Secular vision

Published: October 10, 2010
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The writer is a journalist and peace activist who has written for The Statesman, Le Monde Diplomatique and Economic and Political Weekly

The writer is a journalist and peace activist who has written for The Statesman, Le Monde Diplomatique and Economic and Political Weekly

Jinnah’s famous address on August 11, 1947 to Pakistan’s constituent assembly was supposed to lay the secular foundation for a future constitution for the country. Jinnah, after all, firmly supported equality of religions and the freedom to practice them all, without fear or favour. He hoped that the two countries of India and Pakistan, after the wounds of partition healed, would become friendly neighbours, each boasting a secular constitution and a willingness to look after their minorities

It is worthwhile to remind the Pakistani people that the Munir commission, which was formed to find the causes behind the anti-Ahmadi agitation, pointedly asked the most obvious of questions about the maltreatment of minorities; if we make Hindus into second class citizens then what do we expect to happen to Indian Muslims?  Moulana Moududi airily said that it was for India alone to decide how to treat its Muslim citizens, as if Pakistan’s behaviour had no effect on such decisions. The Indians, stated Moudodi, are even at liberty to treat Muslims as Shudra, low caste, if they so wish.

Jinnah also asked the secretary of law of Pakistan, Edward Alec Snelson, who was also the first draftsman in the government, to write a draft of a constitution, one which carefully guaranteed maximum autonomy for East Pakistan. Snelson, is reported to have sketched outlines in which he urged maximum room of manoeuvre for East Pakistan. These recommendations, mysteriously, are nowhere to be found today in the otherwise carefully kept archives. Pakistanis simply were not prepared to accept for some forty years that Jinnah agreed with Suharwardy that he should work for a united Bengal, independent of Pakistan, a goal to which Congress under the influence of Gandhi did not agree ether.

The essential wishes of the founder of the country were quickly erased or shunted aside after his death. Liaqat Ali Khan, the prime minister, brought in the Objectives Resolution which imparted an Islamic bias to the laws and tragically laid the foundation of future sectarian and communal conflict.

During the last sixty-three years, three constitutions were made but the spectre of the Objectives Resolution burdened them all. After the separation of East Pakistan, Bhutto produced the constitution of 1973, with the help of the National Awami Party, which he himself later mutilated. Zia finished the job on whatever was left of the ‘73 document. The Peoples Party wanted to go back to the mutilated constitution but not the original one passed in 1973. At the moment there is no governance.

Hindus, Christians and the Ahamdis are sidelined and it looks as if they have no future here. They have become permanent second class citizens. Last month saw the killing of Shias in Quetta and Lahore when their processions were attacked, while dozens of Shia doctors were objects of targeted killings. Ethnic groups are also highly critical of each other. Political leaders are not disposed to take a bold national stand, which gives the impression that they hardly know what a national outlook is and what is not. Minorities are completely alienated and now the biggest sectarian minority, the Shiites, are facing great danger to its existence. Both Zia and Bhutto were responsible for putting discriminatory laws on the statute book.

The only possibility to save Pakistan is to go back to Jinnah on August 11, 1947 and carve out a secular democratic state. We will need a new constituent assembly, a task which can be accomplished through consultation between the army, judiciary and parliament. The time limit to frame a new constitution should be no more than six months. A secular constitution is the only alternative which would also satisfy the regional demands of the Balochis and Sindhis, and keep faith with Jinnah.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Humanity
    Oct 11, 2010 - 12:46AM

    For Pakistan to survive and exist as an honorable nation, the constitution must be re-written on the guidelines of Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 address.

    An excerpt from the 1953 Munir-Kayani report referenced in the editorial is included below. The report accurately foretold 57 years ago, the outcome of mixing state with religion. The undeniable mess is evident by the juncture where this country and the nation stands today. By mixing state with religion, the spirit of the religion has been expunged and what remains is nothing but deen-e-fasaad. Even the laws of jungle would be better than what has been enshrined in the current constitution by the mullah and the self preserving politician.

