Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947 printed by most dailies was a censored version released. Resultantly, to date there remains confusion whether Jinnah wanted Pakistan for only Muslims or for all religions. Besides, there are quite a few controversial issues that have deepened the lines of division within Pakistan. On ground there is flagrant violation of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973. The chapter of fundamental rights that awards equal rights to its ‘citizens’ is often flouted. Groups decide who classifies as a citizen of Pakistan and who does not. Hatred, anger, ostracism is directed towards those deemed not to be ‘citizens’ of Pakistan.
Let’s establish first, the meaning of a citizen. Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as, “One who under the Constitution and laws of United States, or of any particular state, is the member of the political community, owing allegiance and being entitled to the enjoyment of full civil rights…” (Centennial Edition 1891-1991; Pg 244)
Nowhere does it award a superior status to one group of people over the other based on religion, gender, ethnicity or any other basis. The Objective Resolution, made a substantive part of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 states, “Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before the law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, and association, subject to law and public morality..”
If all are equal at all levels, where did we go wrong? So horribly wrong? Dr Haroon Ullah, member of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s policy planning staff and author of a recently published treatise, “Vying for Allah’s Vote; Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan” talks about the driving force that guides political extremism in Pakistan. He talks, among others, of the death of Salman Taseer – killed for supporting minorities’ rights and those of women in Pakistan – and reactions to his murder. He talks of structures of the religious parties and the conflict within the defining parameters of the rightist groups
A mention, well understood and accepted within Pakistan but need to be better understood by those in the west,
“Any use of the term ‘‘sharia’’ must come with some caveats. The fact that Islamist parties share roughly similar conceptions of the role that sharia should play in governance should not obscure the signiﬁcant differences in their political programs, their different interpretations of what sharia entails, or the contested nature of the term ‘sharia’ itself.” (Pg 11) He continues to share, “Differences regarding what sharia entails exactly, and who has the right to deﬁne and enforce it, help explain the surprising fact that Islamic parties that occupy much the same space on the continuum are as likely to disagree with one another as they are with groups to their right or left.”
This is the key to Pakistan’s dilemma of defining herself. Bull’s eye! Very interestingly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has referred a plea to Islamabad High Court, a plea filed to enforce sharia in the country. The court has been allowed 3 months to adjudicate upon the petition.
In an earlier op-ed I had written, “The desire for peaceful coexistence must aim at cultivating, first and foremost, a tolerance and understanding towards these differences by all. Failure to do so must result in differences, acts of terrorism and ultimately war. The fact that we did not ‘choose’ our beliefs in which we were born, we did not ‘choose’ the sects within which we were born makes religious intolerance completely unnecessary. Different religions and different sects have lived together all over the world and in Pakistan – why the growing intolerance?”
The constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 by Justice Muhammad Munir states, “Wrongs practiced in the name of religion are not protected by the Constitution providing for the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship… Everything which may be equally an exercise of religion is not required to be tolerated and the right to exercise religious freedom ceases where it overlaps and transgresses the rights of others.” (Volume 1 pg 369)
The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 does not differentiate between followers of different religions and sects by offering different degrees of fundamental rights to its citizens.
Article 25 under the Constitution lay out, Equality of citizens: 1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law; 2) There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex; 3) Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women and children.
It is extremely sad when non-state actors decide to take the decision in their hands to: a) make a determination as to who is, and who is not a citizen, and b) to then inflict hatred and brutality upon those deemed to be non-citizens.
In any civilized society, Equality is one of the three pillars the structure of the society balances itself upon. The other two are Liberty and Justice. If we refuse equality across the board to all citizens, we are automatically denying to them; liberty and justice! In an extremely interesting paper by Thomas Christiano dealing with the subject of equality and democracy, “Equal consideration of interests means that advancing the interests of one person is as important as advancing the interests of any other person… It is an elementary requirement of justice that individuals ought to be treated equally.” Pakistan needs to ensure none of its citizens are victimized or reduced to the level of second class citizens!
But then there comes evidence of interfaith respect in Pakistan, which restores confidence in the country. Sikandar Chandio guards the Hindu Temple at Johi. “Chandio’s Muslim family ‘protects’ the only temple in Johi, a town in which no Hindu family resides. A Hindu man handed over the charge of the temple to his grandfather, Jamaluddin,” says the local newspaper. (February 8, 2014) Report states “I was born in this temple, so were my children. We all are watchmen of this building.” Pakistan needs more Sikandar Chandios!
E.A. Bucchianeri in ‘Brushstrokes of a Gadfly’ recounts an enchanting dialogue between Socrates and Plato.
“Socrates: Have you noticed on our journey how often the citizens of this new land remind each other it is a free country?
Plato: I have, and think it odd they do this.
Socrates: How so, Plato?
Plato: It is like reminding a baker he is a baker, or a sculptor he is a sculptor.
Socrates: You mean to say if someone is convinced of their trade, they have no need to be reminded.
Plato: That is correct.
Socrates: I agree. If these citizens were convinced of their freedom, they would not need reminders.”
Pakistan needs to redefine itself – super-fast.