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Pakistan: Bangladesh’s example: Give secularism, tolerance a chance

Monday 11 March 2013, by siawi3

April 20, 2012, 01:41 PM

Published in The Express Tribune, Pakistan, April 20th, 2012.

KARACHI: While militants and ultra-right wing terrorists around the world are connected to each other, liberal and secular proponents of society remain unaware of each other’s presence and work, observed speakers at the launch of the Pakistan chapter of the “International forum for secular Bangladesh […]” on Wednesday.
The movement, at present, has chapters in around 17 countries and Pakistan has become the 18th addition to the list. Each chapter works with the aim to unite likeminded secular and liberal people in creating a global pressure group to eradicate the menace of religious intolerance and extremism.

“I’d definitely compliment the people of Bangladesh who have been successful in all respects to get rid of terrorism and militancy that was sponsored by Pakistan at the behest of our establishment,” said former attorney general and federal minister Syed Iqbal Haider who was made president of the forum’s Pakistan chapter. He spoke at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.

“You are lucky that your Supreme Court repeatedly prohibited any pronouncement of a fatwa by any religious organisation and you are lucky that your founding father gave you four guiding principles incorporated in the Constitution: secularism, socialism, nationalism and democracy,” said Haider while juxtaposing it with the situation in Pakistan which, according to him, has been marred by the curse of religious extremism, ethnicity and sectarianism.

Haider gave the example of the people of Bangladesh, saying that if they can follow the path of secularism without deviating from the basic principles of Islam, there is no reason why we should be shy of taking on secularism which involves greater respect and freedom for everyone to follow their beliefs.

The executive president of the forum, Shahriar Kabir, had arrived from Bangladesh. “After independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh drew up a constitution with secularism as a basic principle in 1972,” he said, adding that later General Ziaur Rahman tried to bulldoze it. This was what General Ziaul Haq of Pakistan also tried to do.

He added that the brand of Islam that had been preached by Sufis in this part of the world was by and large liberal and needs to be promoted. In contrast to this, said Kabir, the brand of Islam that has been preached by the Jamaat-e-Islami, following the model of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has nothing to do with the true spirit of Islam. He proposed the idea of an International Sufi Conference in Karachi which received nods of approval from his comrades.

Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo from Balochistan, Senator Afrasiyab Khattak from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Advocate Javed Qazi from Sindh, Advocate Zafar Malik from Punjab and Sheema Kermani from Karachi were declared the vice presidents of the chapter. Journalist Munazza Siddiqui was made general secretary. Prominent human rights activists IA Rehman, Tahira Mazhar Ali, BM Kutty, Naseem Akhtar, Karamat Ali and Professor Dr Tariq Rahman were included on the advisory committee.