    “Pakistan is being taken by the common man, though it is not, as an Islamic State. This belief has been encouraged by the ceaseless clamour for Islam and Islamic State that is being heard from all quarters since the establishment of Pakistan. The phantom of an Islamic State has haunted the Musalman throughout the ages and is a result of the memory of the glorious past when Islam rising like a storm from the least expected quarter of the world—wilds of Arabia—instantly enveloped the world, pulling down from their high pedestal gods who had ruled over man since the creation, uprooting centuries old institutions and superstitions and supplanting all civilisations that had been built on an enslaved humanity…………..
    He (the Musalman) therefore finds himself in a state of helplessness, waiting for someone to come and help him out of this morass of uncertainty and confusion. And he will go on waiting like this without anything happening. Nothing but a bold re-orientation of Islam to separate the vital from the lifeless can preserve it as a World Idea and convert the Musalman into a citizen of the present and the future world from the archaic in congruity that he is today….
    It is this lack of bold and clear thinking, the inability to understand and take decisions which has brought about in Pakistan a confusion which will persist and repeatedly create situations of the kind we have been inquiring into until our leaders have a clear conception of the goal and of the means to reach it.
    And as long as we rely on the hammer when a file is needed and press Islam into service to solve situations it was never intended to solve, frustration and disappointment must dog our steps. The sublime faith called Islam will live even if our leaders are not there to enforce it. It lives in the individual, in his soul and outlook, in all his relations with God and men, from the cradle to the grave, and our politicians should understand that if Divine commands cannot make or keep a man a Musalman, their statutes will not.”Recommend

  • faraz
    Oct 11, 2010 - 1:48AM

    But then our “defenders of ideology” wont be able to grab resources from the poor masses. How will they develop new DHAs?Recommend

  • Talha
    Oct 11, 2010 - 2:51AM

    The biggest problem that we have in regards to having Islam playing a part in the state affairs is that whose Islam do you want to implement. Zia’s wahabi friendly Islam wrecked our nation and sowed the seeds of violence and intolerance.

    The Justice Munir-Kiyani report clearly pointed out on how the Ulema differed on each matter and when asked on what constitutes a Muslim. All gave differing opinions, if this is the case for such a simple matter then we are doomed with complicated ones.

    One particular scholar wanted some more time to think over what constitutes a Muslim, to which Justice Kayani said, ‘I cannot give you more time because you have already taken more than fourteen hundred years to ponder over this question. Is that not enough? If fourteen centuries, plus some years are not enough for you to be able to define the very fundamentals of Islam, how much more time would you require?’

    Secular all the way.

    PS, you have to mention Parsis and Sikhs too.Recommend

  • khalid.aziz
    Oct 11, 2010 - 7:56AM

    A secular Pakistan? well, an uphill task in the presence of Lashkars, Jamaat, PML-N and above all an army of journalists in Urdu media(both print and electronic) in particular who have strong inclinition towards right and rightist parties. Above all, a secular Pakistan without a secular mindset among “khakis” is a far cry. Recommend

  • SharifL
    Oct 11, 2010 - 12:31PM

    An excellent idea. Instead of Islamic republic, let us make it only republic of Pakistan. Treat all people equally including women. Distribution of wealth also equally distributed to daughters and boys. When you take oath as PM or President, only say: I will respect the constitution of Pakistan and refrain from naming Allah. I know I do not see that happening, but no harm in expressing our views.
    well written article.Recommend

  • parvez
    Oct 11, 2010 - 1:17PM

    An excellent article. Completely agree with your last paragraph.
    You have some 60 years of wrong doings to put right – a daunting task.
    Mushraaf as President,Chief of Army Staff, Commando,all powerful, changed the title on the passport from Islamic Republic of Pakistan to only Pakistan, an excellent decision. Within days he had to back track, flip flopped ( a common occurrence with him ) and even this could not be sustained.
    Who in Pakistan has the strength to do what is right ?Recommend

  • Talha
    Oct 11, 2010 - 1:58PM

    The biggest problem that we have in regards to having Islam playing a part in the state affairs is that whose version of Islam do you want to implement. Zia’s wahabi friendly Islam wrecked our nation and sowed the seeds of violence and intolerance.

    The Justice Munir-Kiyani report clearly pointed out on how the Ulema differed on each matter and when asked on what constitutes a Muslim. All gave differing opinions, if this is the case for such a simple matter then we are doomed with complicated ones.

    One particular scholar wanted some more time to think over what constitutes a Muslim, to which Justice Kayani said, ‘I cannot give you more time because you have already taken more than fourteen hundred years to ponder over this question. Is that not enough? If fourteen centuries, plus some years are not enough for you to be able to define the very fundamentals of Islam, how much more time would you require?’
    Secular all the way.

    PS, you have to mention Parsis and Sikhs too.Recommend

  • kumar
    Oct 11, 2010 - 2:22PM

    If a secular Pakistan is what your leaders wanted in the first place why then in name of Islam was India divided in 1947.

    The blood and slaughter of innocent humanity because of creation of Pakistan and transfer of populations cannot be washed away so easily.

