by Danish Khan
The state of Pakistan has been in the news again, and unfortunately it is for all the wrong reasons again. This time it is not about any suicide bombing, in fact it is even far more worst than a suicidal bomb blast. In a suicide bombing a single individual kills innocent people, and whole society condemns it, and nobody tries to ethically, morally or religiously defend or justify the inhumane act. But this time it is the “State of Pakistan” who is murdering its own citizen because of her religious faith which is different from the religion of the state, and some people are trying to justify this murder. It reminds us of medieval ages, when people used to be executed and persecuted because of their different faith. How on earth, In 21st century, when some nations have conquered outer space and planning to inhabit the new planets, while a country like Pakistan is still stuck in a net shell of religious bigotry and intolerance?
“Religion should not be allowed to come in to politics, Religion is merely a matter between man and a god” (M.A. Jinnah’s address to the Central Legislative Assembly, February 7, 1935)
A Christian woman named Asiya Bibi has been sentenced to a death penalty under the sections of 295 B and 295C of Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan Penal code. Her crime was that she has disrespected the faith of the faithful, while she completely denies all these allegations. But how you can expect a fair trial when the law itself is not fair?. This is not the first time it is happening in Pakistan. In one of the other cases, the Session Judge convicted a man named Gul Masih, who was charged under the Blasphemy Laws, and imposed the death sentence on him on the grounds “that the complainant had an outlook of a good Muslim, that he was a college student and that he had a beard”. It is a scary situation because this is not a statement by an ordinary citizen of Pakistan; it is by an official judge who supposedly interprets law and defends constitution. A radical change is needed to change this on slaughter of religious bigotry and religious discrimination against the non-Muslims in the country.
“No distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and Equal citizens of One State.” (Jinnah, 11 august, 1947)
Pakistan was created in 1947 under the leadership of man called Mohammad Ali Jinnah the founding father of Pakistan. He was very much aware of the potential problem of theocracy and religious bigotry, because the slogan of Islam has been used for the political purposes even by Mr. Jinnah to unite and organize people during the independence movement against British empire. But to eradicate this confusion and misconception, Mr. Jinnah very clearly said in his first address to the constituent assembly of newly formed Pakistan,
“You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State”
A secular state means a state or a country which is officially neutral in the matters of religion, meaning supporting neither religion. A secular state claims to treat all of its citizens equally regardless of their religion, and it avoids preferential treatment of a citizen from a particular religion over the other religions. Pakistan was formed as a secular country whether one likes it or not. On the contrary in the present state of Pakistan, there is a discrimination against non-Muslims, they are classified as second class citizens in their own motherland. It is evident with the death sentence of a Christian woman Asiya. I wonder how Mr. Jinnah would have reacted on the death sentence of Asiya Bibi under the Blasphemy laws of Pakistan.
“Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in due course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”(Jinnah’s speech to constitutional assembly on august 11, 1947)
If we analyze the historical development of the Pakistan, it was the military establishment who injected the wind of Islamization in the society to prolong their illegal regimes. Especially under the brutal Marshall Law of General Zia-ul-haq bigoted religiosity became a constant state policy. The dictator Zia endorsed the Mullahs and Aalim-e-Dein (Islamic clergy) for his illegal regime because he needed moral and intellectual support. To stay in power Zia needed to justify his rule over the people and as importantly he also needed the blessings from the Regan’s regime in US. Thus military establishment sat together and they came up with a plan of Islamization of the society. They gave birth to Islamist fundamentalism so people can stop idealizing democracy and freedom anymore, similarly US needed a help to defeat USSR in Afghanistan, so Zia offered “Jihad” against infidels to keep the cash flow and support from the US. Those seeds of hatred and bigotry that were sowed during Zia’s Marshall Law are flourishing nowadays in the form of religious terrorism, hatred and disharmony in the society of Pakistan.
“I am not fighting for Muslims, believe me, when i demand for Pakistan”
(Jinnah, 14 November 1946)
But even in all this there is a hope, because people’s ideas do tend to change with the time. As humanity has advanced to space shuttles from the dark caves, it only proves that there is a constant process of social evolution. The majority of the population of Pakistan is sick and tired of terrorism; target killings and religious intolerance which can potentially bleed the society to its death. Pakistani society does need a positive change for sure, and that change starts with the secularization of the country by repealing all the discriminatory laws including Blasphemy Laws. A democratic Secular Pakistan is essential for its own survival, other wise there is a bleak dark end to such a religiously bigoted society.
“But make no mistake; Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it” (Jinnah, February 19, 1948)
One of the few positive things of Pakistan is it’s majority of young people, it is a key demographic statistic because usually young people do tend to adopt new scientific ideas much more easily and faster than their older counterparts. But it will all start with the conscious effort by the government of Pakistan, which is apparently not very likely to happen. It does not mean that the people of Pakistan have to concede to this purification of their society. There are some grass root political and social organizations which are committed to the ideals of democracy, secularism and social equality. It is a huge historical task for them to get out and take their message in to the masses. As importantly it is a huge responsibility of the intellectuals, artists, musicians and professionals to educate the society and prepare it for a secular change. It is the time that the people of Pakistan should stand up and tell the “establishment” and the “ruling classes” of Pakistan that enough is enough, we can’t tolerate this barbarianism on the name of Islamic Republic. We want Jinnah’s Pakistan, who he promised to be a secular and a welfare state.
The author is currently pursuing a degree in Political Science and International Studies in USA.