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I am usually not prone to conspiracy theories but given the article quoted below, I am inclined to believe that there is massive conspiracy against Pakistani state and its poor masses by the ruling elite. It is an axiom of human behavior that when one has identified the source of a major problem, at the very least one tries to counter its effect so as to mitigate the problem. Most people are prepared to go even further; they take specific corrective actions to resolve the problem. Given the raging Taliban insurgency, widespread religiously-inspired suicide bombing, escalating Shia-Sunni violence, and attacks on women and religious minorities…all of which fuel social, economic, and political instability…. shouldn’t the Pak government finally revise its educational curriculum to promote a moderate and enlightened perspective? Yet, the govt only wants to increase Islamization and fuel more chaos in the country!

[Education policy; Dawn Editorial; 11 Sep, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

At long last, the National Education Policy (NEP) is out.

But many education NGOs which were part of the reform process are not pleased as a number of their suggestions have not been included. Two aspects that will have profound implications are highlighted: one, the ideological undertones that have been injected into the NEP belatedly; two, the implementation mechanism. A new chapter titled “Islamic Education” has been added to the draft that lauds the “infusion of religious teachings in the curriculum”. Past experience has shown that we can expect the further spread of obscurantism in view of the NEP’s failure to adopt an enlightened approach. For instance, the stress is on memorisation and there is no mention of promoting understanding and debate on what is taught in the name of religion.

Qaris will be training the teachers and there is no assurance that minorities and non-majority sects will be spared what this prescription of ideology imposes on them. The provision for Ethics as a subject for non-Muslim students in lieu of Islamiyat notwithstanding, they will have to submit to the “infusion” of faith in the curricula for all subjects. Another serious cause for concern is that no effective independent monitoring authority has been provided for. In effect the task of monitoring will be left to the education departments in every province. Has that not been done since 1947? Can those who siphon off funds to line their own pockets really check the misappropriation of the amounts involved?

The full article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/07-education-policy-ha-03

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I have always believed in the modern concept of a secular nation state where all citizens – irrespective of their religion, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and dare I say, sexual orientation – are awarded equal rights and protection. Now, I am smart enough to know that implementation of such a progressive concept in a third-world country created specifically in the name of Islam is very difficult.

That being said, I am equally sure that Pakistan can never be transformed into an Islamic state in which all so-called “Muslims” are in accord with each other on religious injunctions. This is because it is impossible to agree on a definition of a Muslim that is acceptable to all sects. Put differently, the tremendous variation in beliefs and practices of “Islamic” sects is a recipe for institution of tyranny as well as suppression and persecution of minorities.

The following excerpts beautifully illustrate the impossibility of reconciliation among various Islamic sects.

[Smokers’ Corner: To kill a mocking lizard; DAWN; Nadeem F. Paracha; 07 Sep, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

That reminds me of the famous Justice Munir Report on the 1954 anti-Ahmadi riots in Lahore. In the course of the inquiry, Justice Munir pointedly asked every Muslim scholar who appeared before him if he knew of a definition of Islam which could be acceptable by the other sects as well; which could equally apply to everyone and by the help of which we could define, “Yes, this is a Muslim”, and “That is not a Muslim”

In the report Munir submits that no two scholars among all Muslim scholars interrogated, agreed on a single definition of what Islam was. In the case of one particular scholar, he wanted some more time to think over it, and Justice Kayani, who was a partner of Justice Munir in the enquiry commission, said: “I cannot give you more time because you have already taken more than fourteen hundred years to ponder over this question. Is that not enough? If fourteen centuries, plus some years are not enough for you to be able to define the very fundamentals of Islam, how much more time would you require?”

The full article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/03-nadeem-f-paracha-to-kill-a-mocking-lizard-ss-01

The article below provides a good overview of the gradual onset of Islamization in Pakistan. It explains how: (a) the country’s origins lie in creation of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims, but not an Islamic state; (b) religion remained largely a matter of personal faith and the country was mostly secular till 1970; (c) the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 sharpened the need for a national ideology to prevent another breakup; (d) calls for Islamization began to increase with Islamists’ success in getting Ahmadis declared as non-Muslims; (e) Bhutto’s election rigging and modern lifestyle created the excuse for an Islamic-oriented opposition movement; and (f) General Zia with his coup formally embraced and implemented Islamization as a state policy.

