By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan’s most overriding problem
is the over-brimming religion fervor and the emergence of the Islamic militant
groups fomenting internal chaos aimed at making Pakistan an Islamic state as
the ISIS wants to establish in the Middle East.
Islam is prevalent in Pakistan as an intolerant, fanatical, rigid,
ignorant and sectarian religion. Pakistan was renamed as the Islamic Republic
of Pakistan in 1973. That was the first roll coaster step to divest Pakistan of
its secular credentials and smear its image of a modern state.
Ironically a secular and liberal
Prime Minister Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made amendments in the constitution
that pushed Pakistan into the lap of irreversible fundamentalism. Regressive yet superficial measures were
announced inter- alia to ban race horse,
drinking, gambling and declaring Friday as the weekly holiday. Although these
were cosmetic measures but these certainly strengthened the hands of orthodox religious
parties to firm up their hold and spread their myopic tentacles in the society.
Mr. Bhutto undertook such measures in contrast to his cosmopolitan vision for
The military regime of Ziaul-Haq
was patently an ultra rightist regime that enormously furthered the process of
Islamization initiated by Bhutto, although both were mutually sworn enemies politically
and religiously. General Zia created Sharia faculty and Sharia courts, enforced
Hadood Ordinance and payment of Zakat and Ushr, and abolished interest. Thus Pakistan’s
complexion underwent a radical change from a relatively liberal to a
conservative and orthodox state.
But the pernicious fallout of these
regressive measures opened floodgate for the Islamic fundamental parties to
have a field-day in Pakistan. These groups proliferated ubiquitously to fight
in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Thanks to American and western
patronage they had unhindered access to all kind of weapons to use wherever
they wanted. The Taliban and their splinter groups sprang in those tumultuous
times when Pakistan was receding into the fold of theocracy and Islamic
Not only that but the country dotted,
in a short span of time, with mosques and religious seminaries everywhere, in
each town and city and even neighborhoods. These mosques and seminaries also
represented various sects and became breeding grounds for sectarian animus. The
ear-splitting loudspeakers are depriving the population of their hearing power.
Since the Sunnis are in majority
they used that unique chance to not only fight the heathen soviets but at home
turned against the other minorities most notably the Shias and Ahmadis. The
Sunni denominations like Lashkar e Jhangvi, Lashkar-Tayyaba, Jaish Muhammad and
others religio-militant outfits had a free hand to torment and brutalize not
only Shias but the other minorities. Vice-versa the Shias also retaliated. The
switch of Pakistan from a culturally and socially liberal state over to a
religiously suppressed state further led to terrorism and violence increasing
with the time passage. That ruinous sectarian militarism and brutal terrorism
continues to this day.
There have been calls from time to
time to declare Shias as non-Muslims as was done in case of Ahmadis during the
time of Bhutto. Supposedly even if all the Shias or Ahmadis are expelled from
Pakistan or physically eliminated, the myriad Sunnis sects would start fighting
each other. The Wahabis cults are deadly opposed to Chishtia, Qadria or
Naqshbandia branches of Islam.
When the Wahabis somehow expel all
these rival religious groups then the stage would be set for the sects within
the Wahabis to sort out each other. So there is no end to this madness,
perpetrated in the name of pristine Islam. This sectarian division has been
there in the Islamic countries for 14 hundred years and cannot come to an end
in the distant or near future.
Before partition of united India, the
Sunnis and Shias seldom collided on the sectarian turf as they have been doing
after the birth of Pakistan. Islam goads tolerance and peace. Ye its followers
practice such golden precepts more in breach than observance.
In comparison despite being a Hindu
majority country, barring the Gujarat riots and massacre of Muslims, India maintains
the religious harmony, squarely lacking in Pakistan and most of the Islamic
states. In India we have not seen the Shias and Sunnis attacking and killing
other. If they can cohabitate peacefully in a Hindu majority population state,
why can’t they do so in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
The practical solution of this
mayhem and distortion of Islam is to divide all the Muslim countries into two
parts: one for the Shias and other other for the Sunnis. We can see that in
Saudi Arabia there are no Shias and it is religiously a peaceful country. We
can also witness that most of the Iranian population professes Shia faith and
there have never been any encounters or tension between Shias and Sunnis. But
this recipe cannot be applied to other Islamic states because a geographical division
on the basis of faith is impossible to be brought about.
Pakistan, the Islamic states of Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are also
bedeviled with the sectarian strife between the Shias and Sunnis. But those Islamic
states that are secular and profess tolerance are relatively peaceful. In this
category we can mention Turkey, Jordan, Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt,
Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab
The fundamental question
staring in our face is that why is Pakistan being interpreted to have been
created in the name of Islam. And if it is supposed to pedal and practice Islam
then why has it become a hell for the Muslims professing divergent beliefs.
