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Islam and Sectarianism ( 11 Aug 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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An Open Letter to Quaid-e-Azam, On Minorities Day


By Tahir Mehdi

August 12th, 2014

Respected Sir,

I am a citizen of the country you founded 67 years ago.

I understand that you did not live long enough to see the shape your dream took on after you left for the hereafter.

Sixty-seven years is a long time; the youth today is the third generation of the one that had thronged your Jalsas and served as the main force that converted the demand of a homeland into a successful movement.

A lot has happened since then and I have so many things to share with you but I will limit myself to one question.

What kind of a country did you want to create?

Naive as it may be, sir, let me assure you that it is the very question that I face every single morning. I am severely troubled by it and I assume many of my compatriots are too.

Please, sir, let me explain.

I studied in a public school and learned all my lessons in history, called Pakistan Studies, very well. I learned that the country was created in the name of Islam as the Muslims of the subcontinent did not want to live with Hindus and other non-Muslims.

They wanted to create a new state built on the principles of Islam. I can pick many quotes from your various addresses that conform to this assertion, and most of my friends also believe it to be true.

A country for Muslims built on Islamic principles ostensibly meant that the non-Muslims would have no, or at best, secondary roles in matters of the state and also in the society at large.

Sir, exactly the same has happened.

We have been successful in driving out the Hindus and Sikhs from this, our holy land. That turned out to be the best way to solve the ‘minority problem’ that you delved into so passionately. Some in Sindh, however, have been very stubborn and refuse to leave their ancestral land. Rest assured, a lot of patriotic people are working on this, with a success story making headlines in newspapers every other day.

Only a handful of Sikhs are left in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as they too have been conquered completely. Just days ago, a Sikh boy in Peshawar who was a threat to Pakistan’s ideology was done away with. Similarly, an Ahmadi woman and her two grandchildren in Gujranwala were removed from our road to progress just weeks ago.

You must be wondering how Ahmadis have become a threat for the Islamic state, as you kept good company with them and even appointed one as your Foreign Minister. Let me brief you that it was discovered later in 1974 that Ahmadis were not only non-Muslims but that they were a big threat to the ideological moorings of the nation. Subsequent governments have been taking adequate steps to keep this menace in check and the entire society too, has now volunteered itself to stand guard against any and all violations.

And yes, about the Christians. You might have known some Anglo-Indians practicing this faith. But as the majority of them in Pakistan now consist of Dalits, who have taken refuge in churches, we don’t have to worry much about them. They mostly engage in lowly jobs; we have not been complacent on this front and have ensured that the Christians will not sneak their way into the higher ranks of society. There are many laws and social norms firmly in place to ensure that they don’t dare think beyond what is prescribed for them.

All of these achievements make a lot of my compatriots happy about Pakistan largely achieving what it was meant to.

Though, there are still some items on the agenda left unchecked, like converting the various sects to a purer form of Islam and thus ensuring a more cohesive society. I do think it will not be long before this is achieved soon.

But, then I read your address to the inaugural session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan held on 11 August 1947, though it was not part of my Pakistan Studies courses.

I am sure you remember it well and fully as it was supposed to lay the basis of the constitution of Pakistan.

Rendered in Urdu by a Sujag project, PluralPakistan:

Sir, this address of yours is the main source of my confusion.

You have said here in very clear words that the state of Pakistan will have nothing to do with the religion of its citizens. Did you really think that was possible in a country made in the name of a religion? Isn’t it natural for such a state to be concerned and watchful of the faith of its citizens?

I know of a few westernised friends who think it wasn’t your idea to build the state on the basis of religion. But then there are so many others who have strong arguments proving that since the entire movement was driven by a strong passion for religion, it was but natural to build a faith-oriented state upon its conclusion.

Some unscrupulous elements try to explain away your August 11 address by claiming it to be fake or even delivered to appease some foreign powers. However, knowing you to be an astute, upright, man of principles and great integrity, I cannot imagine you being expedient, that too at the historic moment of the inauguration of the new country’s first parliament.

So, sir, instead of falling for one or the other theory, I decided to ask you the question directly. What kind of state did you want to create?

Should I take your August 11 speech in letter and spirit, or shall I be happy with whatever Pakistan has achieved so far on this front?

Sincerely yours,

Tahir Mehdi

August 11, 2014

Tahir Mehdi works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy