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The forced minority report: The world looks at Pakistan, rightly, as an intolerant and bigoted lot : New Age Islam’s Selection from Pakistan Press, 7 September 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

7 september 2015

 The Forced Minority Report: The World Looks At Pakistan, Rightly, As An Intolerant And Bigoted Lot

Yasser Latif Hamdani

 The Day Pakistan Changed: It Was Made To Succumb To The Demands Of The Clerics Who Had Orchestrated The Riots

Mohammad Ahmad

 Opportunity Beckons For Pakistan

Ali Tahir

 Alienated Fata

Dr Ashraf Ali

 Murder Most Foul

By Kamal Siddiqi




The forced minority report: The world looks at Pakistan, rightly, as an intolerant and bigoted lot


Yasser Latif Hamdani


September 07, 2015

During a trip to Kashmir on May 23, 1944, Jinnah was asked a question as to who was a member of the Muslim Conference, the Kashmir equivalent of the All India Muslim League. The questioner was concerned that Ahmedis were being allowed to join both the Muslim Conference and the All India Muslim League. Calling it a disturbing question, Jinnah sternly told the questioner that the Muslim League was open to all Muslims and that raising such sectarian questions was detrimental to the interests of not just Muslims but all communities. He said: “I appeal to the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir not to raise sectarian questions, but instead to unite on one platform under one banner. In this lies the welfare of the Muslims. In this way, not only can Muslims make political and social progress effectively, but so can other communities, and so also can the state of Kashmir as a whole.” When pressed further, he stated: “What right have I to declare a person non-Muslim, when he claims to be a Muslim?”

Thirty years later, Pakistan’s parliament on September 7, 1974, ignoring this advice from the father of the nation, amended the Constitution of 1973 to declare that Ahmedis were for the purposes of law and the constitution non-Muslims. Whether parliament has the power to do so is an academic question that vexes jurists. After all, the 1973 Constitution, as passed by parliament, contained within it the express guarantee that Islamic provisions would be interpreted and applied in line with the beliefs of each school of thought. This was the basis of the national compact that was arrived at by a broad consensus. Let us assume, however, that parliament had the power to play God and make a decision as to whether or not a person who calls himself a Muslim and who says the kalima — La Illah Illallah Muhammad ur Rasool Allah (there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is his messenger) - is a Muslim. Conversely, today some of the biggest supporters of the idea that Islam is the basic structure of the Constitution argue that the same parliament has no right to undo what it did in 1974. The whole argument is absurd. If parliament could act like God then, presumably it should be able to act like God now. Why the double standard now? This is precisely the kind of logical absurdity that the infusion of religion into the state can cause.

The decision to declare Ahmedis non-Muslims was also accompanied by an express guarantee by the then Prime Minister (PM) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that their fundamental rights would be fully protected as citizens of Pakistan, including their right to worship freely. Subsequently, however, the state has enacted many laws that have done the exact opposite. Ordinance XX of 1984, promulgated by General Ziaul Haq and saved by parliament through the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, declares that Ahmedis can be jailed for three years for pretending to be Muslims. What does that mean? The law has been deliberately kept vague to allow for further absurdities. In a clear violation of Article 20 of the Constitution, which promises unfettered freedom to practise and propagate one’s religion, Ahmedis are not allowed to hold their religious gatherings. Consequently, their annual religious gathering in Rabwah was discontinued in 1984 by force. Ahmedis are routinely jailed in Pakistan for the offence of saying Assalamualaikum, which is central to their faith. However, no such restriction applies to Hindus, Christians or Sikhs in Pakistan. One gentleman, whose parents named him Muhammad Ali, was jailed under this draconian law for writing his name outside his own house in Sargodha. The graves of Ahmedis are routinely desecrated by either overzealous constitutionally approved Muslims or by the state itself. Ahmedis’ places of worship (which cannot be called mosques by law) are destroyed by the state so as to ensure that they look nothing like a Muslim mosque. As if this humiliation was not enough, passport forms were amended in the 1980s whereby now every Muslim in Pakistan applying for a passport has to curse and abuse Ahmedis, calling their founder an imposter and a fraud. We have all signed this statement and we are all equally guilty in the persecution of this community.

