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A country lost

Published Aug 26, 2012 02:02am


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IT began with the flag. A strip of white slapped on, but separate and away from the sea of green — the problem was there from the very outset: one group cast aside from the rest.

A more prescient mind would have thought to put the white in the middle, enscon-ced in a sea of green, a symbolic embrace of the other.

But why blame the flag?

It began with the founding theory.

A country created for Muslims but not in the name of Islam. Try selling that distinction to your average Pakistani in 2012. 1947 was another country and it still found few takers.

Pakistan’s dirty little secret isn’t its treatment of non-Muslims or Shias or the sundry other groups who find themselves in the cross-hairs of the rabid and the religious. Pakistan’s dirty little secret is that everyone is a minority.

It begins with Muslim and non-Muslim: 97 per cent and the hapless and helpless three. But soon enough, the sectarian divide kicks in: Shia and Sunni. There’s another 20 per cent erased from the majority.

Next, the intra-Sunni divisions: Hanafi and the Ahl-e-Hadith. Seventy per cent of Pakistan may be Hanafi, five per cent Ahl-e-Hadith.

Then the intra-intra-Sunni divisions: Hanafis split between the growing Deobandis and the more static Barelvis.

And finally, within the 40 per cent or so that comprise Barelvis in Pakistan, there’s the different orders: the numerous Chishtis, the more conservative Naqshbandis and the microscopic Qadris.

In Pakistan, there is no majority.

There’s the terror that every minority lives in: non-Muslim from Muslim, Shia from Sunni, Barelvi from Wahabi, secular Sunni from rabid Barelvi — the future is now and it is bleak.

Some mourn the passing of Jinnah’s vision and seek solace in his Aug 11 speech. But there never was an Aug 11 version of Pakistan: it was stillborn, killed off by the religious right as soon as it was articulated.

The 1954 Munir report has been forgotten by most, but it contains some of the most poignant remarks on Pakistan’s search for an identity and peace within.

“The Quaid-i-Azam was the founder of Pakistan and the occasion on which he thus spoke [on Aug 11, 1947] was the first landmark in the history of Pakistan. The speech was intended both for his own people including non-Muslims and the world, and its object was to define as clearly as possible the ideal to the attainment of which the new State was to devote all its energies….

“We asked the ulema whether this conception of a state was acceptable to them and everyone of them replied in an unhesitating negative, including the Ahrar and erstwhile Congressites with whom before the Partition this conception was almost a part of their faith. If Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi’s evidence correctly represents the view of Jamaat-i-Islami, a state based on this idea is the creature of the devil, and he is confirmed in this by several writings of his chief, Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, the founder of the Jamaat.”

But if the ulema hated Aug 11, surely they loved the Objectives Resolution, the death knell of a pluralistic and tolerant Pakistan that followed a year and a half later?

Not quite. Again from the Munir report:

“The Quaid-i-Azam’s conception of a modern national state, it is alleged, became obsolete with the passing of the Objectives Resolution on 12th March 1949; but it has been freely admitted that this Resolution, though grandiloquent in words, phrases and clauses, is nothing but a hoax and that not only does it not contain even a semblance of the embryo of an Islamic State but its provisions, particularly those relating to fundamental rights, are directly opposed to the principles of an Islamic State.”

The Objectives Resolution denounced as a hoax? To stand on a street and claim that in the Pakistan of today would be to invite a lynching. And yet, that’s exactly what the ulema of the 1950s said, on the record, in full view of the public and history.

Confused? You should be.

The contortions and convolutions of the religious right in Pakistan are enough to make the head spin. But that’s not really where the story of how Pakistan has arrived at the miserable place it has is located.

The religious right and its more rabid cousins have come to dominate Pakistan not because they are more coherent, united and organised.They have come to dominate Pakistan because theirs is the only discourse being peddled.

You fear for the 11-year-old girl accused of blasphemy, you weep for the dead Shias of Babuser Top, you blanch at the relentless persecution of Ahmadis, you shiver at the thought of life as a Hazara in Balochistan — but in all of it, you know there’s little that can be done.

A declining state unable to protect its most precious assets; a social contract between society and state that was never quite signed; dark forces long unleashed in society that have never really been challenged — who can stand up and how?

A general speaks out, a police chief stands up, a politician denounces intolerance, a preacher reaches out to other denominations, a television deity urges introspection — if any of that and all of that were to happen now, today, would it really help recover the vast spaces afforded the religious right and their monstrous counterparts since the birth of the experiment we call Pakistan?

The future is now. The future is theirs. The future belongs to the right.

