#SecularPakistan: A long walk to unachieved freedom

Amara Shah
UWB/ Guest Blog

unnamed#SecularPakistan was a popular trend on Twitter yesterday. Just like other Twitter users, I tweeted my opinion under this hashtagand immediately got the response in shape of suggestions that either I should leave the citizenship of the country and go to India or shouldn’t raise my voice for secularism.

Unfortunately, if you talk about a secular state in Pakistan, you will be labeled as anti-Pakistan, anti-Islam, against the ideology of Paksitan and pro-India. Ideology of Paksitan is often misunderstood phenomenon in Pakistan.

The seeds of hatred and extremism were sown through textbooks at school, college and even at university levels. I also went through the same education system and have been considering ‘others’ as my enemy.

As Raza Rumi says, “Our textbooks are replete with references to kafirs or infidels. A distorted picture of other religions is presented. A major study by the National Commission for Justice and Peace published in 2012 said that Pakistani school textbooks view religions other than Islam “with contempt and prejudice”. For instance, an Urdu grade five textbook has a lesson with a story about a selfish Jew who owned a well and never allowed Muslims to take water from it. Punjab textbooks are the most problematic. Some books also have material on “the Muslim world and colonialism” berating Western and Christian governments for narrow-mindedness and fanaticism. Let us not even talk about the Hindus as they are conniving, cunning and mean. Little wonder that Pakistani cricketer ShahidAfridi referred to Indians as small-hearted. He retracted the statement later but the textbooks spoke through his words.”

Minorities in Paksitan are badly suffering and this country is not less than hell for them. Facts were always distorted just like today and truth is not being told to the nation.

Three days before Pakistan’s independence on 11 August 1947, Jinnah addressed Pakistan Constituent Assembly. The speech clearly suggests that Jinnah expected Pakistan to be the homeland of muslims but neither expected nor suggested Pakistan any role of religion in its governance.

Later on references to religion having no role on state affairs were taken out. Jinnah died in 1948, leaving the nation confused as whether to use religion in government business or not.

“You are free, free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship inthis state of Pakistan. You may beling to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state. As you know, history shows that in England conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thanks God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one caste or creed over another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” 

(Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speeches as Governor General of Pakistan) 1947-48 

This is not the Pakistan, Jinnah expected to be. Being secular state that is keeping religion out of state matters is the only solution to religious extremism and terrorism prevailed in the country. Your military forces play a vital role against extremists but the root cause is the mindset which can never be destroyed with force. Education along with the reformations in text book curriculum is the need of the day.

Today in the heavens Jinnah soul might be lamenting on the sorry state of affairs in the homeland he created for prosperity, liberalism and enlightenment and might be repeating Faiz’s immortal lines:

“This trembling night, this night bitten dawn,
This is not the dawn which we waited for so long”
Translation by Christina Lamb 
(Yeh daagh daagh ujala, yeh shab guzeeda sahar,
Wo intezar tha jis ka, yeh wo sahar tau naheen)

(The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist with interest in South Asian development issues







5 responses to “#SecularPakistan: A long walk to unachieved freedom”

  1. Naqqash Avatar

    Thanks that you raised our voice #SecularPakistan

  2. Atheist Avatar

    Good article though there are only suggestions without solutions.

    PS Not to be a grammar Nazi but there is spelling mistake in the line:
    “Minorities in Paksitan are badly suffering”

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    I wonder you are still safe

  4. Janet Baker Avatar

    I am thinking that secularism does not work in the United States at all. It does not protect minorities, it does not protect the weak, it buys whatever vote for whatever depravity it wants to use to distract the public from the dismal economics of secularism. It does not help women in any way and makes it harder to be a woman. It is better to have a religious state with tolerance for other faiths. Nobody needs the kind of freedom the West is pushing. I say that as a woman who has worked all her life to help minorities in the US.

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