Of course, as per the author: “This gradual Islamisation succeeded in creating an aura of religiosity in everyday life. In reality, there was no necessary improvement in justice, equality and morality. Indeed, the government’s edicts split society between a public life of Islamic pieties and a private life characterised by personal gain.” Moreover, Islamization never had a chance as a national unifying force due to the fact that “unity in such a country [as Pakistan] has to come from a democratic recognition of its diversity, and not through the engineering of a single, wholesome notion of faith and nation.”

[Pious follies; DAWN; Nadeem F. Paracha; Sep 3rd, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

Islam is believed to be the basis of nationalism on which the Pakistani state was constituted, even though this notion continues to be hotly contested. Liberals hold the view that Pakistan was created for the Muslim community of India, which Muhammad Ali Jinnah treated as a separate ethnic and cultural community, rather than a strictly religious group demanding an Islamic theocracy. Either way Islam is accepted as the core social and political institution in Pakistan, giving it a special role in Pakistani society.

However, this was not always the case – especially between 1947 and 1970 – when the principal tenor of the state and society was largely secular and Islam largely remained a matter of personal faith. But the roots of what came to be known as “Islamisation” of society stretch back to the 1950s.

Islamisation as an official socio-political ideology was first introduced in public life in shape of the symbols of the state. For example, Quranic verses emblazoned on state buildings and constitutional debates about Islamic law started to emerge sometime after 1956. During that period, the leadership of the Muslim League was overwhelmingly secular and steeped in English Common Law. The party leaned towards the creation of a liberal modern society that embraced Islam’s universal principals.

On the other end of the debate, Islamic parties such as the Jamaat Islami (JI), and the now defunct Nizam-e-Islam party, argued for a state where shariah would rule. The Islamic State vs. Moderate Muslim Republic discourse hung quietly in the background throughout the 1960s. It was brought forth by the politico-religious parties during the 1970 elections. But their argument and political instruments were soundly defeated at the polls.

Things started to change after the 1971 debacle in East Pakistan. Interestingly, this was also when the force of Islam was for the first time used by the Pakistan Army when it started to patronise combative Islamist youth groups, Al-Badar and Al-Shams, mainly consisting of young JI activists and members of its student wing, the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT). These groups assisted the West Pakistan Army in attacking Bengali nationalists. One can also describe the two groups as the earliest manifestations of militant Islam in Pakistan. Notably, this was the first systematic collaboration between the army and lslamists.

The burning debate that erupted after the East Pakistan catastrophe squarely revolved around the question: what would keep that which remained of Pakistan together? Z A. Bhutto suggested populist democracy and “Islamic socialism.” His offer was of an egalitarian and modern version of Islam that he paraded as the new model for the struggling, post-’71 Muslim nation. The second ideological response to the question came from the Islamists (JI, JUP, JUI, etc.). Blaming the failures of the republic on the “flouting of Islamic principals” –  both by the rulers and their subjects – they insisted that only “shariah” would keep Pakistan together. The two models went to war in the politics of labour unions, student unions and lawyers associations.

Though the Islamists were successfully kept in check by the stronger progressive labour unions, things were tighter in student politics where Bhutto’s model was defended on campuses by organisations such as National Students Federation (NSF) and Peoples Students Federation (PSF), whereas the Islamist model was propagated by the IJT, Anjuman Taliba Islam (ATI), and Muslim Students Federation (MSF).

Then in 1973, when the second major Ahmadia riots erupted, the Islamists tasted their first major victory in the country as the Bhutto regime agreed to declare the Ahmadi community non-Muslims. Their second victory arrived in 1976-77 when – with the help of industrialists, bankers, bazaar merchants, and small-town entrepreneurs Islamic parties formed the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), and successfully agitated against Bhutto’s “un-Islamic regime,” consequently paving the way for the Ziaul Haq coup.

With the arrival of Zia, the Islamists thought they had finally found state power. Their drive for Islamic order also meant changing culture and reorganising society. For this, Zia adopted the JI’s agenda: prohibitions on drinking, betting and dancing, and encouraging the usage of public flogging. Furthermore, Zia’s aids helped him exhibit “pious” examples. Offices, schools, and factories were required to offer praying space; textbooks were revised; mosques and madrassahs multiplied; and conservative scholars became fixtures on television. These cultural shifts were all enforced through government edicts.