You and I, we’re just living here on their sufferance.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (63) Closed

Dr. Haji Mohamed Boodhun Aug 26, 2012 10:38am
Cyril: Why should there be any white strip at all? Find a common denominator and everything will become green only. That denominator should be "Pakistani" for the official purpose of the state. For private purposes somebody may be Ahmadiyya, Barelvi,, Deobandi, Bohra, fivers, twlevers, ismaelis, arya, protestants, bahai, askenazis, buddhists etc etc and that should have nothing to do with the business of the state.
hari Aug 26, 2012 09:05am
when a country is founded in the tears of millions with misguided idea , this is what results. Past is past I hope soon peace comes to Pakistan and it flourishes. And I hope the extermists in India both Hindus and Muslims understand from the current state of Pakistan and allow India to be a secular Democracy .
Kamal Aug 26, 2012 03:07pm
Hey guys in smokers blog there is a veryvery very similar articleon how Zia /bhutto hijacked the original philosophy of jinnha. Infact similar articles have appeared in DAWN several times over the last year. Rehashing history only gives a moment of self pity but does not move anything forward. The diehard islamist with strong army support and weak kneed politicians is leading you into a deeper quicksand. There is STRONG NEED TO CHANGE THIS TRIUMVARATE....
Cyrus Howell Aug 26, 2012 02:06pm
I quite agree with you, except the progress of China came from reducing it's population under Deng Shao-ping's leadership. He was an opponent of Chairman Mao Ze-Dong's economic polices. He spent time in prison to prove it. Mao had to correct Deng's error concerning capitalism..
Cyrus Howell Aug 26, 2012 01:50pm
Another reason to hate the UN.
I.Ahmed Aug 26, 2012 08:10am
A brilliant article. Anyone above 40 years of age should make sure that their children read this. This encapsulates the reality of 'muslim' state, the conspiracy hatched in the earlier years and how history has been distorted since independence to authenticate the rulers of different times - brilliant.
sadhana Aug 26, 2012 02:12pm
I dunno why noone says something really simple namely 'all are equal as human beings and citizens. No one has the right to decide the life and death of others.'
Shahed Aug 26, 2012 02:37pm
I still remember reading a chapter by Hamza Alvi in a book published in the 1990s while I was overseas. The opening lines went something like [please note that I am paraphrasing from memory - so the words may be different - but the meaning is the same]: ?Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. Every child in Pakistan knows this. This, however, is not the truth.? That came as a shock to me - and I read the chapter, initially with skeptism. Alvi wrote with reference to sources of information - and definitely made his case. I wish his work were made compulsory reading in schools.
Cyrus Howell Aug 26, 2012 02:00pm
Yes, Jefferson did say that, but it originally came from Edmund Burke in The Age of Reason. "All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
raika45 Aug 26, 2012 10:38am
You want someone prominent to speak out against intolerance. A prominent politician tried that when he spoke out against injustice against the minority.His bodyguard shot him dead.The people praised the bodyguard by showering rose petals on him.
Aditya Aug 28, 2012 08:18am
Errrr... Turkey? Indonesia? Malaysia? Please refrain from making sweeping statements...
Haji Ashfaq Aug 27, 2012 06:44am
Same story here too. Thanks DAWN.
Gerry D'Cunha Aug 28, 2012 01:06pm
ZSK - your last line comment makes so much sense and full of truth.
MAK Aug 26, 2012 08:55am
Cyril : Death knell sounded when Pakistan was declared 'Islamic Republic' instead of Republic.It relegated non muslims to the status of 2nd class citizens. As for mullahs, lock two in a room for an hour to resolve an issue, they will come out with three opinions.Country is in organized chaos.
Aamir Sep 03, 2012 02:28pm
true. A good article.
Tahir Aug 26, 2012 03:26pm
You have to renounce Islam as the religion of the state. That's the only way forward. Regulate mosques, i.e., only so many in a city, the others should be pulled down. Enact hate crime laws and then enforce them without fear or favor. This will only happen if our leaders share this vision and aren't Islamic fundamentalists themselves. Purge religious people from every aspect of public life. Can you do this? Will your vastly uneducated and easily manipulated populace support such an agenda? The answer to that question is the answer to whether Pakistan can survive or not.
aMz Aug 28, 2012 05:38pm
The concept of Pakistan was to create a state in which muslims, who were in a minority in india and discriminated against, have economic and social independence. But that should not stop us from providing the same independence to our minority compatriots.
areluctantpakistani Aug 26, 2012 03:18pm
They are far, far, far better!
zeal Aug 26, 2012 01:58pm
'they will come out with three opinions..' that is, if they come out alive in one piece
Abdul Waheed Aug 26, 2012 08:29am
Internation community after experiencing many wars, persecutions, killings in the name of religions, learnt that religions be considered as personal affairs of human beings and every person should have freedom to follow his religion, faith, belief, sect. This freedom is guaranteed in UN Charter as well as in Constitutionss of all democratic countries including Pakistan. During Zia regime, attempt was made to make religion as policy of the State. That pushed Pakistan towards religious bigotry, extremism, terrorism. Had Bhutto regime not toppled and democratic rule continued, we might have been a better progressive country with moderate enlightened thinking. We are basically extreme in our thinking with little tolerance and care for views of other people. Our thinking developes by sermons of illiterate Molvi of our locality who always preaches hatred for other sects. Our media and religious scholars should come forward and preach tolerance.
