By Yasser Latif Hamdani
January 21, 2013
Who amongst us will decide who is a good Muslim and who is not a good Muslim? Whose definition of Muslim will be accepted? Dr Qadri's? Or Mumtaz Qadri's?
The first and foremost thing that one must point out about the way the Qadri long march ended is that Pakistan’s constitutional and democratic system is now firmly rooted and cannot be shaken by protest marches and massing of crowds in the capital. For this, one must salute the government as well as the opposition. Credit must also be given to the government for dealing with the march without resorting to any heavy-handed tactics, while also protecting the participants of the march from any untoward activity such as a terrorist attacks.
Another positive outcome of this march was that it remained completely non-violent and while led by a religious cleric, did not raise any religious demands. This too was a positive sign. If anything, Dr Qadri must be appreciated for leading a march of hardcore Barelvis not known for their moderation or tolerance in recent times without violence and without any rhetoric against religious minorities, and especially against the favourite scapegoat of the religious clerics like Dr Qadri: the Ahmadis. Small mercies, one was gratified to see that Dr Qadri’s second-in-command during negotiations was the renowned Shia scholar Agha Murtaza Poya. Meanwhile, the singing, dancing and chanting crowd consisting of religious men and women repeatedly emphasised everyday sensible things like electricity, gas and inflation.
These positives aside, I am very disappointed by all parties concerned. On the part of the treasury benches, I fail to understand how a democratically elected government can cede important ground to Dr Qadri when it states that the names suggested by them will be agreed upon by him? Why? Which elections has Dr Qadri won? Tomorrow, the Taliban may march on to the capital. Will the government enter into a similar agreement with them? The agreement between Dr Qadri and the government violates Article 25 of the constitution. It is, therefore, a void agreement under the Contract Act of 1872. Why is the advice and opinion of a Canadian citizen more important and binding on Pakistan’s democratically elected government than mine, a Pakistani citizen who voted in the last elections?
Whatever the positives of the long march, we are no closer to the solution of some of the most urgent problems facing this nation and, may I add, hampering its process. Foremost amongst these problems is the spectre of religious extremism before us. One would have imagined the ‘International Ambassador of Peace’ Dr Qadri would come with a reformist’s zeal. While this Qadri is blowing hot and cold about the problems facing the country, there is another Qadri who is in jail but whose appeal remains in cold storage. That Qadri had killed an honest, upstanding and progressive Pakistani patriot on January 4, 2011. To this Qadri’s credit, he has condemned that Qadri. Yet he is still to clarify his own claim about being the author of Pakistan’s 295-C law. If indeed Dr Qadri has had a change of heart about the law, as is evidenced by his own statement that the blasphemy law cannot be applied to non-Muslims, would it not have been an excellent opportunity for the great Allama to press home that point in his long march? What an august and auspicious occasion that would have been. If Dr Qadri believes that the threat to Pakistan comes from terrorists, would it not make sense for him to denounce — in clear terms — the Taliban and other groups that are out to destroy Pakistan today?
Instead, Dr Qadri, who claims to have taught law, wants us to put our faith in the army — which is part of the executive and an arm of the federal government — and the Supreme Court of Pakistan — that bastion of fundamental rights, which apparently has enough time on its hands to admit a petition by some ridiculous petitioner against Sherry Rehman. Apparently, Ms Rehman committed blasphemy for introducing a bill in the assembly. Somebody please point out to the Supreme Court that legislative proceedings are exempt from judicial interference, even if their final result is not.
No sir. We would rather concentrate on Articles 62 and 63, especially the clauses introduced by that ‘soldier of Islam’, General Zia, through ‘democratic’ means. Is there anyone in Pakistan who qualifies on that touchstone that is vague and ambiguous? Who amongst us will decide who is a good Muslim and who is not a good Muslim? Whose definition of Muslim will be accepted? Dr Qadri’s? Or Mumtaz Qadri’s? Or that of the Taliban? So it must be pointed out that the definition of Muslim in our constitution does not exist. Instead, it is the definition of who is not a Muslim that has been incorporated in the constitution. If you allow Articles 62 and 63 to run their logical course, you will find yourselves on that slippery slope that will leave only a small fraction of Pakistanis legally qualified to call themselves Muslims, let alone good Muslims.
You find many religious types bemoaning the fact that Pakistan is too ethnically divided and that Muslims kill Muslims in the name of language, race and sect. This is because you have made religion such a big deal that any and all sense of Muslim solidarity has evaporated. During the Pakistan Movement, the Muslim League refused to allow congregational prayers officially because they knew that once that was done it would turn Muslim against Muslim.
However, since the passage of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, we have been putting up Takfir factories. Today, all of us have become ‘Kafirs’s (infidels).
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Jinnah: Myth and Reality.