    Pakistan is paying and will pay for the folly of a chosen few.

    All that your chosen leaders wanted was power and in its greed they were willing to go to any extent.Recommend

  • Foqia Badr
    Oct 11, 2010 - 3:10PM

    When the very basis of partition are redefined by the ulemas who sided with Congress and the ideological base of Pakistan is drafted by these very ulemas, one can only expect sectarianism.Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Oct 11, 2010 - 3:13PM

    The Ahmadis have been used as a stepping stone by Congress loyal maulanas to establish themselves in the politics of the new state. The irony is that these fringe few have taken the majority for a ride.Recommend

  • Talha
    Oct 11, 2010 - 3:22PM

    @ Kumar

    Pakistan was carved for the Muslims of India because they were being sidelined by the congress and not being given their due in the post independence era of India. Jinnah was the considered a champion of Hindu-Muslim unity and an undivided India but the rigidness of congress in given Muslims equal share caused many to realize that Muslims in India will suffer as a result. Take for example the Babri Masjid incident, if an undivided India witnessed such an event, a great civil war would have ensued wrecking the whole nation.

    We are better off separate but the nation was hijacked by the same religious parties who opposed it. The Jamaat-e-Islami’s, Ahrars and the likes thoroughly opposed the idea of Pakistan, the letter was a vreak away group formed to disrupt Muslim activities in Kashmir.

    Frankly, your lack of knowledge is insulting, a common trait found in many of your countrymen.Recommend

  • Habiba Younis
    Oct 11, 2010 - 4:48PM

    @Kumar, the reason why we divided India in 1947 was simply coz many muslims majoriy areas were facing oppression and tyranny in the hands of some extremist elements at that time.My own grandparents were subjected to cruelty and oppression by some extremist hindu groups before partition.The British came here with the moto of ‘divide and rule’ which is why tensions among the hindu and muslims peaked in the later years. The basic ideology of Pakistan was to form a state where religious rights of muslims and the other minorities could be safeguarded. The society was meant to be Islamic BUT the politics n govt affairs were to be secular in nature.We had our own reasons for partition and yes Jinnah for us was the charismatic leader, the true founder of our nation. The reasons for the present dark circumstances are coz Jinnah’s ideology was mutilated to form a set of crooked religious code of state for Pakistan. Your statement ” Pakistan is paying and will pay for the folly of a chosen few.” shows your own narrow mindset.
    Mistakes were committed from BOTH the sides. I’m not here saying our record is flawless. Though we dont need to fuel blame game, thankyou.Recommend

  • Talha
    Oct 11, 2010 - 5:56PM

    @ M M Malik

    The ironic thing is that Majlis-e-Ahrar was formed and funded by Congress to disrupt Ahmadi’s and their work for Pakistan.

    They opposed the idea of Pakistan tooth and nail yet today they are appeased by all sections of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Oct 11, 2010 - 8:31PM

    There is a poem written by Martin Niemöller which perfectly sums up Pakistan.

    They came first for the Hindus,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Hindu.

    Then they came for the trade Sikhs,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade Sikh.

    Then they came for the Christians,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Christian.

    Then they came for the Ahmadis,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Ahmadiya

    Then they came for the Shias,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Shia..

    Then they came for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

    Jinnah although made a secular speech after he divided India, his actions betrayed his words. He argued that 2 sets of people are so different that one of them need a country of their own. He then argued about nonsensical argument of Hindus ruling over Muslims and predicted Muslims would be the losers when there has been no past precedence and the History at the time pointed to Hindus being a tolerant bunch when it came to diversity.

    India has proved Jinnah to be wrong in many ways. For instance, the present PM is a Sikh, who are a minority community who has kept a Catholic as a minister in a ministry, deemed extremely important for security affairs: Defence Ministry. There are many other examples.

    Muslims would have enjoyed the same status as Sikhs do in present India had Jinnah not asked for division of India to fulfill his ambition. Unfortunately, the relations between Hindus and Muslims became weak due to the burden of Partition, which has been repaired to a certain extent but the oddity remains.

    Besides, Jinnah’s creation disproved his theory: The two-nation theory, when one sub-set of people(West Pakistanis) attacked, looted, raped and killed another sub-set of people(East-Pakistanis).

    Now, the History is repeating itself. One sub-sub-set of people think they are dominant and are attacking another sub-sub-set of people.

