….criticism (and) debate around this incredibly controversial topic and the Pakistan people’s party…..well I mean….all the political parties that played a role in this (anti-Ahmadi legislation) really need to have a more open debate about it.
Do (you think) we haven an atmosphere in Pakistan that encourages that open debate (which) would not result in the death of anybody who takes diversion views on this particular issue, I don’t think we are there yet.
I do hope that your and my generation will get to a point where we can have a more open, honest debate about this topic.
In 1974 PPP founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced a constitutional amendment which declared the minority Ahmadi Muslims as ‘non-Muslim’. Since then the Ahmadis faced severe persecution at the hands of the Government as their beliefs are considered heretical not only by the public but also by the state.