A Return to Founding Principles

imagesQuaid-i-Azam envisioned a democratic Pakistan with rights for all. In a radio broadcast to the people of the US on February, 1948 he said “in any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians, and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.” Yes, Pakistan was created for Muslims, but citizens were free to go to their mosques, churches and temples. Our own flag has a symbolic section in white dedicated to the religious minorities within the country.

Within a decade of the nation’s inception, the 1956 constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic; it also deemed Islam as the official religion of the country. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the patronbhutto of the 1973 constitution took it a step further and declared Islam as the state religion. A year later an amendment was also added to the constitution which proclaimed Ahmadis as non-muslims. Bhutto’s government went on to make Islamiat and Pakistan Studies compulsory in schools and banned alcohol in Pakistan. Ultimately his government’s policies led to empowerment of Islamist groups. Add in Zia-ul-Haq’s fanaticism and Pakistan’s destiny was on a treacherous path. Zia managed to indoctrinate religion into the society, media, armed forces and universities. Politicians have relied on religion since that point to garner votes and allow extremism to seep even deeper into the societal fabric of Pakistan.

Image: Dawn.com - Feb 12, 2013

Image: Dawn.com – Feb 12, 2013

Using religion as an extension of politics often leads to discrimination and imposition of a majority’s beliefs on a minority. Add illiteracy and ignorance to the combination of religion and politics and we arrive at the current toxic situation in Pakistan. The use of contraception is deemed un-Islamic by local clerics while 4 million babies are being born into extreme poverty every year. Some of these impoverished children are the same we see on frequent news reports with suicide vests and righteous hopes of fulfilling their godly duty. Freedoms of speech along with women’s rights are suppressed in the name of religion. Let’s not forget Quaid-i-Azam’s words “no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men”. Instead of attempting to define who is a Muslim or not, Pakistan’s government should focus on granting equal rights to all men and women whether they are devout Muslims, non-Muslims, non-practicing Muslims or atheists.

Image: The Friday Times, July 14, 2013

Image: The Friday Times – July 14, 2013

Religious beliefs other than Islam must be tolerated in order for Pakistan to move beyond this era of violence; after all, the original constitution protected the freedom to profess, practice and propagate any religion. If other religious views are such a threat to an individual’s beliefs then he or she must question their own faith rather than seeking to harm “non-believers”. Spiteful mullahs should not be allowed to incite another mob under the primeval blasphemy laws.

At this turbulent time, Pakistanis need to reevaluate the role of religion within the government. A true democratic state cannot play a game of religious favorites, particularly not the radicalized version which is being preached by illiterate clerics to the poor. It is time to realize that faith or lack of faith is unique to individuals and it should be kept that way. No one person has the right to impose their system of belief upon others. Overcoming years of Islamization will be a challenge in this time of economic woes and conflict. But, these trials should also provide an equally strong motive to right our path. The Quaid envisioned Pakistan to be a modern, progressive and democratic state. Sixty six years after independence that dream still has not materialized. Let’s use this time to peacefully reflect and come together to prove that the dreams of our founder didn’t pass away with his mortal body.



1 Response to “A Return to Founding Principles”

  1. 1 reza
    September 25, 2013 at 8:06 am

    these sentiments are shared by majority of Pakistanis in general and minorities in specific. Successive regimes used Islam as ante to win over mass support and at times they got succeeded. But all this patronage has culminated in group who brag a lot about Islamic government i.e. imposing their version of Islam. And this is where the root cause lies.Every faction tries to endorse his version of Islam.while politicians have ,for material gains, used Islam and Islamization(practice continues to this day), people in general have become alien to whole concept. Islam no more remains an entity to be practiced, it exists only on papers whether it be constitution or some other source.

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