By James Shera
24, Sep 2013
The founder and father of the nation of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was undoubtedly revered and trusted by all, irrespective of citizens’ faith, belief or creed.
During his struggles for the independence, Christian organisations and activists along with others actively supported Mr Jinnah in his great mission even before the final phase of the freedom movement. Christians not just loved him and agreed with his thinking and ideology but also offered endless support. Leading Christians at that time also took active part in the freedom movement including Mr Pothan Joseph who rendered valuable services as a journalist and propagandist for the Muslim League.
After Pakistan came into being in 1947, Mr Jinnah repeatedly promised complete equality to all the citizens but unfortunately his promise has not been kept by his successors.
In his address to the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on 11th August 1947, Mr Jinnah said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples; free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BUSINESS OF THE STATE”.
So, let us start with this fundamental principle of citizen equality in a state, which is vital for the development and progression of any state and nation.
I firmly believe I’m right to put this thought forward that Mr Jinnah was a very forward looking leader, who whole heartedly wanted Pakistan to become one of world’s greatest nations in the shortest possible time. His education in the west and vast global knowledge facilitated him to oversee problems that often meet nations and become hindrance in progression and therefore, he wanted to ensure he addresses them to the nation clearly and warn them of such obstacles.
Hence his speech, on 11thAugust that has been quoted above, evidently sums up his thoughts and views on the role of religion in relation to the state and its affairs.
Quaid obviously understood the sensitivity of the matter and knew that breaking the nation into groups and circles based on cast or religion would do us no good. So he taught the nation equality amongst all citizens and love towards each other; leaving religion and creed to a side since it’s personal to every member of the state and doesn’t obstruct the progression of country.
Perhaps his historic speech of 11th August, considered by many as the founding charter of Pakistan, sums up Quaid’s views on role of religion in the State. Pakistan’s founding father envisaged a progressive, democratic and tolerant society that retained its Muslim character whilst giving equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal respect to its non-Muslim citizens.
As I hinted earlier, Christian communities fought hard for independence along with their Muslim brothers in the freedom movement. In 1947, the division of Punjab became a major dispute between the All Indian Congress and All Indian Muslim League. Both parties were trying to have the maximum part of Punjab on the basis of religious majority that was endorsing the aspirations of Punjab Assembly and there was quite a majority of Sikhs and Hindus in the assembly, and of-course the Hindu Unionist party was in support of All India Congress.
It looked as though the All India Muslim League did not have enough votes in the Punjab Assembly and neither had enough territories to command a Muslim majority. In this situation, Christian members of the Punjab Assembly openly sided with the All India Muslim League and blatantly declared that the Christian population should be counted with the Muslims. Hence, when the votes were casted, Christian Members of the Punjab Assembly, including: Mr Dewan Bhadar, SP Singa, C E Gibbon and Choudhry Fazal Elahi voted with the Muslim League Members on 23rd June 1947.
When they were entering the Constituent Assembly, Master Tarah Singh shouted at the stairs of the assembly: “Whoever demands Pakistan will get Qaberastan”, and in return, Mr SP Singha (Christian member of the Punjab Assembly) replied: “We will have the bullets in our chest but we will get Pakistan”.
Finally the voting took place and 91 votes were casted to Muslim League including 3 Christian, but the final, decisive and the casting vote was given by the Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Mr S P Singha who was a Christian.
The above account clearly demonstrates trust of the Christian community in the ideology and promises of Qaid. Also upon his request, Christian leaderships appeared before Punjab Boundary Commission along with the 35 prominent Christians and asked the boundary commissioner Sir Cyril Radcliffe to consider Christians as part of Pakistan.
Today in the 66th year of independence of our motherland, questions are being asked by non-Muslim leadership that why our forefathers supported Pakistan and a simple answer is: the founder of Pakistan Mr M. A. Jinnah repeatedly promised them security, equality, freedom and free access to practise their faith in the Islamic state of Pakistan.
