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Secularism Under Threat in Pakistan: Jinnah Forgotten

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MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist

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Jinnah and Muslims

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 that had lost the right to rule 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. He left the Congress after he was convinced that Gandhi believed in rabid Hindu nationalism. Jinnah was thus a secularist and not a bigoted leader. No wonder he found Gandhi's brand of politics with its stress on the Gita and Ram Rajya abhorrent. He could never reconcile to the fact that Gandhi started his everyday prayer meetings by reading passages from the Gita. He always felt religion to be something apart from politics but with Gandhi's stress on religion and his appeal to the Hindu masses he repositioned himself as the messiah of the Muslims.

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Charting his own path

Gandhi's entry into the scene ( when he came back from South Africa) worked to the disadvantage of Jinnah. He was marginalized and began to feel uncomfortable in the company of Gandhi, whose Hindu trappings were not to the liking of Jinnah. He felt 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. As he had been pushed into a corner by Gandhi and wanted to make himself relevant, he cast himself into the mold of the leader of Muslims.

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 the systematic conversion of minorities began with violence and threats.

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Intolerance


The state of Pakistan began to slide down to exhibit a medieval mindset. Laws were passed in Pakistan that made 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 a population having 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 the persecution of the minorities who had no choice but either to flee Pakistan or get converted. A few years back(1998) the Bishop of Lahore John Joseph of the Catholic church committed suicide to highlight the persecution of the Christian minority in Pakistan.

Intolerance also has extended to other communities as well. As an example by an act of parliament in 1973, Ahmadiyyas were forbidden to call themselves Muslims or recite the azan. They have also been facing systematic attacks and many prominent Ahmedyas who held important positions including the Nobel laureate of Pakistan have had their graves disfigured. Periodical riots from 1954 have resulted in thousands of Ahmadiyyas being killed.

Blasphemy Laws


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 such severe laws. Sadder is the fact that anyone who wishes to get the blasphemy laws repealed is murdered.

The Governor of the Punjab province Saleem Taseer is a pointer. He was a man of mettle and opposed the Blasphemy laws; the result? he was killed by his bodyguard. This was not enough as 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


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 Pakistan's liberals and many wonders where the Pakistan state is headed. Though the Constitution of Pakistan grants minorities their rights and freedom to worship, there are any number of cases of minority girls being abducted and forcibly converted and married to the majority community.

The forces of obscurantism have reared their head when the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard and the killer was strewn with rose petals by the general populace. What was Salman's fault? all he wanted was a review of the blasphemy laws. It is worth pointing out that no country in the world has similar blasphemy laws.

Even now in 2021, there is agitation to get the Pakistan government to expel the French ambassador and cut off all relations with France on an issue that concerns only the host country. The entire country is held to ransom and the Pakistan government is forced to discuss this in parliament. Again I must point out that such agitation is not going on in any of the other 55 Muslim countries; so there must be something radically wrong with Pakistan society. This is sad because the founder of Pakistan did not believe in obscurantism and religious chauvinism. There is also the Hooded ordinance that has reduced the status of women in Pakistan and this particular ordinance is still not repealed.

However, Pakistan now has a liberal Prime Minister in Imran Khan and one wonders if he can succeed where strong people like Ayub Khan and Mushraff failed.

Comments

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 28, 2021:

Naseem, I thank you for your comments but I cannot say anything about the people who are writing poems. Maybe they serve a purpose.

Naseem on April 28, 2021:

I am from Rabwah and I'm very thankful for this article. All the friendship poems being written by certain people from Pakistan are extremely hollow as they do not address the problem in their own country.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on November 14, 2015:

Thanks Mel, Pakistan is now face to face with its existence.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on November 14, 2015:

nice comment , thank you.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on November 12, 2015:

Such an intelligent people with so much to offer the world, yet a small percentage of radical Muslims keep the country bogged down in a state of unproductive terror. Great hub.

O from New York on November 11, 2015:

Informative will pass this article along to family and friends, now following as well.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on October 31, 2015:

Thank you tillsontitan for commenting

Mary Craig from New York on October 26, 2015:

An interesting look at the religious and political history in Pakistan.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on October 25, 2015:

I think you should visit Pakistan as more and more Indians are doing and finding that Pakistan is indeed much more tolerant a society than what Indian media preaches.

Yes, we had our dark age when Pakistani sectarian outfits and religious extremists played havoc with society, but those day are gone.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 25, 2015:

How interesting. Thank you.

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