    Jinnah has made a fatal error which will never be reversed.Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Oct 12, 2010 - 11:44AM

    Pakistan was meant to serve the purpose America serves today- provide a safe haven to marginalized and persecuted minorities. Although boasting of a large Muslim population, Pakistan was meant for one and all and for that a secular constitution was a prerequisite. This was Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan as is evident from his address to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947:”You may belong to any religion caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state. In due course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will 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.” It must be remembered that state and religion are mutually exclusive and neither should hinder progress of the other. Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Oct 12, 2010 - 4:41PM

    After driving the passion to a hysterical level for a Muslim nation and tearing India into two on communal lines, Jinnah suddenly says “Uh ! … forget it” !!! His passion took a million life.
    Pakistan can be any thing but secular.
    *
    Pakistan’s concern should be to prevent the systematically brutalization and elimination of its Minorities and sects of Islam, that are not significant in number.Recommend

  • Humanity
    Oct 13, 2010 - 1:12AM

    ”In order to be a Muslim by conviction and free choice, which is the only way one can be a Muslim, I need a secular state.” – Abdullahi An NaimRecommend

  • Talha
    Oct 13, 2010 - 2:31AM

    Indians overlook their multiple riots and cleansing by their government to present the same old rhetoric.

    Pakistan was needed for Muslims because we could not like with people who openly destruct mosques and kill thousands when they feel the need to. Jinnah’s theory proved correct on the day of Babri Mosque incident.

    Mountbattens secretary Nehru and faux leader Gandhi were too rigid in their stance and wanted all the power to themselves.

    Funny how Indians get the respect and opportunity to present their views here, a Pakistani going posting on their websites is lynched like poorer classes there.Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Oct 13, 2010 - 10:06AM

    The last Hindu-Muslim riots in India was in 2002 in Gujarat. Babai Mosque was demolished in 1992 and is the only mosque demolished since independence.

    As for as the demolition of Mosque and Gujarat riots are concerned cases are pending against most political and religious leader who were directly or indirectly involved. I am sure justice will prevail in India.

    The percentage of population of Muslims had gone up marginally since independence in India. Also Indian Muslims are equal beneficiary of the economic progress that India is being know for. Though they are free to have any sort of opinion yet they are progressive, democratic and secular.

    While in Pakistan, the population of Hindu’s was around 15% of the total population in 1950, which is down to less than 2% now. Hindu temples had been regularly and systematically destroyed by people of Pakistan (not politicians). Recommend

  • Talha
    Oct 13, 2010 - 7:52PM

    The riots whether or not politically motivated are irrelevant because without the support of substantial population, nothing could occur.

    Similarly the only time minorities in Pakistan have been targeted, it is by the anti-Pakistani Muslim parties who later migrated to Pakistan. No common man destroyed a Hindu temple in this country, this is what you are led to believe and I have proof of this. Just recently a report in India suggested that a temple was destroyed in Pakistan, but in reality nothing like that occurred, it was made to fool the Indian populace in further negating our image.

    As for the percentage decrease, let me discuss things rationally. The majority of Pakistani Hindus were situated in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) so we cannot count the total percentage to distinguish increase or decrease in Hindu population.

    We will only consider the Hindu population in West Pakistan to distinguish the difference in population. According to the 1951 census, there were half a million or so Hindu’s in West Pakistan, today the figure is greater than 4-5 million.

    So in reality the Hindu population increased in Pakistan and I have proved you wrong.

    You are free to check reliable sources for this. If you are unable to do so, I will list them for you.Recommend

  • kumar shiv
    Oct 24, 2010 - 1:36PM

    Habiba Younis,

    i was just pointing out my opinion and facts & so did not expect “narrow mindset remark”.
    Did not want to bring out unpleasant facts of history but since you have mentioned this i will answer below:

    i m sorry if it hurts you but the truth about Hindu atrocity is ridiculous and laughable .For 800 years Muslims ruled India though it was minority.

    I ask you to read Baburnama and other Islamic chroniclers( with the sultanates of Delhi,mu-gals and their successors) who wrote in gory details the exploits of these Islamic barbarians how they converted,looted ,raped the land,imposed jaziya and ruled India on the pain of the sword.

    Thanks and hope you will see everything in perspectiveRecommend

  • Dec 9, 2010 - 2:07PM

    Keep it up guys. There hadn’t been a single communal riot till 1857 am told. It is only after this revolt that the british embarked upon ‘divide and govern’. They gave it even more momentum when the indian nation supported the khilafat movement. The western powers succeeded then as they succeed now. You can now add china to the matrix. We are still divided. We still fight. The partition did not do much for the safety of muslims in pakistan or safety of the hindus in india. And we both are amongst the biggest markets for western arms.Recommend

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