These restrictions are not without precedent of course. But to look for the precedent we have to either revisit the history of Nazi Germany, which treated its Jewish population as subhuman or we have to hark back to 16th century England when similar restrictions were imposed on Catholics under King Henry the VIII, Edward and Queen Elizabeth I, and on Protestants by Queen Mary. Are these really the precedents we want to follow? In doing so we have achieved nothing but to bring shame to both Pakistan and Islam. The world looks at us, rightly, as an intolerant and bigoted lot who are unwilling to accept diversity within our ranks. The enemies of Pakistan — not out of any love for the cause of humanity — point to the treatment of Ahmedis as another example of how utterly incorrigible we as a people are.

As a Pakistani I have no answer to this. My head hangs in shame because as a Pakistani I do not even have the power to right these wrongs. This is not freedom; it is slavery to dogma. It is the antithesis of what Pakistan was envisaged to be by Jinnah. I wonder if Jinnah had known that is what we would make of his Pakistan, he would have still pressed for the country. He certainly did not want a theocracy to be run by priests with a divine mission. Yet that is precisely what we are today. We have allowed priests and half-baked religious scholars to destroy that ideal. Here, one must praise the courage of Wajid Shamsul Hasan, son of Syed Shamsul Hasan, a close confidant of the Quaid-e-Azam, for speaking the truth unwaveringly at the annual Ahmedi gathering in London. It is absolutely shameful the way the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution against him for doing so.

For the love of God and for the sake of sanity, undo these laws now or else this sectarianism will eat us from the inside. No amount of cosmetic action and no number of national action plans will undo the scourge of religious extremism until we undo the historic mistake we made 41 years ago.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He can be contacted via twitter @therealylh and through his email address



The day Pakistan changed: It was made to succumb to the demands of the clerics who had orchestrated the riots


Mohammad Ahmad


September 07, 2015

The country had been through difficult times on many occasions since its independence: the untimely death of its founder, Jinnah, the assassination of its first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, a long delay in framing a constitution that could provide a legal framework for administering its sovereignty, military rule and even the tumultuous period of dismemberment when it lost its eastern wing. Yet, through all this, the character of the state remained unchanged as it remained like a mother for all its citizens whom it treated equally for all legal purposes. Generally in line with Jinnah’s vision, the state’s treatment remained fair towards its citizens and it did not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion. It never became a party in religious disputes and sided with no particular community.

This was despite the fact that political expedience had made its leaders conveniently forget Jinnah’s speech to the constituent assembly, to pass the Objectives resolution in 1949, a resolution that was carried despite the voicing of legitimate concerns by such members who could foresee its negative consequences. Ironically, this resolution was forcefully supported by Mr Zafrullah Khan, the country’s first foreign minister, who must have regretted his support for the resolution in the later years of his life. Even the act of Islam being declared the state religion did not change the state’s treatment of its citizens, definitely due to the fact that Islam respects all viewpoints and does not impose just one. However, those who made Islam the state religion would have failed in any attempt to point out if the State of Medina formed on the basis of the Charter of Medina had named any state religion, religion by its very nature being for humans and not for any state. The first two covenants of the Charter are enough for the state religion argument: "(1) This is a document from Muhammad the Prophet between the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib, and those who followed them and joined them and laboured with them. (2) They are one community to the exclusion of all men.”

September 7, 1974, saw all this change with the passage of the Constitutional Second Amendment. That fateful day the politicians and more so the governing party, the secular PPP, to gain the support of the clerics, made the state side with a particular party in a religious dispute and thus degraded the state’s status. The fact that religion is between man and God and the principle that faith was not something which the state should meddle in, were forgotten. The state went on to supra define a religion and declared an Ahmedi “not a Muslim for the purposes of constitution or law”. It thus became a party to a religious conflict and acted against a particular group of people who were its loyal citizens and whose interest it had to equally watch over. In a way this amendment made the state act like God.

