Pakistan News Service

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Religious Bigotry Assuming Alarming Proportions!

12 March, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi

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On March 9, in retaliation to an alleged blasphemy by a Christian, a rowdy crowd of enraged Muslims, in a daring attack ransacked and burned 178 homes and shops of Christians in Joseph town, a densely populated area near Badami Bagh in Lahore.

On March 3 in Abbas Town Karachi, a powerful explosion killed 40 people while 135 sustained injuries. They were mostly Shias. On 16 February in a Quetta bombing 81 people were killed and 178 were wounded. The victims were Shia faithful. All these incidents are related to religious vengeance.

The sectarian conflict in Pakistan is a recurring phenomenon for several decades now. It has consumed innumerable lives in Pakistan. Instead that it should decline, it is getting fiercer with the time passage. The minority denominations remain under constant threat of bloody attacks from the majority branches of Islam.

The Founder and the first president of the state of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah addressed the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947.

This address is historic and though provoking. It sets the abiding parameters as to how the newly established state of Pakistan would function.

In the present times, when Pakistan is beset with the growing menace of religious bigotry and militancy of radical Islamists against the minority sects within Islam and out of it, the Quaid's address dismantles all the barriers between the citizens premised upon religious persuasion, caste, creed or any other similar flimsy considerations.

Unfortunately the Pakistan that he visualized to be a modern liberal and secular state has been hijacked by the fundamentalists who have very perfunctory knowledge of Islam and are determined to turn Pakistan into a theocracy where only one school of religious creed would prevail. These ignorant and cruel people have wrecked the foundations of this state that they opposed tooth and nail when the pioneering leadership was trying to create it against very heavy odds.

Today the country is in the clutches of religious fanaticism bordering on savagery and barbarism againt the fellow citizens whose only fault is that they profess a different creed either as fellow Muslims or as non-Muslims.

The paramount question is: do the non-Muslims or minority sects within Islam have the rights to live in this land as equal citizens and to practice their faith freely? Jamaat Islami and some other Islamic parties opposed Quaid-e-Azam over the creation of a Muslim state within India.

When Pakistan came into being they tried to convert it into a religious state and for that objective, they contrived every trick, chicanery, intrigue, violence and conspiracies to block Pakistan from being a modern, secular  state where, religious freedom,  liberty and human rights would prevail.

In the subsequent times, more ferocious religious bands have jumped into the fray to impose their perception of Islam via violence. Pakistan has been turned into an arena where the majority sects intimidate, annihilate and brutalize the minority sects both Islamic and un-Islamic branding them infidels. This is not the Pakistan that Quaid-e-Azam visualized or fought for.

Quaid-e- Azam empathically articulated the following guidelines for the new state to follow. One admiringly wonders at the wisdom, intellect and foresight of the founder of Pakistan and his visionary colleagues for laying down the fundamental principles for the governance of the new state. The salient points of Quaid's indelible address are given below:

He said,

1. "The first is the very onerous and responsible task of framing the future constitution of Pakistan."

2. "Second is of functioning as a full and complete sovereign body as the Federal Legislature of Pakistan."

3. "The first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State."

4. One of the biggest curses… is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand."

5. "Black-marketing is another curse--- Now you have to tackle this monster, which today is a colossal crime against society."

6. "The evil of nepotism and jobbery, I want to make it quite clear that I shall never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism or any influence directly or indirectly brought to bear upon me."

7. "everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his color, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations."

8. "We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community would vanish."

9. "You are free; 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."

10. "You will find that in 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 each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."

The indiscriminate and sporadic killing of Shias, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and even Ahmadis in Pakistan clearly signals that the perpetrators want to convert Pakistan into a Sunni conservative state. But even if Pakistan becomes Sunni theocratic state what was the guarantee that minorities would be allowed to observe their religious obligations with freedom and without constraints.

The anarchy let loose by the religious zealots has got to be sternly checked if Pakistan is to remain as a stable, united and economically viable state. The state and religion must exist side by side without interfering in each other's domain. This is what Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned and this is what is indispensable for the survival of Pakistan and well being of its people.

Let us not forget that Pakistan cannot become another Saudi Arabia that follows a rigid Wahabi creed under the sway of monarchy not allowed in Islam. In not too distant future Saudi Arabia will have to open up its society as the medieval orthodox states are disappearing.

It is time to rein in the monster of sectarian hatred, the faith based bigotry and the violence thereof. Otherwise Pakistan is doomed to flourish as a modern state with a civil society. Pakistan may profess a state religion but no religious band should be allowed to impose it on others through violence and harassment.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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