Islam is said to be a religion of peace but in Pakistan it has turned out to be
a battleground for incessant religious feuds. Pakistan is one country besides
Iran and Mauritania in the entire Islamic world except that has adopted a
prefix of Islamic Republic. One fails to understand what does this phrase
Islamic Republic mean?
Instead of unsuccessfully trying to
protect Islam for 67 years why don’t we focus on protecting the land and its people?
Pakistan should be considered as a political entity with Muslim majority
population. After all Shias or other religious minorities were not born with
the birth of Pakistan on 14 August 1947. These were already there. They were
there during the British rule in India. They were free and safe to follow their
religious obligations without any fear or oppression. They are equal citizens
of Pakistan as they were before the birth of Pakistan. Then why should they be
divested of their rights and liberties after the partition. Pakistan should not
be the monopoly of any religious group or sect.
Islam has always been surviving for
a thousand years in India and would survive for all time to come. Is the
survival of Islam entirely dependent on Pakistan? Is it not a convoluted logic?
There are more Muslims in India than Pakistan. Then why Pakistan should be
tagged as a protector of Islam? Islam has its own resilience to survive. Should
we keep submitting to the dictates and edicts of ignorant Mullas and keep the
society stagnant and its people backward? Ironically some of the religious
parties did not want Pakistan to come into being labeling it as an Unislamic
The successive political leaders in
Pakistan had fallen prey to the street agitations from such parties as Jamaat-i-Islami
with a view to sticking to power. That led to the tarnishing the image and face
of Pakistan with religious brush, later degenerating into unrelenting sectarian
The religious laws enacted by
Bhutto and later Ziaul Haq and even by the previous regimes drastically
curtained the civil and religious liberties of the people of Pakistan.
Incidentally the majority religious groups such as Jamaat-i-Islami, Majlis-e-Ahrar,
and Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Hind (previously JUI was part of this group) opposed the
creation of Pakistan and when it came into being, JI jumped into the fray to
monopolize it. Such is the hypocritical character of these religious outfits now
crying hoarse to make Pakistan a medieval Islamic caliphate.
It would be rather justified if
these groups that did not support Pakistan movement should be banned or exiled for
their seditious and antagonistic role at a crucial juncture of the creation of
Pakistan. But if they stay then they should not be allowed to fan sectarian
hatred and religious bigotry, caving into the foundations of Pakistan.
The separation of East Pakistan was,
beside other factors, due to Jamaat-i-Islami’s support for the military action
and their religious brigands launching a religious crusade against the people
of East Pakistan whose leadership had the constitutional right to form the
paramount question is: can there be a reconciliation and compromise between the
Islamic clergy and democracy? In a country, which since its inception, has
remained in the throes of extremism, bigotry, sectarian and communalism, the
most pressing need is to bring about a truce and concord between the warring
sects. The paramount urgency is to evolve a consensual code of Islamic faith
between Sunnis and Shias to save the state and the society from doctrinal
rivalry and bloodshed.
the only rational way-out is to adopt the twin panacea of secularism and
democracy that would allow every sect and denomination, to practice their own
faith without trading the accusations of heresy and killing each other. Secularism
doesn't necessarily mean negation or elimination of religion. It simply means
tolerance and coexistence between races and sects.
foregone that Pakistan as a theocracy or a country with a religious label
cannot move forward and would always be trapped in a self-destructive
ideological conflict. The devastation of Baghdad by Mongol hordes in 13th
century is a testifying tragedy to the Shia-Sunni animosity.
acknowledging the distasteful fact that the ideological gulf between two main
Islamic sects cannot be bridged, these must be legally bound to coexist and
tolerate each other. As far political power is concerned, Pakistan has to
decide once and for all that the war of conflicting beliefs should not be
allowed to enter the political corridors.
and religion should be free to operate in their respective zones. The
relationship between state and religion has been ideally described by
Quaid-i-Azam in his address in the first session of the Constituent Assembly of
Pakistan on 11 August 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your
temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or 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”.
religion should be confined to the personal and at best group contours. That is
the only viable, practical and rational solution to the religious bad blood
that is incessantly breeding violence and hindering smooth functioning of state
and society. The religious extremism and
fanaticism also need to be forcefully curbed.
and society have got to be secular and truly democratic for prosperity,
advancement and solidarity of Pakistan and enabling it to enter the fold of
modern states. At the same time Pakistan, like Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, retain
their Islamic identity. In a nutshell, Islam, secularism, and democracy should
go hand in hand in Pakistan.