History only provides a single example of such an action, that too way back in 85 AD when the religious assembly of the Jews, who were under Roman occupation and did not have a government of their own, declared Christians to be not Jews.

Hitherto Pakistan had strongly dealt with pseudo-religious miscreants, be they the ones who had orchestrated the anti-Ahmadyya riots of Punjab in 1953 or the anti-Shiite riots in Sindh. However, in this particular case the state was made to succumb to the demands of the clerics who had orchestrated the riots.

In hindsight it can be said with surety that this first taste of blood by the clerics changed the direction Pakistan was taking. Pakistan had legalized intolerance. There has been no turning back since then. This change of character made Pakistan softer for the clerics to mould. Pakistan was becoming less tolerant day by day. It was not to be long before intolerance was to find its ablest prodigy, the terrorist. When the military dictator General Zia took power, the intolerance legalised by the second amendment gained momentum. Changing the name of the country’s third largest city from Lyallpur to Faisalabad was an indicator of the direction he wanted the country to take. This pseudo-religious dictator carried the clerics' wishes as commands and passed anti-women laws, promulgated the Nizam-e-Salat Ordinance that tried to regulate prayers, man’s most personal relationship with God. He went on to promulgate the most repressive anti-Ahmedi law of Pakistan, Ordinance XX of 1984, which took away from them their right to call themselves with the name they consider a part of their faith and even denied them the right to reply to any accusation about their belief. It was similar to calling a human being a dog and then demand of him to start barking as well. The west remained silent as human rights were being violated in Pakistan and the country was being taken on the path of intolerance and extremism because of the west’s interests in the first Afghan war. The west had always engaged pseudo-religious elements to counter the rising Soviet influence in the Middle East since the time of Gamal Abdul Nasser. This time around it chose to make Pakistan a breeding ground for pseudo-Islamic mercenaries from everywhere to fight their war in Afghanistan. Zia’s policies fuelled anti-Shia hatred here and fragmented the social fabric of the country. While all this was happening in Pakistan, the west turned a blind eye as they did not want to offend their ablest assistor who was running the show here. Perhaps they considered Pakistan a faraway land and were naive in thinking that hate could be contained. The character of the country changed so badly in Zia’s era that when subsequently an oblique legal challenge was thrown up against the discriminatory anti-Ahmedi laws, the courts of the country assigned proprietorship of religion that rests with God to those in the majority.

Now the outfits the west deliberately or unknowingly assisted create have bred profusely. Initially these outfits sent offshoots into Pakistan but have now developed sympathisers and operatives in western lands too. As a consequence there is terrorism all around and now the west complains. However, the brunt of hatred and terror related activities has been faced by Pakistanis. The west’s unfortunate military involvement in Iraq, Libya and Syria have yielded similar results there. The whole region is in the grip of bloodthirsty machines of hatred that tarnish the image of the religion of peace by their un-Islamic actions. Doesn’t the west need to apologize? Apologize they won’t. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings also remain a no-burden on their conscience. The hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who lost their lives or properties in those cities never got that. Will the innocent Muslims, Christians and others being butchered or dispossessed of their properties by pseudo-Islamists be treated differently by the west and tendered an apology? This is highly unlikely.

Pakistan has started to reflect on the course it adopted over decades after the Peshawar massacre by the pseudo-Islamists and the terrorists are being actively hunted countrywide. The military establishment has taken the lead and is doing its part ably and the facilitators of terror are also in line to be nabbed. However, real victory requires winning the ideological war as well. Despite the military operation, there will still remain a group of people who need to be reformed from their current position of desiring others to share their beliefs, even if it involves the use of intimidation or violence. This legalized intolerance also needs to be dealt with at the soonest. This is something the politicians will have to address. Their capitulation to extremist demands in 1974 started this rot and they must now act to rid the country of its laws of intolerance. It can be said with some degree of surety that even Z A Bhutto would have done it had he been around. Thus the second amendment and other laws of intolerance should no more be treated as sacred cows and need to be reviewed and done away with constitutionally. It is not about anybody’s beliefs. It is about whether man can transgress his limits and act to try to usurp the exclusive right of God.