The worst aspect in this context was the demagogic reengineering of the country’s education curriculum. After the 1971 break-up of Pakistan and the war with India, educational discourse on nation-building in Pakistan became much more introverted. A violent, militaristic and negative nationalism, which saw enemies on every border, was reconstituted. And during General Zia’s dictatorship, religion as an instrument of homogenisation and control took centre-stage in educational policies.

This gradual Islamisation succeeded in creating an aura of religiosity in everyday life. In reality, there was no necessary improvement in justice, equality and morality. Indeed, the government’s edicts split society between a public life of Islamic pieties and a private life characterised by personal gain. This dichotomy between public and private has become Zia’s legacy.

Since 1971, the state, military and the politico-religious parties have insisted on enforcing a convoluted, myopic and singular ideological mindset – “Islamic state” – in an otherwise multi-sectarian, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. This insistence created, on the one hand, various sectarian and ethnic fissures, and, on the other, a psyche that is extremely vulnerable to paranoia along with an almost schizophrenic patriotism.

Unity in such a country has to come from a democratic recognition of its diversity, and not through the engineering of a single, wholesome notion of faith and nation.

The full article is available at: http://blog.dawn.com/2009/09/03/pious-follies/

I agree with the article below on the gradual replacement of liberal, tolerant, and syncretic Sufi Islam with conservative, intolerant, and fascist Wahabi Islam in Pakistan over the past 30 years.

As I have remarked extensively, Wahabism (ie. Saudi Arabia’s official Islamic ideology) is nothing less than a virulent cancer that is slowly but surely devouring Pakistan. The irony, of course, is that Wahabism was imported into Pakistan by the state. What a pity that the state severely weakened – if not outright destroyed – its vastly superior native Indian Sufi Islam in favor of an alien fundamentalist ideology for short-term geopolitical gains and American financial and military largesse. Now the Pakistani state is engaged in an “all-out war” over virtually the entire province of NWFP with the very Wahabi monsters it created with Saudi funding and ideology.

[Sufism Threatened; Times of India; Omer Farooq Khan; 8 September 2009; Copy and Paste]

Like other parts of the country, “Sufism” or mysticism was followed for centuries in the north western Pakistan. The shrines of great mystics in the NWFP, like the 18th-century poet and mystic Rehman Baba and Pir Baba in Buner, used to attract many Sufi faithful from across the country. But with the spread of Saudi-funded “Wahabism” (a strict version of radical Islam that considers Sufism as close to Hinduism), Sufism is on the decline, especially in many areas of the northwestern Pakistan. To discourage Sufism among the masses, Wahabi preachers argue that many rituals of Sufism, like ‘Qawali’ and visit to shrines, are close to Hinduism.

“Shirk (worship someone other than one God) is strictly forbidden in Islam and its punishment is death penalty. These followers of Sufism are spreading shirk and mislead the ignorant people by making them believe that all their problems could be solved by Sufi saints”, said Maulana Jehanzeb of Wahabi school of thought in Charsadda town, which falls 25 kilometers north of Peshawar. Over a period of time, the rift between Sufism and Wahabism led to bloody clashes in different areas. The ongoing fighting between Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) and Ansar ul Islam in the restive Khyber agency, which killed hundreds of people, was started when the LI banned people from going to shrines in the tribal region.

Way back in the 1980s “Wahabism” which, now, holds sway in parts of the NWFP, came to this region with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They established a network of madarsas (seminaries) across the country. These madarsas not only indoctrinated young minds with the spirit and passion for jihad but also launched a hate campaign against Sufism. They denounced the Sufi music and poetry as decadent and immoral.

“We are threatened by Wahabis from all over. They have launched a hate campaign against us in the public encouraging people in the area to oppose our way of life”, said Pir Azmat Ali of the Barelvi school of thought in Thana area of the war-torn Malakand region. Pir Azmat Ali who has a long chain of followers all over Pakistan left the area when Taliban took over control of Swat and other areas of Malakand. “They have desecrated shrines and tortured followers of great saints. Have you noticed what is now happening to Taliban?” Pir Azmat Ali asked, pointing towards the extra-judicial killings of Taliban in Swat.

