By Rida Bhatti
July 24, 2018
It is hard to ignore the hate-filled faces spewing vitriol at Jibran Nasir in the final lap to the elections. Social media is buzzing with coverage of unfortunate verbal and physical attacks by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) supporters on Jibran Nasir. TLP supporters are systematically harassing the independent candidate over his views regarding the Ahmadiyya faith. The relentless bullying, and calls for a public denouncement of the Ahmadiyya faith (and the individuals ascribing to the same) compels one to ask:
What is exactly “Quaid ka Pakistan”? For a phrase which is abundantly used in every politically charged speech replete with meaningless rhetoric, surprisingly only a handful of politicians would be able to provide a semblance of a knowledgeable answer.
Similarly, did the Quaid envisage a state in which the self-proclaimed patrons of Islam and, the self-proclaimed patrons of democracy (in particular those crying “Vote Ko Izzat Do!”), would thrive on the politics of hate, divisiveness, and fear of the others (in particular minorities) in order to gain traction within the masses?
Furthermore, was “Quaid ka Pakistan” supposed to be a theocratic state, to be ruled by a demagogue pandering to the religious morality of the majority Sunni Muslim population?
An apt answer can be gleaned from an extract of the Quaid’s broadcast, made months before he passed away, to the people of the United States in February 1948, regarding his aspirations for Pakistan:
“In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state - to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims - Hindus, Christians, and Parsis - but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”
On a previous occasion in 1947, the Quaid was asked whether Pakistan would be a secular or a theocratic State, to which the Quaid responded: “You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.”
A correspondent clarified that a theocratic state meant a state where only people of a particular religion, for example, Muslims, could be full citizens and non-Muslims would not be full citizens.
The Quaid stated:
“Then it seems to me that what I have already stated is like throwing water on duck’s back (laughter). For goodness sake, get out of your head the nonsense that is being talked about. What this theocratic state means I do not understand.”
Another evidence of the Quaid’s secular values is his speech to the constituent assembly on 11 August 1947 in which he stated as follows:
“You are free – You are free to go to your temples, mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state. .. if we keep this in front of us as a principle, you will see that in due course of time, Hindus will cease be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in a religious sense because that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of the state”.
Although some might cite certain statements of the Quaid to support the argument that the Quaid envisaged a “Muslim state” and not a secular democratic nation, it is worth noting that the Quaid did not seem to think that Islamic values and democracy were at odds. Which is why in 1947 he stated that: “When you talk democracy, I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learnt democracy thirteen centuries ago.”
It is clear that the Quaid envisaged a state built upon the principles of equal citizenship for all, regardless of differing religious affiliations. So then, why is it that the so called children of the Quaid, are not outraged by the treatment meted out to the likes of Jibran Nasir? Persons like Jibran Nasir have had the audacity and courage to raise a voice against the gross injustice against minorities and the marginalized factions of the society in a state which was built on the promise to protect them.
Why is the outrage confined to well-drafted statuses on Facebooks, and not projected onto the mainstream media and the political debates taking place on a daily basis on our TV channels? Why is there radio silence at the end of all major political parties who are never short for words on issues relating to their own vested interests?
It is because as a society, we have internalized and normalized the unfair treatment towards minorities who do not ascribe to the religious beliefs and ethos of our entitled Sunni majority- may it be Ahmadis, Parsis, Christians or Shia Muslims. It is deemed acceptable that a candidate may be harassed regarding his personal views for a religious minority while campaigning in a so-called “democratic state”.
The so-called soldiers of Islam forget (or are probably unaware) that Islam in the Arabian peninsula was predicated on unprecedented socio-religious reforms in favour of the marginalized factions of society- the slaves, the women, the orphans. Islam garnered extreme opposition in its nascent stage due to the challenge it posed to the normalized injustice against the weaker members of the society, not because the idea of worshipping one God was groundbreaking and unheard of in pre-islamic Arabia!
The so-called soldiers of Islam are also completely ignorant of the egalitarian outlook of Islam, which led to the spurting growth of the religion in its early days. Those who cite the example of Medina as the model society which every Islamic state should aspire to become, forget that the Medinian society was in fact, a pluralistic society in which trade and social relations flourished between its members of differing faiths.
Therefore, it is an outrage that the religion of Islam and the ideology of Pakistan are misused on a daily basis as a tool by extremist factions to further their own agenda, and to silence the rare voices of reason, (such as Jibran), which dare to speak out regarding the real issues plaguing our country- such as economic disparity, the scarcity of resources (in particular water), and safeguarding the rights of minorities, to name a few.
To me, the dream of “Naya Pakistan” or a “democratic” Pakistan, purged of the plague of the establishment, is irrelevant. What our society really needs to purge from its social fabric is the hate and fear for each other. Our society needs to rid itself of the destructive habit of determining how much another’s faith is in compliance with their own personal beliefs. Because, that is not a debate for the public or political arena. The details of one’s personal faith are irrelevant in light of his/her credentials, or lack thereof, for public office.
Till the time our society does not develop the habit of self-reflection and equipping itself with actual knowledge regarding the ideology of our great motherland and our great religion, no politician, no government, and no leader can neutralize the threats posed to our country which stem from divisiveness, hatred, bigotry and self-interest. The threat comes from within, and must be neutralized from within.
Rida Bhatti is a practicing lawyer.