By Saeed Qureshi
In his landmark speech of August 11 1947 delivered before the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan proclaimed:
"We should keep that in front of us as our ideal and 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.”
“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.”
He announced that despite Pakistan being a Muslim majority state, all minority religious denominations would be treated as equals in observance of their religious obligations. This speech outlined the freedom of all non-Islamic religions as well as denominations within Pakistan.
But later the guidelines set out by the father of the nation were set aside in the Objective Resolution adopted by the same Constituent Assembly on 12 March 1949. The Objective Resolution proclaimed that “the future constitution of Pakistan would be modeled on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam.
The resolution, in its entirety, has been made part of the Constitution of Pakistan under Article 2(A). Subsequent to the passage of the Objectives Resolution, all of Pakistan’s constitutions contained religious provisions. The name of the country was changed from the Republic of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
There are contradictions in the Objective Resolution. In Article 25 it is written that all citizens are equal before law. However, Article 2 says that Islam shall be the state religion. Also, the denial of the right to non-Muslims citizens to become the head of state or government also negates Article 25, which requires equality before law.
By virtue of being in majority, the Muslims in Pakistan naturally have the benefit and upper hand to elect the Muslim members of the parliament which is in accord with the basic ingredient of the democracy. Yet it blocks the possibility of any non-Muslims to become the prime minister or the head of state which in fact is the denial of the basic principle of the democracy. In India We have seen that head of the government were Muslims despite that country being a Hindu majority State. Moreover, in India the majority being those of Hindus, the name of the country was not changed to Hindu Republic of India.
But in Pakistan over a period of time not only that the religion Islam has been politicized but made part of the constitution which obviates religious freedom for other sects and religious denomination. It is essential in Pakistan to be a Muslim for being the president or the prime minister.
Various Islamic religious parties and sects opposed the creation of Pakistan one of which is the Jamaat-e-Islami. Yet despite their opposition in the creation of Pakistan they succeeded in changing the nomenclature of Pakistan to Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It should have been the Democratic Republic of Pakistan or simply the Republic of Pakistan.
Although Pakistan, by any definition, is an Islamic state yet the urge, efforts and activities of the religious demagogues and parties have turned Pakistan in an intolerant bigotry ridden and non-democratic state. With branding Pakistan an Islamic state, the question arises which sects or denomination’s Islam? India under the colonial rule of the British was more peaceful as there was sectarian and religious harmony than one cannot witness now.
There is such an unbridgeable rift between the sects within Islam that their coexistence in an Islamic state has always been at risk after the demise of prophet Muhammad(pbuh). The minority sects such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Bahais, Sikhs, Parsis or Zoroastrianism, Ismaili and others look like culprits and remain the target of the onslaughts from the main Sunni sects including Qadria, Chishtia, Wahabi, Naqshbandi and generally Brelvis.
The main religious groups have the street power to threaten the governments, harass their religious opponents and force the people to adopt a rigid mold and style of Islam which should be in accordance with their perception of Islam.
Now in Pakistan we have Brelvis and Wahabi fighting each other and branding each other as infidels and out of the pale of Islam. Pakistan has always been a fertile ground for clashes between Sunnis and Shias which are the main sects opposing each other from the day the first caliph of Islam Hazrat Abu Bakr succeeded the final prophet of Islam.
That irreconcilable tussle has been running through islamic history causing horrendous slaughter, wars, massacres and genocides of the people and populations on both the sides. The faith-based and clannish animosity between Banu Hashim on one side and Umayyads on the other and later between Ommyads and Abbasids is dripped in Muslims’ blood. Presently this rivalry continues between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Coming back to the camping at the Faizabad vantage interchange or crossroads, one can imagine the power and resourcefulness of the religious parties to stage such a prolonged protest hampering the normal life of the citizens and crippling the government and state functioning.
Now the finality of the prophet-hood of Hazrat Muhammad is not a big issue because all Muslims profess that belief. But under that pretext, paralyzing the entire country, entailing huge loss to the economy and disturbance of normal life is frightening.
Let us compare that situation in India which is patently a Hindu State. It is majority Hindu state, yet it is secular and nowhere in the Indian constitution it is written that it is a Hindu state. Why don’t the Wahabi and Deobandi and Brelvis sects fight each other there. In India, Shias and Sunnis perform and observe their religious undertakings with peace and without any fear or confrontations.
It means a secular state ensures the religious peace and coexistence without labeling each other Kafirs (non-believers and enemies). If in a Hindu state and in Islamic Bangladesh state there is religious harmony why it can’t be brought about in Pakistan.
The Demagogues and vested interests of professional clergies, spiritual figures and so called self-styled saints, witch doctors, Shamans and mediums claim to pray to God directly. These people have been exploiting the common folks by being closer to God than the common man. This a not a real Islam but a travesty of Islam.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. Yet in Saudi Arabia, no one can claim to be more pious and nearer to God than the common man. There are no peers, no saints no religious or spiritual healers and no worshiping of the graves and mausoleums. Then why is this religious pattern in Pakistan? This question must be answered by those why are religious scholars and who can guide the faithful to unite upon a common Islam and live with each other and with minority faiths.
We can see that culture in Europe where the Catholics and protestants live together and don’t indulge in religious or sectarian battles. They used to do so in the past but the papacy has been confined to the premises of the church and catholic Pope to a small portion of Rome.
Finally, the state of Pakistan has got to be serving the people including the minority religious or social communities generally. The religious harmony is the dire need in Pakistan. otherwise the country would remain hostage to the religious goons and ruffians. Common believers are used by the religious fanatics, preachers and custodians of their branch of faith to keep the cauldron of sectarianism boiling so that they can maintain hegemony and inflow of the perks and privileges unhindered.
The State must be out of the religious confrontations and deal with the trouble makers with ion hands for the sake of the sovereignty and stability of Pakistan as well as for peace and safety of the people.
I shall mention only some measures which can improve such appalling state of affairs. Religious madrasas (institutions) should be integrated with regular educational system. The opening and closing of the mosques’ hours should be strictly maintained. The prayer leading imams should be selected like other services.
All the self- appointed or family oriented saints sitting on graves or self-styled peers (spiritual solicitors or healers) should be ousted and these places should be brought under the control of the government and state institutions. The hate or sectarianism-tinged speeches and sermons should be banned and severely punished. The rest can follow.