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PML-N leader and Nawaz Sharif's son-in-law retired Captain Muhammad Safdar speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday.—DawnNews
PML-N leader and Nawaz Sharif's son-in-law retired Captain Muhammad Safdar speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday.—DawnNews

PML-N leader retired Captain Muhammad Safdar on Tuesday launched into a virulent tirade against Pakistan's persecuted Ahmadi community while speaking in the National Assembly. He accused the faith group of acting against the country's interests and called for action against its members.

Safdar, who is former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's son-in-law, also criticised the renaming of Quaid-i-Azam University's (QAU) physics centre after Professor Dr Abdus Salam, the country's first Nobel laureate — the grounds for the lawmaker's objections being the scientist's Ahmadi faith.

The renaming of the physics centre had been approved in December 2016 by Nawaz Sharif, who had also approved a grant for five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students. This programme is called the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship.

Nuclear physicist Abdus Salam hailed from the Ahmadi community, whose members constitute a minority in Pakistan. Its members have faced persecution and were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974.

"These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its Constitution and ideology. This situation is heading towards a dangerous point," said Safdar in his diatribe against the community.

Pakistan was created with an ideology to protect the finality of Prophethood [Khatm-i-Naboowat] so Islam is practised here, the PML-N leader said.

He then criticised the renaming of QAU's physics centre after Dr Salam, whom he called "a controversial figure that has been termed an infidel in light of the Constitution".

The legislator added that "we will not like any such institution associated with him."

Calling for 'action' against the community, Safdar, a former military serviceman, said he wanted to bring a resolution in the National Assembly calling for a “ban on recruitment of Qadianis [Ahmadis] in the armed forces".

"Because their’s is a false religion, in which there is no concept of jihad for Allah,” said Safdar, who continued his harangue against the community uninterrupted by other members of the House.

Safdar then urged JI lawmaker Sahibzada Tariqullah to bring forth a resolution against the renaming of the QAU physics centre, adding that after that he will table the resolution to ban recruitment of Ahmadis in the country's armed forces.

Read: A vulnerable minority

Safdar referred to the appointment of and promotion of military officers who he said were members of the Ahmadi community and "could not be trusted" with the responsibility of guarding the country's frontiers. He further said that government servants should be made to sign a declaration that they swear by the idea of Khatm-i-Naboowat.

“We have faith in Khatm-i-Naboowat. This is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country of 220 million people...I call Zulfikar Ali Bhutto a shaheed because he protected the idea of finality of prophethood and was hanged for doing so.”

Safdar is not the first lawmaker to raise objections to the renaming of QAU's physics centre after Dr Abdus Salam. Earlier, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) chief Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani had said that changing the department's name would not set what he called the right precedent.

Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

This measure was later followed with Gen Ziaul Haq making it a punishable offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam.

Ahmadis are also banned from preaching as well as from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. They are also not allowed to publish any material propagating their faith.

Members of the community have often been targeted in gun attacks. An attack on two Ahmadi places of worship in May 2010 which was carried out by suicide bombers led to 80 deaths.

Public outburst

Following Safdar's speech in the House, people took to Twitter to criticise the lawmaker's incendiary comments against the Ahmadi community, which is already a persecuted minority in Pakistan.

Some called PML-N out over Safdar's diatribe.

Questions were also raised about whether action could be taken against the lawmaker.

No political figure has commented on the speech so far.

Accountability trial

Safdar and his wife Maryam are currently facing a trial in the National Accountably Bureau's court with regards to the Avenfield reference.

On Oct 2, the accountability court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Safdar for failing to appear in court for hearings despite notices. Following this, he was taken into custody earlier this week by a NAB team minutes after his arrival in Islamabad from London. He was later released on bail after he submitted surety bonds worth Rs5 million.

As Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Safdar enjoys a special position in the PML-N. Though his reputedly hot-headed disposition at times has landed him in direct confrontation with senior party members. So much so, that his party membership was suspended when in the summer of 2012 he was blamed for creating serious rifts within PML-N's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter.

Safdar's comments in the assembly come only days after Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, also a member of the ruling PML-N, addressed the National Assembly and called for more restraint in using the term 'kafir'. "If we start handing out fatwas on kufr [cardinal sin] in every street and neighbourhood, and the maulvi in every street mosque starts handing out fatwas about who is kafir [an apostate] and who is Muslim, then [there will be chaos]. It is only up to God to decide who is going to heaven and hell — it is not our job," Ahsan had thundered, appealing to religious leaders and clerics.