- Politics and Social Issues»
- Asia Political & Social Issues
Secularism Under Threat in Pakistan: Jinnah Forgotten
Jinnah and failure of his ideas
Pakistan was created out of India by a policy of divide and rule by the British. It was like the last kick by a departing power which had lost the right to rule in India. Not many know that right up to 1945, despite all the noises by the Muslim league Pakistan was not on the platter of Mohamed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah's life is a contrast. He was a member of the Congress party, much before Gandhi entered the scene.
Gandhi's entry into the scene ( when he came back from South Africa) worked to the disadvantage of Jinnah. He was in a way marginalized and began to feel uncomfortable in the company of Gandhi, whose Hindu trappings were not to the liking of Jinnah, who believed that religion was something personal. Jinnah was a secular-minded man and it is reported he enjoyed his whiskey and his westernized approach did not gel with the Muslim masses.
Thus when the British offered Pakistan, Jinnah accepted. It was a creation of a state for which he had not waged a struggle. But the good point is that he carried his liberal ideas into the new state. In a nationwide broadcast after the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah made a very important speech. He announced that religion was separate from the state and all minorities like Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians would be free to practice their religion and customs. This was a very important speech and Pakistan should have built on it, but after the early death of Jinnah in 1948, the new Pakistan state adopted a state with Muslim trappings and a systematic conversion of minorities began with violence and threats.
Sinking to intolerance
The state of Pakistan began to slide down into a medieval mindset. Laws were passed in Pakistan that makes a mockery of Jinnah's assertion. In particular, the blasphemy laws which were passed became a terror for the minorities. These laws were selectively applied and the minorities began to be terrorized by their stranglehold. In fact in a population with 97% Muslims, the number of blasphemy cases against minorities number over 70%. The very fact that Pakistan has 97% Muslim population is itself an anachronism, as in 1947 the non-Muslim Population was close to 30%. This is itself a sad commentary as to what is happening in Pakistan and no Pakistani liberal or leader wants to answer why the population of minorities dwindled. Much of this is due to a persecution of the minorities who fled Pakistan or were converted.A few years back the Bishop of Lahore committed suicide to highlight the persecution of the Christian minority in Pakistan.
That is sad, as the gun and the mullah have joined hands in Pakistan to create an Islamic state with the severest blasphemy laws.
No other nation and that includes the Muslim nations like Turkey and Egypt have any such severe laws.Sadder still is the fact that anyone who wishes to get the blasphemy laws repealed is murdered.
The Pakistan Governor of the Punjab province Saleem Taseer is a pointer. He was a man of mettle and opposed the Blasphemy laws and he was killed by his own bodyguard. This was not enough and the killer was showered with rose petals for his act. The Pakistan judge who sentenced the killer to death escaped abroad to escape being killed. So vitiated is the atmosphere
The future is dark as there does not seem to be a silver lining anywhere. Pakistan is more and more sinking into the mindset of a medieval state and what Jinnah wanted is ignored. There is a despondency among Pakistans liberals and many wonders where the Pakistan state is headed.