The lost identity: My Pakistan or yours?

Published: March 8, 2011
Pakistan needs politicians who are capable of looking beyond their own interests and at those of their country at the wider level. PHOTO: EPA

Pakistan needs politicians who are capable of looking beyond their own interests and at those of their country at the wider level. PHOTO: EPA


With increasing polarisation in society and a widening rift between liberals and conservatives, the debate over Pakistan’s ideological foundation–whether secular or theocratic– has intensified.

This was the crux of a seminar on ‘The Pakistan phantasmagoria: between liberalism and extremism’, organised by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (Pips) on Monday. The speakers, consisting of academics and linguists, attributed the “state of confusion” to misinterpretation of the speeches and ideas of the founding fathers of the country.

Prof Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, a senior fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore, while presenting his paper on the subject said that the issue of creating a cohesive ideology for the nation became more complex with time.

The creation of the country stemmed from communal divide in the South Asian Subcontinent, which with time further widened, he said.

“Soon after creation of the country, speeches of the founding fathers were interpreted both on right and left sides,” he added, maintaining that the vision of Jinnah and leaders of the Muslim league who participated in the Pakistan movement had ‘liberal Islam’ in mind.

Referring to a speech of the father of the nation on August 11, 1947, he said Jinnah had clearly said Muslims in Pakistan would seize to be Muslims and Hindus would seize to be Hindus. “Religion was not made a core part of the state but a private matter of every individual,” he said.

Justice Munir gave a left-leaning interpretation of Jinnah’s speeches while Maulana Modudi did the other way round.

“Under the present constitution and social circumstances, minorities in Pakistan cannot be treated as equal citizens of the state,” he added.

On the other hand, Dr Tariq Rehman, Director National Institute of Pakistan Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University said he did not agree with the notion that civilian governments had contributed towards radicalisation of the society. He said military rulers were solely responsible for the menace.

“In our country, the military top brass always makes decisions and has an upper hand,” he added.

He said it was Ayub Khan who agreed to be part of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO)) and South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). The decision to attack Bengal was made behind closed doors by military rulers led by Yahya Khan in 1971, the Afghan war against the Soviet Union was decided by Ziaul Haq and the decision to launch Kargil War was taken by few generals led by Musharraf without talking the civilian governments into confidence. “All these decisions more or less contributed to radicalisation and extremism,” he said.

Dr Rehman said the Zia regime hammered the last nail into the coffin of a liberal and tolerant Pakistan, with strict Islamic rules put in place, making it easy for anyone to punish their enemies.

He slammed the present government for “giving space” to extremists. “The present government did not even bother to offer fateha for the departed soul of Salmaan Taseer. Its dealing of the mater only strengthened extremist ideologies,” he added.

Zaffarullah Khan, Executive Director of Centre of Civic Education said the continuous alternation between democracy and dictatorship had barred the country from sorting out a national identity.

He argued that radicalisation of the country started just after its independence.

Bad decisions by the military and involvement in proxy wars resulted in what he termed ruthless alteration of social fabric of the country.  He said the country was being used for proxy wars of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Soviet Union and the US. “No country can think of affording a single war but we are fighting five wars on our land,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • basit akhtar
    Mar 8, 2011 - 11:57AM

    separation of mosque & state is the only way of saving pakistan.

    As long as religion is allowed to interfere in the matters of the state,the present horrific condition of the conuntry will result.
    Muhammad ali jinnah created the “Republic of pakistan”,it was only afterwards to appease the religious barbarians that the name was changed to “ISLAMIC republic of pakistan”.

    from that day the cancer of religious barbarity spread even faster as it now had state legitimacy.Recommend

  • tanvir bawany
    Mar 8, 2011 - 12:03PM

    we discriminate against the non muslims in our country socially as well as constitutionally.
    Our constitution has the odious & shameful restriction on any non muslim pakistani becoming president or prime minister!!

    What disgusting injustice is this!!!

    The agnostics,atheists,christians,hindus,ahmadis,parsis are just as much a part of pakistan as are the muslim pakistanis.This glaring & horrific discrimination is not discussed or debated in our land.

    As long as religion & the state are not separated pakistan’s downward spiral won’t stop.Recommend

  • Mar 8, 2011 - 12:45PM


  • Jameel ur Rasheed - JR
    Mar 8, 2011 - 1:39PM

    There is no such thing called “Liberal Islam” and there is no second thought on the point that Pakistan is not a non-Islamic secular state. This is no issue and there is no need to debate on this thing. I mean you can’t fix what ain’t broken!Recommend

  • Yousra
    Mar 8, 2011 - 1:46PM

    Extremism is wrong but you see its a Muslim country and we have to talk it as a Muslim country okay we cant forget who we really are and we have to stay in the limits of our Islamic teachings and follow them anyway … i am not saying that we should not respect rights of non-Muslims and we do respect them and we SHOULD thats what our religion teaches us right to respect everyone ..PEACE is what our religion teaches us . We are Muslims and Islam is a beautiful religion if we actually follow it .. thats what Muhammad Ali Jinnah said ” UNITY FAITH AND DISCIPLINE” so faith is there right we are not suppose to forget our roots! We have to take both the things together but ofcourse in a proper way and we need proper people for that !! Recommend

  • Ajay
    Mar 8, 2011 - 1:46PM

    Agree with Tanvir and Basit. Primacy of religion is the root cause of all problems in Pakistan including rise of bad leaders and military rules. They msquareded as good Muslims and sought respectability and votes while actually being thorough misfits with greedy hearts, lacking in compassion as well as common sense.Recommend

  • Yousra
    Mar 8, 2011 - 1:49PM

    PAKISTAN is for everyone its a beautiful country .. long live PAKISTAN !! Recommend

  • murassa sanaullah
    Mar 8, 2011 - 6:59PM

    Pakistan is everyones country who lives here and love this country, religion should be a personal issue, we our selves should be good muslim,it is an indivituals duty, not the duty of state. if to read Quran ismust then every muslim shld see how they practice their religion, we can only guide someone but not force anyone the reat shld be left to the Al mighty.Recommend

  • Somdet
    Mar 8, 2011 - 10:31PM

    @ basit akhtar
    dear you are 63+ years late in preaching this pearls of wisdom. The fact is that you cannot separate religion and state now- your foundation is religion and so will be your burial. its law of karma- our ancient hindu pearls of wisdom. you cannot runaway from your karma’ forever, it will definitely catch you after sometime.Jinnah favoured religion over state in creation of pakistan, so are his successors- accept it.Recommend

  • Babloo
    Mar 9, 2011 - 5:24AM

    The rightwing Islamists in Pakistan who preach excluvist Islam are just an extension of Jinnah’s ideology as he articulated in the Muslim League annual session in Lahore in 1940 in his presidential address, arguing why Muslims cannot live in a secular, Hindu majority state.Recommend

  • Murali
    Mar 10, 2011 - 2:12PM

    Being an Indian with a genuine interest in peace in ‘our’ region, I really hope to see the civil society being more active in expressing their views publicly. The politicians exist for themselves in India and in Pakistan. It is left to the citizens to be active and make sure that such barbarious activities do get condemned at least. Otherwise there is the danger of a general perception of Pakistan as an unstable radical country which can become a self fulfilling prophecy. Recommend

  • Fighter
    Mar 17, 2011 - 9:52PM

    Is there any reason for it?Recommend

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