Concerns over PM’s monitoring authority, some see it as vote-gaining tactic

Imran Khan announces group of Islamic scholars will be enlisted to monitor social media, schoolbooks, children’s cartoons

Prime Minister Imran Khan would be forming the “Rehmatul-lil-Aalimeen Authority” to oversee the dissemination of Islamic teachings in the country – an announcement that left several concerned over the viability of the decision.

The “Rehmatul-lil-Aalimeen Authority” was announced as part of the larger celebrations in the Islamic month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. At the inaugural event of a ten-day celebration during the month in Islamabad on Sunday, Khan said he would be the ‘patron-in-chief’ of the new authority, while a top Islamic scholar would be the chairman. The PM also said that Pakistanis would have to collectively stand up and fight against social evils such as poverty and corruption.

Journalist Roohan Ahmed tweeted that the authority was announced by the PM to show the ‘true face’ of Pakistan to the world. The authority would band together religious scholars from the world to monitor social media content, schoolbooks, and children’s cartoons to ensure Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) values were being spread in society. Ahmed said that the premier stressed on the need for research into Islamic heroes as well.

The PM’s vision for the committee raised concerns for several on the internet. Technologist Saba Gul said that it was necessary to stand up to the idea that Islam needed a protector to begin with. She added the role of the ‘custodian’ was historically vulnerable to exploitation. Gul said that Pakistan’s citizens needed protection, not Islam and its values.

A user was concerned about the technicalities of the plan and said that there were no Islamic scholars in Pakistan to the best of his knowledge. The user added that Khan should oversee the whole process himself, instead of handing authority to existing elements that would abuse the religious authority.

A user echoed the same concerns of clerical abuse of power and said that Khan’s government had mismanaged the economy like previous regimes. He added that the PM’s ‘reactionary Islamism’ would embolden the existing clerics.

Another also suggested that Khan was pandering to religious figures and in doing so masked his regime’s economic pitfalls.

More than one user said that Khan was using the ‘religious card’ ahead of the 2023 General Elections.

One user said that Khan should take the help of religious scholars to monitor the illicit activities that were sometimes common in seminaries themselves.

The concern of abuse in seminaries was raised by others too. A user said that scholars weren’t even able to hold abusers accountable in madrassahs and were the ones who should be investigated.

Several users drew parallels between Khan’s approach to Islam and former president General Zia ul Haq’s Islamization policies.