Thanks to the Afghan “jihad” against the former Soviet Union and then the US war against terrorism, that also disturbed the traditional religious fabric of the land by challenging the prevalent Sufism in the area. Most Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan have embraced the puritanical and radical Wahabi brand of Islam. These new Wahabis with Saudi Arabia backing have not only waged a jihad against the western “infidels” but also against the Sufis. Now, it is very difficult for the different Bralvi schools of thought to confront the financial prowess of Saudi-funded Wahabism.

Over a period of time, Saudi-sponsored “Wahabis” spent billions of rupees on building mosques and seminaries in the NWFP. At an average, they spent three to four million rupees on building a mosque, said Saifullah, a local cleric in Mardan. “Initially people welcomed the Wahabists policy of construction of mosques but now they have made it conditional that a preacher or cleric of their brand of Islam would be in-charge of the mosque”, he said, adding: “This Saudi-financed Wahabi Islam has destroyed the indigenous Islam in our country.”

The original article is available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sufism-threatened/articleshow/4986282.cms

I commend the Pakistani analyst below for speaking the truth about the 1965 and Kargil wars and about the importance of establishing peace with India. He is quite correct that all major political parties in Pakistan now want a change in historical relationship with India [as a means to correct national civil-military imbalance, free up funds for economic development, and turn attention to domestic terrorism menace]. That being said, I am doubtful of a major change in relationship between the two countries in the near-to-intermediate term on account of the powerful vested interests of the Pak Army Establishment and its erstwhile Islamic fundamentalist allies.

[The Search for Democracy; DAWN; Dr Tariq Rahman; 3 Sep, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

Pakistanis have to decide whether or not they want peace and democracy. If they do want peace they will have to support the PPP’s efforts at normalising relations with India as well as Nawaz Sharif’s stance that he is in favour of a joint effort against terrorism and for renewing ties derailed by… terror attack in Mumbai. This is, indeed, a unique opportunity for doing away with the garrison-state mentality cultivated over the years by the military and the rightwing establishment.

The 1965 war was a misadventure by Z.A. Bhutto and a few others, including Ayub Khan, but not the entire government of Pakistan. The people were simply told lies so they never even knew that trained fighters had sneaked across the Line of Control from Pakistan. Bhutto’s daughter made amends by trying her best to normalise relations. Apparently, Rajiv Gandhi was willing but the rightwing wasn’t and finally it is alleged that the military actually bribed politicians to remove her from power. In those days Nawaz Sharif was the establishment’s choice. He was hawkish on Kashmir and was the beneficiary of the wrongful and completely illegal removal of Benazir Bhutto.

But then Nawaz Sharif started growing in stature. The establishment threw him out but he bounced back more confident than before. Circumstances again sent him home but he fought the elections and won. The establishment may have helped him because he was still considered a better bet than Benazir Bhutto but he invited then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Pakistan. And Vajpayee, to the surprise of many people, actually accepted and endorsed Pakistan’s existence at the iconic Minar-i-Pakistan.

This was not a sudden development, for Nawaz Sharif had been trying to make peace with India since 1997. Actually it was I.K. Gujral, the Indian prime minister, who could not afford to be too much of a dove for electoral reasons. But all these achievements were derailed by one fell stroke – the Kargil misadventure of Gen Musharraf. Again Nawaz Sharif went wrong.

Initially, he did not oppose that senseless war. But when the Indian offensive threatened to become too dangerous he disowned it and now he blames it entirely on Musharraf. But first he did something eminently sensible – he sought American help to stop the madness. And in this he was successful.

On the whole, apart from riding on the warmonger’s bandwagon during the tit-for-tat nuclear tests and generally on the nuclear issue and a bit of prevarication, both the present PPP and PML-N leadership seem to promise peace for the future. This is the most important thing we can have at the moment. It will mean that foreign policy will be determined by civilian, elected leaders rather than army generals. It will also mean that foreigners will have to deal with one centre of power rather than bypass it and meet multiple players in the field.

Above all, it will mean that we will have some hope of neutralising our various militant groups who may yet get Pakistan declared a terrorist state or precipitate another major insurgency or even war with our neighbours (in case of some Mumbai-like misadventure perpetrated by loose cannons).

