ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Monday retrogressive thinking was a “danger for Pakistan” in reference to the recent measures taken by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan regarding women.

“You see that two extremist regimes have cropped up on the right and left of Pakistan. On one side there is Afghanistan where the Taliban have arrived. We want to fully help the Afghan people.

“But saying that women can’t travel alone or go to schools and colleges — this kind of retrogressive thinking is a danger for Pakistan,” the information minister said, while speaking to the participants of a photo exhibition on the life of Quaid-i-Azam at Pak-China Friendship Centre in Islamabad.

Since a similar Hindu extremist mindset was rising in India, the Pakistani state’s “biggest” and “most important” fight was against these “two extremist thoughts”, he was quoted as saying by “We have had failures and successes, but till now Pakistan is that bright hope in this region which while remaining amid these extremes can emerge out from them.”

Says Imran making efforts to reclaim Quaid’s Pakistan

The minister’s comments come after Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities said on Sunday that women seeking to travel longer distances should not be offered transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative.

The guidance, issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also called on all vehicle owners to offer rides only to those women who wear hijab.

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have imposed various restrictions on women and girls, despite pledging a softer rule compared to their first stint in power in the 1990s.

Mr Chaudhry said Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah did not want a religious state and Prime Minister Imran Khan was making efforts to reclaim the Quaid’s Pakistan.

He said the major challenge was to reclaim the Quaid’s Pakistan and stay away from the influence of neighbouring extremist states.

“An article has been published recently in Bangladesh in which it has been claimed that the Quaid did not know what kind of Pakistan will come into being. It is not correct; three speeches of the Quaid — one on 11th August [1947], an address to the armed forces and another to bureaucracy — made it clear what kind of Pakistan he [Quaid] wanted,” he pointed out.

“Quaid did not want a religious state and Islamic country does not mean a religious country. Quaid’s lifestyle did not match with today’s religious leaders; he was a modern and forward-looking human being,” he added.

The minister said the Quaid knew that Hindus were in the majority in India and it would become difficult for Muslims to live there freely and it had now been proved during the regime of [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi.

“The New York Times has published a front-page story that in India Christians were stopped from celebrating Christmas. In Pakistan the lynching of a person [Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot] was done but whole Pakistan got united against the incident. In India, no one speaks against such incidents. The idea behind the creation of Pakistan was to protect the rights of minorities,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said the Quaid had on August 10 [1947] directed that religious parts be removed from the oath so that minority members could also take the oath.

“The Quaid never thought of making Pakistan a religious state. Had it been correct, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other religious leaders would have led the Pakistan Movement. The Quaid interpreted Islam politically.”

The minister said India was facing a decline because of religious extremism, but the Quaid had categorically stated that Pakistan would not be a religious country and those who didn’t want to understand that were at fault.

He said the reason for making the nation-state of Pakistan was for a place where Muslims could have a majority where their rights would be preserved and they would not be hostage to a majority. He stressed that Pakistan’s purpose was “preserving minority rights and safeguarding them”.

“Our real challenge is how to reclaim Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan,” he emphasised.

The Quaid had clarified the role of minorities and that the state would have no business to interfere in religious matters. “[However] after that, a great retrogressive [thinking] has come and we see Pakistan has declined.”

“This fight is very important for Pakistan’s survival and only by winning it can we or any other country move forward.”

Mr Chaudhry said a movement was needed to effectively propagate Jinnah’s message and understanding of Pakistan to the common people.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2021


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