The fruits of good deeds can only be a blessed life. People must ask of themselves whether the majority’s treatment of those that believe differently had been virtuous. If so, the fruits that the country received should not have been hatred and mayhem but should have been love and peace. Was acting like God in 1974 virtuous? This is the fundamental question. The past cannot be changed but we do have the ability to use our options in the present wisely so that the future generations of Pakistan live with peace and achieve the prosperity the founder of the nation Jinnah dreamt for them.

The writer can be reached at



Opportunity beckons for Pakistan




PAKISTAN is ranked sixth amongst the most populous countries of the world. If it continues to add more people at the present growth rate, it will become the fifth largest country after India, China, the US and Indonesia by 2050. The country’s demographic challenge and opportunity are both rooted in the growing concentration of young people (15-30 years) in its population, described as the ‘youth bulge’.

A large and increasing population is generally seen as inimical to individual and collective wellbeing. It squeezes the per capita availability of resources and impedes growth. Malthus predicted in 1798 that the human race would perish because a linear increase in food supplies would be insufficient for an exponentially growing population.

In more recent literature, the focus has shifted to putting the population into different age groups, including the young (0-15 years), those of working age (15-64 years) and the aging (64 years and older), to analyse their impact on economic growth. A higher growth rate in the working age segment is perceived as a ‘window of opportunity’ for speeding up economic development and generating ‘demographic dividends’.

If properly tapped, our ‘youth bulge’ can yield high dividends.

The rationale is straightforward. The young and aging segments consume more and produce less. They depend on society for their sustenance. The working age group (potentially) produces more than it consumes. When it is growing and dependent segments are on the wane, more is added to national income than is required by society. Young and energetic workers and female participation in the labour force provide additional impetus to economic productivity. The logical outcome is enhancement in well-being due to surplus resources.

Almost two-thirds of our population is below the age of 30 years. Since the onset of demographic transition (ie the difference between high fertility and low mortality rates) in the late 1970s, many young people are progressing to the working-age segment. They are augmenting both the youth bulge and the size of the working-age segment in Pakistan’s population vis-à-vis the total population. According to one study, the share of the working-age segment in Pakistan increased from 52pc in the late 1980s to 59pc in 2006. It is expected to peak to 68pc in 2045 before beginning to decline as the bulge graduates to the ageing segment and fertility declines to replacement levels.

Young people are entering Pakistan’s labour force at a time when the number of working-age individuals is declining the world over, particularly in wealthy countries. The youth bulge’s potential for our economy is, therefore, nothing short of amazing.

A capable, skilled workforce is the most effective asset for the generation of wealth. Large-scale export of skilled labour from Pakistan, as distinct from semi-skilled or unskilled labour, can significantly add to foreign remittance inflows. Similarly, trained domestic manpower rendering IT and other specialised services, outsourced by the rich countries, can generate large foreign-exchange earnings. According to one estimate, Pakistan can earn foreign exchange of $20 billion in the IT sector alone. The critical determinants of success in this market are a fit between the skill set of domestic labour and global market needs and quality and competitiveness of the services offered.

Not only do people in the working-age segment provide labour, they are also the most voracious consumer base for local businesses because of their higher income levels and personal needs. Their consumption preferences determine growth patterns of economic sectors individually and of the economy in general. Over the past decade, the impressive growth trajectory in communications, consumer electronics, automobiles, education and retail sectors in an otherwise lacklustre economy is evidence of market expansion driven by the youth bulge. One can argue that some of the economic benefits of the demographic transition have already started accruing to the domestic economy.