The full article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/16-the-search-for-democracy-hs-02

I would like to draw attention to the growing violence against Pakistan’s Christian community. The violence is not only a consequence of the general intolerance towards religious minorities on account of official Islamization but is also in good part rooted in abuse of “blasphemy laws” for the purpose of looting Christian property. These laws were introduced in mid 1980s by the late dictator Zia-ul-Haq and mandated death penalty for anyone accused of “blasphemy” against Islam. Local miscreants – who typically have an eye on Christian property – whip up a mob against select Christians with allegations of blasphemy, thereby forcing them to flee for safety. The abandoned property and possessions are then systematically looted. Of course, Pakistani government doesn’t have the moral courage to annul these shameful laws.

Posted below are two informative articles on Christian suffering.

[Pakistani Christians live in fear; DAWN; 03 Sep, 2009; Copy and Paste]

Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan live in fear of persecution and even execution or murder on false charges of blasphemy against Islam, the World Council of Churches (WCC) says. The Council, a global body linking Protestant and Orthodox churches in 110 countries, has called on the Pakistani government to change a law that allows for the death penalty for blaspheming Islam. Since the law was adopted in 1986 religious minorities in the country have been “living in a state of fear and terror… and many innocent people have lost their lives”, the WCC said in a statement.

Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country where religious minorities account for roughly four per cent – three quarters of whom are Christians – of its 170 million people. In early August, the WCC head, Kenyan Methodist Samuel Kobia, protested to the Pakistani government over violence in Punjab province when Muslims torched Christian homes and eight people were killed, seven of them burned to death. Reports at the time said the attacks in Gojra town were sparked by allegations, denied by church leaders as well as Pakistani government officials, that Christians had desecrated the Quran.

Pakistani government officials said the violence, which also brought protests from Pope Benedict, was the work of Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the country’s Taliban movement. The WCC, which works with the Vatican on many religious issues, said it felt the blasphemy law, and the way it was abused, was the main problem. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistani minister for minorities, said the law had been abused by “extremist elements” against minorities and the government wanted to review it. “We are receiving demands from different sections of society, especially from the minority communities, to review this law,” Bhatti told Reuters.

“We are in the process of consultation with different stakeholders and after this consultation, we intend to review this law to stop the misuse.” Convictions for blasphemy are fairly common in Pakistan with most cases involving members of religious minorities, but death sentences have never been carried out – usually because convictions are thrown out on a lack of evidence. But there have been cases where accused have been killed by mobs. The death penalty for blasphemy was introduced in the 1980s by then military ruler, General Ziaul Haq. Later governments tried to amend the law but had to drop their plans because of opposition from Islamic groups.

The original article is available at:
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/04-pakistani-christians-live-fear-churches-say-qs-05

[Communal tensions; Dawn Editorial; 17 Sep, 2009; Copy and Paste]

The religious chauvinism that has become rampant in the country is nowhere in better evidence than in the case of Fanish Masih. On Friday, in village Jaithikey near Sialkot, allegations spread that Masih and four other young men had desecrated a copy of the Quran. Requiring no proof, a slavering mob burnt down a church and ransacked nearby houses. The terror felt by the areas Christian residents was such that the entire community – some 30 Christian households amongst over a 100 Muslim homes – abandoned their dwellings and fled.

Masih was found dead in his cell on Tuesday, with jail officials claiming he had committed suicide. The exact circumstances of Masih’s death are shadowy and merit a thorough inquiry: the method of “suicide” described so far by the jail authorities raises many questions. Moreover, having taken him into custody, it was the duty of the authorities to keep Masih safe. The protection of all citizens is a fundamental responsibility of the state and its subsidiaries.

Outbreaks of communal tension – especially that stoked by allegations of blasphemy – can have a snowball effect. This incident comes on the heels of the tragedy in Gojra, where several Christians were killed and many homes were torched by a similarly enraged mob. The country cannot risk these attacks turning into a pogrom against minorities, particularly given suspicions that certain banned sectarian outfits had a hand in the Gojra violence. By neglecting to protect minority community members and failing to take action against rampaging mobs, the law stands in danger of signalling that such violence is tolerated by the state.

