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Home > impact on women / resistance > Pakistan: D E C L A R A T I O N of The Forum for Secular Pakistan.

Pakistan: D E C L A R A T I O N of The Forum for Secular Pakistan.

Saturday 9 March 2013, by siawi3

by DrIjaz Inayat on Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 4:08pm ·


Declaration made on Sunday the 17th June at 5pm at the Karachi Press Club.

We, the signatories, begin this Declaration by quoting two most outstanding protagonists of the Pakistan movement – the Father of the Nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and a life-long champion of secular democracy, Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.

“….. The new state (Pakistan) would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of their religion, caste or creed†.

(From Jinnah’s interview to Mr. Doon Campbell, the correspondent of Reuter in New Delhi, 1946.)

“…You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state..We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination between one caste or creed or another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state….Now I think that you should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual but in the political sense as citizens of the state†.

(From Jinnah’s historic address at the inaugural session of the Constituent Assembly of the new state of Pakistan, August 11, 1947.)

“…Warning voices sometimes tell me that Pakistan is not ready for the democratic process. I can only reply that in that case Pakistan is not ready at all; for there is no alternative way of bringing about rapport between authority and people; no other avenue to national fulfillment. On the one side are the advocates of segregation of voters into religious communities. Proponents of this plan argue that Pakistan’s destiny is to be an ideological state. They would keep alive within Pakistan the divisive communal emotions by which the subcontinent was riven before the achievement of independence. On the other side are those, who see Pakistan in terms of a nation state. I am unequivocally committed to this view. I see a Pakistan, great enough and strong enough, to encompass all its citizens, whatever their faith, on a basis of true civic equality, and by that fact made greater and stronger.â€

(From Prime Minister of Pakistan, Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy’s prophetic remarks contained in his article published in the April 1957 issue of the magazine, Foreign Affairs.)

The conscientious citizens of Pakistan, living in the country or abroad, are seriously concerned about the manner in which the country is fast degenerating, and falling prey to the forces of obscurantism. Extremism of all types, particularly the religious extremism and intolerance, have brought the country to a point where its very fate is now at stake, and questions are being raised about its survival. Pakistan’s present state of despair has not come in a day or two. It is the outcome of the successive governments’ wrong policies, which are now bringing to the fore all of their adverse results.

At the level of the state, Pakistan started its journey with wrong priorities, the ultimate objective of which was to make Pakistan a national security state, almost completely ignoring the importance of social development and public welfare. These governments also failed to appreciate the very fact that the social welfare of the citizens is itself the most viable source of ensuring a country’s security. In order to deviate from the rationale for which the country was created and the vision of the founding fathers, and also to gloss over the actual intentions and mechanisms of those who dominated the state’s power structure, an ideology was contrived in the name of religion. This was done in order to seek allegiance of the people for what inherently was an anti-people and obscurantist, national security project of statecraft. Hence in March 1949, the Constituent Assembly was made to approve the Objectives Resolution which paved the way for deviation from the original secular vision of Pakistan. Not only this, the rulers of the country and the state apparatus fostered policies of militant interference beyond Pakistani borders in order to achieve their perceived security interests. Pakistan’s involvement in the so-called Afghan Jihad and the creation of jihadi outfits to pursue its Kashmir policy, turned out to be complete failure, but these did ruin the socio-political fabric of Pakistani society. It was these more prominent misdeeds of our state that spoiled whatever good our society stood for. Today, the society is highly weaponized, instead of creating a culture of dialogue there has emerged the language and uproar of weapons, religious intolerance has reached its heights, and sectarian animosity has affected even those sections of the society who once abhorred violence. Unfortunately, religion has been made to serve as one of the most lethal instruments in the hands of the managers of the sinister system of oppression and exploitation. We see today that religion is being used by anti-social elements to spawn their respective militant/terrorist groups to serve as magnets to attract the poor and unemployed youth into its fold. Today, the values of compassion and kindness lie in ruins, as different groups of people claming to be Muslims go about distorting and perverting those values to serve their own nefarious ends, so much so that Islam is today seen in many countries of the world as synonymous with terrorism.