While the overall literacy rate is low in Pakistan at around 58 pc, it stands at 67pc in the 15-24 age group which shows that the educational makeup of the youth bulge is improving. Evidence of change is already visible in a large number of young Pakistanis who have made their mark in different fields including the arts, pop music, IT and other professions. The rising number of young women entering educational institutions and the job market is also reorienting traditional notions of family, gender roles and work ethics in our society. This transformation can pave the way for a progressive and liberal society in the years to come.

Pakistan’s demographic window of opportunity opened around the 1990s and is projected to close in 2045. The country has lost two decades but can still optimise the potential dividends of the youth bulge through a set of appropriate policy interventions and by engaging society as a whole.

The writer, a civil servant, has worked as secretary, Planning and Development Department, Punjab.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2015


Alienated Fata


Dr Ashraf Ali


September 07, 2015

The political and judicial vacuum, coupled with bad governance and massive corruption in state institutions that resulted in creating a gap between the state and society, ultimately led to the people’s exclusion from the political process in today’s volatile tribal belt of Pakistan.

This widening gap that led to a trust deficit between the rulers and the ruled provided a space for the non-state actors (the Taliban) to exploit the sense of deprivation and frustration among the masses. The militant Taliban, in first instance, started cutting those roots that they viewed were connecting the state with society. Hence their first victim became the tribal elders and maliks. So far they have targeted killed over 3,000 tribal elders and maliks with almost half of them only in Bajaur Agency. The unabated target killings of the influential tribal elders forced thousands of maliks to flee the area and leave the field open for the militants to administer justice themselves.

Journalists were the next target. Over two dozen journalists were killed in the line of their duty across Fata. The intimidation, torture and killing of dozens of journalists forced many more to flee the area for safer places in the country.

Next on the list were schools, where the militants viewed the future educated lot to be a potential threat to their interests. Over 800 schools have been blown up so far in the tribal areas. The same trend was witnessed in the Swat Valley during the 2009 crisis where Mullah Fazlullah-led militia blew up close to 420 schools.

The prevailing chaos, disruption and disorder in society led people to lose confidence over the state and its institutions. Only 0.6 percent of the population pays tax in Pakistan as against 4.7 percent in India, 58 percent in France and 80 percent in Canada. People hardly pay zakat through the government institutions. They withdraw their money from the banks a day before Zakat is to be deducted and redeposit it after the process of zakat deduction is over.

This does not mean that we, as a nation, are not patriotic. For good reasons we do not believe in state institutions, especially when we see strange stories of corruption in government departments making headlines in the national media. This makes one develop a sense of alienation for the system s/he is not part of. People disown the system they think is not meant for him and where their views and wishes are not reflected in the decision-making process. This leads them to lose confidence over a system that neither delivers to them nor protects and guarantees their rights. The obvious manifestation is the killing and setting ablaze of criminals in the busy bazars of Lahore, Sialkot and now recently in Karachi.

The country’s vigilant civil society can be seen in the front row when it comes to any crises and disasters – natural or man-made. The unforgettable contributions of the civil society in the October 2005 earthquake, the 2010-15 floods, droughts and huge mass displacements in the wake of militancy and subsequent military operations across Fata and the Swat region speaks volumes for the generosity and spirit of the Pakistani nation. While cracking down on civil society organisations the government often forgets that its own incompetence and failure in service delivery has created space for over 56,000 non-governmental organisations to do what the government failed to do.

To connect the dots, the government has to restore people’s confidence by bridging the gap between state and society. The state-citizen relationship should be strengthened. And this is possible only when the common man is empowered by giving him a say in the decision-making process. He should be given a sense of ownership by including him in the political process.

To that end, the local government system offers a perfect solution to the needs of the common man.

We have long been talking of mainstreaming Fata but our planners have hardly put in sincere efforts towards this. It is not rocket science; it’s all about giving Fata’s people their legal and constitutional rights. The local bodies elections could be a good start towards mainstreaming the restive tribal areas.

Fata has been under the spotlight for the last more than one decade. Being at the centre of international attention, there is a global urge for change and development in the tribal areas. However, the writ of the state can hardly be restored in the absence of a formal governance structure – the democratic institutions. Similarly participatory development is possible only when powers are delegated on the lower level. Delegation of power from top to bottom could break the status quo and put the region back on the track towards progress and prosperity, allowing people to have their due say in the decision-making process and ultimately own the system.