As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan pointed out in a recent statement, “allegations of blasphemy and defiling of religious scriptures… do not warrant vigilante attacks. Nor do they absolve the government of its primary duty to protect all citizens.” In the Jaithikey incident, a case has been registered against unknown people for burning down the church. Effective prosecution would serve as a deterrent to future attacks of this nature. The majority Muslim community must also learn to adhere to the law and demonstrate self-restraint.

The original article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/08-communal-tensions-ts-01

I recently came across an excellent interview that sheds light on Islamization of Pakistan and its treatment of minorities, particularly Christians.

The interviewee is Dr Charles Amjad-Ali, the Martin Luther King Jr Professor for Justice and Christian Community and the director of Islamic studies programme at the Luther Seminary in St Paul, US. Mr. Amjad-Ali was ordained as a presbyter of the Church of Pakistan in 1987 and is one of the founders of major civil society organizations in Pakistan, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research. He has studied Islamic Law and History from Columbia University at the post-doctoral level after having done his PhD in contemporary philosophy at Frederich Wilhelm University in Bonn, Germany.

[Victimization of the minorities; DAWN; By Muhammad Badar Alam; 12 Sep, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

Q- How do you contextualise the anti-minority violence in Pakistan? How and why in socio-political and historical terms have religious minorities come to be so flagrantly victimised, so obviously marginslised and so openly discriminated against?

A- One has to contextualise the continuing violence, flagrant victimisation, marginalisation and discrimination against the minorities in Pakistan, through a critical look at its history. This is best expressed in the debate on the reasons for founding Pakistan. The gist of the conservative stance is that Pakistan was made for Islam. This resurfaced belligerently and with vehemence during the Zia period, ending up in the slogan: “Pakistan ka matlab kya? La illa ha illalah!” This of course excluded the minorities completely. The ‘liberal’ side of Pakistan, or should I say the relatively more authentic side of the debate, argued that Pakistan was made for Muslims, not for Islam. The problem with this position is the high level of subtlety and differentiation which escapes the majority. Thus the sloganeers, playing on a common sentiment and simple clichés, are able to control the discourse.

I want to add a little more nuance to this debate by arguing that Pakistan was a nation exclusively created by and for a minority of India. For some 700 years the Muslims ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent, which always had a Hindu majority. This rule ranged from being highly accepting of the plurality of religious communities (c.f. Akbar and the Din-e-Elahi) to being repressive (c.f. Aurangzeb and his ‘Islamisation’ policies). As the independence of India became certain, with its clear democratic ideals, the minorities were afraid that the guarantees provided by the British Empire, no matter how skewed, would not be upheld in the independent India. They had grounds for their apprehensions, and part of their fear was that the tyranny of the sheer majority of around 80 per cent Hindus would not allow any other group to have a place on a level playing field. These fears were accentuated by the Government of India Act of 1935, and the subsequent provincial elections held in the winter of 1936/37.

It is interesting to note that on October 15, 1946, in the political jockeying for power, the All India Muslim League nominated a Scheduled Caste Hindu (a Dalit), Jogindar Nath Mandal, to Lord Wavell’s Interim Government of India. He was among such Muslim League luminaries as Liaquat Ali Khan, I I Chundrigar, Abdur Rab Nishtar, Ghazanfar Ali Khan. This same Jogindar Nath was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, when Jinnah was elected the Governor General of Pakistan and gave his oft quoted famous speech about the democratic, egalitarian and fully participatory nature and future of Pakistan. Mandal was also later the highest ranking minority member of the Cabinet that the Quaid put together; ironically he was the Minister of Law and Labour.

Furthermore, in 1947 three Christian members of the Punjab Assembly, S P Singha, C E Gibbon and Joshua Fazal Din, voted with the Muslim League and thus in favour of Pakistan, which is a clear indication of what they saw Pakistan to be. They were taking the words of the Quaid seriously. We all know about Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947, but what we forget is that on August 12, the Constituent Assembly appointed a special ‘Committee on Fundamental Rights of Citizens and Minorities of Pakistan,’ to look into and advise it on matters relating to the fundamental rights of the citizens, particularly the minorities.

One can expand these early democratic and rights oriented understandings of Pakistan. The first real undoing of all this early promise was the adoption of the Objectives Resolution on March 12, 1949, which played immediately into the hands of the more conservative Muslim leadership.