The intolerance and extremism prevailing in the society has been further aggravated by the state’s own crisis of governance and the weak political institutions. Though there exists a constitution which does provide a certain rights, a culture of constitutionalism, and institutions geared to ensure constitutional supremacy are missing. Unfortunately, the political class of the country by and large has allowed itself to be subsumed in a culture of petty issues, mud-throwing, leveling charges against each other, and ignoring that the larger than life issues await their attention. Pakistan’s fate depends on the consolidation of democracy and constitutionalism but this demands a very high level of commitment on the part of our political class which unfortunately has not shown that level through its policies and conduct. Looking towards extra-political forces would be disastrous as the situation Pakistan finds itself in today is primarily the outcome of these very extra-political forces and institutions.

We, the undersigned, firmly believe that Pakistan cannot come out of its present turmoil unless its society and polity are organized on genuine democratic and secular values. Here we wish to emphasize on secularism without which even democracy does not bear fruits. Secularism ensures equality of citizens and neutrality of the state with respect to the religious preferences and practices of its citizens. It is this aspect of secularism that has made it an essential prerequisite of a modern democratic state. In fact, this form of state was conceived by the people who struggled for the creation of Pakistan and the founding fathers of our country. In fact, the very principle on the basis of which Pakistan was created, that is, the federating units’ right of self-determination is essentially a secular idea. The nation states established on the basis of this principle enshrined civil rights, democracy and equality of all citizens. These principles, particularly the last, can only be ensured when the state policies and laws are not made subservient to one or more religious groups. All democratic nation states have, therefore, organized themselves on secular principles. It was this very principle which was in front of the founder of the nation who specially referred to it in his 11 August 1947 speech, quoted earlier.

Unfortunately, Quaid-i-Azam’s pronouncement was very easily ignored by his successors, who in fact moved in quite an opposite direction making Pakistan an obscurantist, clergy-driven, and non-democratic state. The successive governments pampered those very orthodox, obscurantist and politico-religious forces, which had found it most difficult to accept the demand for Pakistan. Not only this, educational syllabi were so designed that instead of cultivating the spirit of cultural pluralism in the minds of the new generation, they were indoctrinated with biases against other religions and their followers. Perhaps, the worst that was done was to present secularism as ‘ladinyat’, signifying something pitted against religion. This translation of secularism is totally opposite of what it actually stands for. Secularism stands for acceptance of all religions and equal treatment to their adherents. Instead of harming religions, secularism secures their space and allows state protection of that space. The experience of a number of modern democratic states successfully demonstrated that religion there is not only safe but has flourished without being threatened by other religions. This has been made possible only by taking the state out of the religious entanglements. Pakistan also can ensure religious harmony only through ensuring religious space without involving the state into it. Apart from giving protection to religion, secularism encourages rationalism and creates an environment for individuals to develop scientific outlook in them.

We propose to realize the above ideals through concerted efforts, the creation of a platform being one. We propose to establish Forum for Secular Pakistan for this purpose. The Forum would be a democratic and a non-party platform which would be open for all citizens of the country who are committed to secularism and wish to promote it through action. We would create awareness about secularism, which would also include tracing its roots in our history and cultures. We would promote the right sense of secularism. We would also create liaison with civil society organizations and establish linkages with political parties, professional groups, trade unions, etc. in order to persuade them to harmonize their work with secular values. Our objective would also be to convince the education planners and all concerned to remove biases from the syllabi and bring them in conformity with the plural character of Pakistani society. We would certainly be trying to approach the state functionaries, the elected representatives of the people, the media, etc. to remove distortions in our laws, and facilitate a new narrative of Pakistani nationhood based on social justice, democracy, egalitarianism, and secularism. We also believe that we need further constitutional reforms aimed at removing anomalies from the basic document of the state and repealing those clauses of it which do not correspond with the concept of the equality of citizens. For promoting our cause and working for our objectives we will rely on non-violent and democratic means.