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Tactless remarks

March 18, 2010

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Such remarks warrant criticism but what makes them worse is the position of the person who makes them. -Photo by APP
BARELY days after the Punjab chief minister was caught playing to the Taliban gallery, another high official from the province is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This time, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif has sparked outrage for reportedly saying that Hindus were responsible for financing acts of terrorism in Pakistan. The remarks came while the judge was hearing two identical petitions against the possible extradition of Afghan Taliban suspects. It may well have been a slip of the tongue by Mr Sharif, who might have mistakenly said 'Hindu' instead of 'India' — nevertheless it was a tasteless remark to say the least.

Although such remarks warrant criticism what makes them worse is the position of the person who makes them. These sort of comments are the last thing one expects to hear from a judge, that too the chief justice of a provincial high court. What sort of message are we sending to our minorities, as well as to the world, when the holder of such a respected public office makes comments that come across as thoughtless? The Hindu members of the National Assembly walked out of the house on Tuesday to protest the remarks. The members said the comments had hurt the feelings of Pakistani Hindus — and there is no doubt that they had.

As it is, Pakistan scores quite poorly when it comes to treating minorities fairly. Remarks such as these put our already marginalised minorities in an even tougher spot, as the patriotic credentials of non-Muslims living in this country are put into question. Though foreign elements may be involved in terrorist activities within Pakistan, maligning a whole community based on its faith is totally unacceptable. Before making such tactless remarks, our public figures should consider how much they dislike it when others equate Muslims with terrorism. A member of the National Assembly quite correctly advised our judges to concentrate on the dispensation of justice in Tuesday's session. In the meantime, one hopes that Justice Sharif explains his comments.