Pakistan’s campaign season has never been far from calamity. On Monday, 25 people died after a suicide bomber attacked an election rally in a village in the Kurram tribal region. The white tiger used as a rally prop by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was reported to have died, of severe dehydration, on the campaign trail (though rumors swirl he may still be alive). The best athlete in the race—Imran Khan, the playboy-haired cricket star running as something of a reformer—suffered head injuries after tumbling maladroitly more than seven feet from atop a cherry picker at a campaign event in Lahore.
So why not take a break from the sweaty season of loudspeakers, pop-up rallies, and vote-pandering with a nice refreshing Shezan mango drink, one of Pakistan’s iconic beverages?
Except, come to think of it, the Shezan drink, and the saga of the company that founded it, is no reprieve from the madness of Pakistani politics at all. The publicly traded Shezan International Ltd. company was founded by, and for many Pakistanis still symbolizes, the Ahmadi religious minority, which has become one of the great sacrificial lambs of the 2013 campaign.
Ahmadis are to Muslims roughly what Mormons are to Christians, only way more persecuted.
You may have heard of the Ahmadis in recent days. At risk of oversimplification, they are to Muslims roughly what Mormons are to Christians. That is, they follow the mainstream faith, but also believe in the divinity and prophesy of their own spiritual leader as well. This has made them a target throughout the Muslim world since their founding in the late 19th Century. Two weeks ago, Khan released a video message to clarify his absolute support for the second amendment of Pakistan’s Constitution, which declares that Ahmadis are non-Muslims and forbids the practice of their religion in the country—a particularly dangerous statement, given the country’s penchant for religious violence. Although Khan openly supports Christians and other religious groups and has, in general, supported the protection of minorities in Pakistan, he has singled out the three to four million Ahmadis living in the country as unfit to practice their beliefs.
Khan’s defenders say he was forced into this statement, after a supposedly scandalous video emerged of a fellow party member actually asking—gasp!—for Ahmadi votes. It was enough to have hardliners label Khan himself a heretic.