Mr Jinnah had a special approval from the Muslim League’s Core Committee for the flag of Pakistan to have white colour in it along with green to show the world that this new state wholeheartedly considers non-Muslim as equal and integral members of the state.
Mr Jinnah was very clear in his vision that he did not want non-Muslims in Pakistan to suffer as the Muslim minority suffered in India. Hence he thought that Muslim minority upon becoming majority would not forget how it feels to be a minority and would rather offer security, love and equal treatment to the other minorities dwelling while they are in the majority.
Mr Jinnah’s speeches and actions are evidence that he genuinely believed in an ideal Islamic state that cares and caters for everyone irrespective of their creed, breed, religion or language. History tells that on first Christmas after independence, in 1947, he went to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi and celebrated Christmas with Christians.
Today, what is happening in Pakistan? We are totally negating our Quaid’s message of Unity, Faith and Discipline and are divided into different sections based on religion, language, caste and breed. We have even come to a point where sometimes we do not even feel proud to be Pakistanis
Pakistani non-Muslims and particularly Christians are serving the country and nation with total vigour and devotion beside many challenges and difficulties. There are countless names who have played prominent roles in Pakistan’s development and betterment, and it would be in-justice if I don’t call upon a few names, including:
Justice A R Cornelius, who became Chief Justice of Pakistan
Mr Justice Bhagwan Dass, who became active Chief Justice of Pakistan
Distinguished Air Force Pilots: Cecil Chaudhry, Peter O Reilly, and Mervyn L Moddlecoat
Christians have also contributed as educationalists, politicians, Doctors, Lawyers and businessmen. Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti gave his life defending Quaid’s vision along with many Muslims who have scarified their lives in defending Quaid’s Pakistan namely: Shaheed Muhtaram Benazir Bhutto and Shaheed Salman Taseer. Our armed forces and law enforcing agencies along with many innocent citizens have also been killed by those forces who do not share our Founding Father’s dream. We must not allow those forces that are denting the good name of our beloved country.
As Pakistanis we proclaim to love our country and Qaid-e-Azam Mohd. Ali Jinnah but we must not leave it to words alone but put it to practice, and surely love is incomplete without faithfulness… and I am proud to say that Christians of PAKISTAN have been serving Quaid’s Pakistan with total vigour, devotion and faithfulness beside many challenges and discriminatory laws that have been thrust upon them.
Christians (and in-fact all minorities) continue to love their beloved country, despite frequent atrocious attacks on our churches, colonies and leaders. We are targeted and martyred due to our creed and love for the country but even then we continue to pray for our country that we acquired after countless sacrifices with our Muslim brothers, but yet there seems to be no ending of sacrifices for us.
A few months ago an entire dwelling of Christians, Joseph Colony in Lahore was burnt to ashes, and again this Sunday, two suicide bombers in Peshawar attacked a church, killing in access of 83 worshipers and injuring countless… And then there are other countless incidents and scars in the form of: Gojrah, Korian, Shanti Nagar, and many many more. Ever after all this our love for the country never dares to shrink but keeps on growing and we continue to pray for its progression and success in our personal, family and congregational prayers.
After every persecution and oppression we habitually hear sympathetic and supportive words by social, political and religious leadership but they very often remain words as not much is always done practically to prevent such atrocities and injustices against minorities. Today we feel more frightened and insecure than we ever were during the freedom movement under Quaid’s leadership in 1947 due to the lack of security and ill treatment many of us often receive by the majority.
I highly condemn this barbaric act of terrorism and surely you would do the same but let’s hope and pray that the leadership in Pakistan and those who have the power to take actions to prevent such atrocities in future utilise their abilities, authority and command whole heartedly.
Pakistan is a great country and I believe answer to the gigantic challenges and problems it is facing today can be resolved by reverting back to Quaid’s Pakistan, which was originally envisaged by our Quaid: the rule of law, good governance, justice, religious freedom and equal rights are to be given to all citizens of the state irrespective of one’s creed or social status. Long live Pakistan.