With Balochistan taking the lead, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab are all set to hold local bodies elections in November. Ironically, this time too, the war-ravaged Fata region seems to be ignored. No word has come from the Presidency, the PM House or parliament on the issue in question. The silence of mainstream political parties has sent a shocking message across Fata that the slogans of mainstreaming Fata were just part of its political campaigns and had nothing to do with the welfare and prosperity of the people of the region.

The army is busy doing its job on the military front but we have to go a long way on the political front as well. We have to build institutions. If we have to move forward towards mainstreaming the region, this is the right time for the political managers to make sincere efforts towards a representative local government system in war-ridden Fata and address the people’s sense of frustration and deprivation.

The writer heads the FATA Research Centre (FRC) in Islamabad. Email:


Murder most foul


By Kamal Siddiqi

September 6, 2015

A couple of days back, a schoolboy shot dead his female classmate before turning the gun on himself at a private school in Karachi. According to eye-witnesses, the 16-year-old boy opened fire on his classmate during the assembly session resulting in her instant death.

Soon after, the boy committed suicide with the same gun he used to kill her. Both died on the spot and their bodies were shifted to a nearby hospital for legal formalities, after which they were handed over to their respective families. Police said, they had recovered a 9mm pistol and two bullet casings from the crime scene.

Two ‘suicide letters’ were later found at the assembly grounds. The letters, addressed to their respective parents, stated that the two teenagers were committing suicide due to their parents’ opposition to their getting married. The letter, also said that their bodies be laid to rest next to each other.

But police have said that it could not be verified that the letters were written separately by the girl and boy considering that the handwriting in both letters seem identical.

The media lapped it up as it usually does. A suicide pact story makes for good ratings. Looking back, one can say that the story could have been done more responsibly and more with sensitivity. As things stand, the only thing we know is that the boy killed

the girl. But the media immediately claimed that he had killed his girlfriend, of which we have no proof. Here it seems we have done a great injustice. What if the girl had been murdered

because she had spurned the boy’s advances? Only to get ratings, some media outlets made it into a story that was not independently verified.

Also, in situations of suicide, much care has to be taken by the media. In Australia, for example, I have seen, the media does not usually report on teen suicides. In fact, what happens when such tragedy takes place; the students at the school where the unfortunate child goes are told that he/she has shifted to another city.

The reason for this subterfuge is to prevent copycat suicides as this trend is very much common. In Pakistan, there must be more discussion on this issue as we are seeing a rise in such incidents.

We also have to look at the unregulated content that our children have access to. For example, there is a glorification of violence in a number of stories that they consume – whether in print, online or on television. While one cannot advocate for further regulation of the media or censorship, there must be some system in place to ensure that the wrong kind of messages do not end up with impressionable minds. As it is, there is rising peer pressure that sometimes forces children into situations that are both dangerous and possibly disastrous.

The other issue with this double murder is the easy availability of guns in Pakistan. Although this may be a naive question, how did a 16 year old get access to a 9mm pistol in the first place. Has the police tried to trace the source and what are they doing about it especially with Karachi awash in guns of all shapes and sizes.

Crusaders like Naeem Sadiq have tried to pressurise the government to come up with a strategy to restrict and monitor the number of weapons in the city. There are other dedicated people too who have over the years tried to warn of the dangers of easy access to guns. But our government continues to slumber as people suffer.

The double murder case is a sad reminder of how things are deteriorating in our society in general and in our educational institutions in particular. One should take the school administration to task as to how a student was able to smuggle in a gun and take a pot shot at another student. If nothing else, they should be asked what lessons have been learnt and what measures they are taking to avoid such incidents in the future.

One is afraid that such incidents will recur given the growing frustration of our youth and the lack of avenues for them to channelise their energies. What can be done to address this issue, so that we may save some valuable lives in the process.