Bigoted, offensive assertion

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  • Fayyaz Chohan’s inexcusable remarks

Judging from the outraged reaction to the former Punjab minister for information and culture (but not enlightenment) Fayyazul Hassan Chohan’s derogatory remarks against a religious community, his furious PTI party colleagues being foremost among the critics, a huge question mark hung over his competence for continuing in his cabinet post. His political journey which began in 2002 with MMA, next stop PML-Q and the present (final destination?) PTI embrace, will no doubt be followed with considerable interest in the coming days. Derogatory name-calling of political opponents, with misogyny thrown in and on February 24, shocking fanning of religious hatred and racism, are some of the transgressions committed by the rashly outspoken politician, before and especially after, his elevation as minister in August 2018. In the modern world, racism and misogyny are sensitive enough subjects in themselves to mar a man’s life and career, but in the case of prominent public figures, elected political leaders even more so, the faults are magnified manifold, and multiply in notoriety and scandal.

That the Punjab chief minister asked him to tender his resignation came as no surprise, given that the minister’s crime was too grave, too difficult to digest, even after his belated apology and roundabout explanations. He will not be sorely missed, few tears will be shed on his resignation, but a warning signal would unmistakably be sent out to public figures that harbour ambitions of future similar vulgar indiscretions and spewing of religious hatred. The swift, blunt and no-nonsense manner in which PTI leadership, including Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, PM’s special assistant on political affairs Naeemul Haque and Finance Minister Asad Umar responded to Chohan’s faux pas left no doubt where the party sentiment lay.

The minister’s rant on the religious habits of the religious community which numbers some eight million in Pakistan, clearly demanded his resignation as a political necessity, but expiation of the hurt feelings of an already insecure Hindu minority will require wider effort and healing actions over time. An unfortunate case of foot in-mouth disease, which in our polity afflicts mainly the influential and mighty, with the first signs being occupation of a ministerial seat, will have claimed another, hopefully the last, victim.