The pre-Independence orthodox, conservative, and newly emerging fundamentalist Islamic movements were all against the formation of Pakistan. For them, if a state was created in the name of Islam for the Muslim population of India, then Islam was being reduced to a nation-state rather than a pan-ethnic, pan-national ummah with Khilafat as its political order. This was seen fundamentally as a product of a western nationalism. Also, this nationalism, and its concurrent democratic ideals, was seen primarily as products of liberal bourgeois democratic republicanism with no basis in Islam. (It is no wonder that the Khilafat movement and the Independence movement had two distinct groups of Muslims supporting them). While it was perhaps a doctrinally accurate perception, it was based on an ossified understanding of Islam.

Contrary to these groups, the people who struggled for the foundation of Pakistan were much more familiar with western political and philosophical ideas and ideals than with the Islamic sources on these issues. These men were what has come to be called ‘Islamic modernists,’ who never envisioned, even when they gave lip service to Islam for the sake of republican democratisation policies, the kind of Islam that is dominant in Pakistan today.

The Islamic influence, however, begins primarily as a way for the conservative elements to try to influence and control the destiny of Pakistan, first by adopting the Objectives Resolution, then creating the Ahmedi Crisis of the early 1950s and then by naming the country the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ for the first time in the Constitution of 1956. This was a utilitarian and cynical shift in the position of the conservative Islamic groups. They were first against the formation of Pakistan on Islamic grounds, but once Pakistan came into existence, without any input from them and even after their active resistance, they decided to make Pakistan an ideal Muslim state on the basis of an ossified interpretation of the early Islamic state without seeing the sheer religious paradox of this position. The irony is that their kind of Islam now provides the grammar, and is stated as the raison d’etre of Pakistan.

So the Islamic influence has progressively grown. Pakistan today sits in the international arena as the hotbed for the generation of Islamic fundamentalism, Jihadists, ‘terrorists,’ such as al-Qaeda, Taliban or whatever new nomenclature is given to them or a small group takes for itself.

Q- Do you believe the current global strategic situation charactrised by 9/11 and perceived by many as a clash between Islam and Christian West has something to do with the rising tide of violence against Christians in Pakistan?

A- It must be remembered that the Islamisation of the society, culture, polity and economics grew in fits and starts between 1956-1977. However, in 1977 things changed radically with the martial law of General Zia-ul-Haq and at this point Islam begins to dominate the state. Here the need for Zia to justify his regime on other than democratic grounds, coincided with the needs of the US and Saudi Arabia to refute the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, both in 1979. There was already a precursor of this confluence in the refutation of socialism, and even of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

So the Islamisation process was not just an endogenously produced element but was fully aided, abetted, and even engendered exogenously by the US and Saudi Arabia as well.

It is apparent that each time the Islamic identity is emphasized in the larger political and policy discourse, it threatens the minorities’ existence deeply; the more Islamic Pakistan becomes the less secure is the status of the minorities in it. Therefore the Christians remain under the closest scrutiny of these fundamentalist groups. The state is either not powerful enough or unwilling to protect these minorities in general and the Christian minority in particular, against these conservative elements. Any protection provided to these Christians is immediately classified as being based on the dictates of the West, and particularly at the behest of the hateful United States.

However, despite this picture, there still lies a deep-seated condescension towards the Pakistani Christians because a large majority of them comes from what the Hindus classified as the unclean and untouchable classes (dalit). The prejudice of untouchability of the caste-based Hindu ethos remains a very strong operational residue in Indian and Pakistani Islam. It is applied particularly towards Christians, not only because of their origins, but rather because quite a large number among them are in the cleaning industry, and belong to this untouchable class even today. The very conservative Muslims who want to follow the puritanical rules of Islam and want to live out their lives in imitation of the Prophet at this point become quite Hindu in their caste-based attitude towards the Christians.

So there is a fundamental paradox in Pakistani society vis-à-vis Christian-Muslim relations. One the one hand, the Christians are all seen as being dalits, and therefore totally irrelevant and of no consequence whatsoever. On the other hand, whenever something goes wrong between Islam and the West, the first people to feel the full brunt of reactions are the Christians who face the threat of mob violence against which the state is either unwilling or unable to protect them. What happens as an intermittent reality becomes an ever-present sword of Damocles and makes the Christians of Pakistan extremely insecure.

The full interview is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/03-victimisation-of-the-minorities-ss-03