qalim Aug 26, 2012 08:18am
"The future belongs to the right." Which right? - right right, wrong right or left-right! The most divisive minority has not been referred to - the ruling elite for the past 65 years, where infact there is harmony regardless of their, shia, sunni, beralvi, ahl-hadith, ahmadi, secular backgrounds.....
indian Aug 26, 2012 08:15am
Thanks. It was very frightening to read. It is more scary than any horror movies I have ever seen. May be there is God somewhere who will prevent what you are alluding towards. Im so sorry for Pakistan and myself.
Safdar Sial Aug 26, 2012 08:07am
A white strip in the middle could also mean besieged by the large green sea
Chris Cork Aug 26, 2012 07:40am
moksh Aug 26, 2012 07:33am
I am an Indian and I find this really depressing. Cyril, write something that kindles hope. something that talks about the dawn not just the unending night
rz Aug 26, 2012 07:32am
Why the people are hanging only one tree called 1947 speach of Jinna? Are they no other reference of any kind for tolerations.
pk surendran Aug 26, 2012 10:05am
Excellent,informative. any country allowing bigotry to rein will come to a sorry pass. If pak wants to survive make it truly secular or be like UK, USA which has a state religion but does not allow church to dominate
Z Ali Aug 26, 2012 07:19am
Sad but true... the right has won...
Qasim Aug 26, 2012 07:12am
Aug 11 speech was a subsequent event. The fact of the matter is that entire Pakistan movement was religion based; a separate homeland for Muslims who were unwilling to live in united India. Objective Resolution simply documented what was preached, propagated and delivered during the independence movement. Another reality is that no one in Pakistan has the guts, courage, morale authority or political clout to change/amend the Objective Resolution. Out of box solutions needs to be found to contain the prevailing malice but who will bell the cat?
Zaheer Abbasi Aug 26, 2012 06:49am
Excellent dissection of the sad state of affairs prevailing in the country and perhaps rings true in the following quote by Thomas Jefferson "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent" Zaheer
kamaljit Singh Aug 26, 2012 05:03am
Why do the Pakistanis try to find the support in Jinnah's speeches to find the mode of the governance . If something does not fit in today's world or does not appeal to the conscience then that thought must be shed even if it was held by Jinnah. Like India shed Gandhi's philosophy of village commune . China shed Mao's philosophy. On the one hand Pakistan wants to follow the progress of China but is not ready to discuss that Chinese have left Mao behind to move in the comity of the nations.Life is dynamic . Be original . Don't find crutches to move on.
ZSK Aug 27, 2012 06:07pm
Turkey, Indonesia, and Bangladesh are some countries that are functioning democracies. These countries also have a consistently high standard in which they treat minorities. But yes, other than the above, muslim countries are terrible places to live or visit.
Usmaan A Aug 26, 2012 04:38am
Mr Alameida now I am even more depressed. Where are we going? Is going back to India a solution? Or dying here at the hands of religious right. They sure are willing to kill in the name of their God. They have killed the governer of Punjab and got flowers in return. Despair! despair!! I for one never knew what the purpose was of carving out a nation with millions displaced and killed. Communiies torn apart for this? Molvis are even more ferocious than anything we might have encounterd. Moreover if one is dead what difference will it make to the dead as to who killed him in whose name? Please God save us from the people who believe in you!!
malik Aug 26, 2012 04:26am
Jinnah said he is going to make Pakistan a labroratory for experimenting Islam. Well the experimenting is on going and guess how many people have lost their life in this quest?
Roto Corp Aug 26, 2012 03:59am
excellent analysis. i think because of nature of Pakistan creation it will be very very difficult to reverse or contain the plague. we your neighbor to the east are worried about this as the same forces are rearing their head again in name of rohingyas and Assam.
Omar Aug 26, 2012 03:49am
Much as I yearn to disagree, to find a sliver lining, I cannot. The disease was there before birth. That is why Jinnah said what he said on Aug 11, 1947. It's not too speculative to think that he knew then that the fine distinction between a country for muslims and an Islamic country existed only in the minds of a few high brow intellectuals. The vast majority were promised an idea not very far from what exists today. Other than Jinnah and literally a handful of others, Muslim League leadership actually delivered on their promise. A few like us conned ourselves into believing the soaring Jinnah ideals, hopeless romantics wishing for the unattainable. Our tragedy is that we dont belong anywhere - no matter which color passport we manage to get - but this rotten place. The choice is thus clear: constantly agonise over all that is wrong around us, or close your eyes and grow a beard.
NASAH (USA) Aug 26, 2012 03:34am
A million dollar sentence Cyril -- so original so true: "Pakistan?s dirty little secret is that everyone is a minority." And among the minorities the 'biggest' is - us the Sunnis -- being harried harassed and tormented by everybody else -- by an 11 year Down Syndrome Christian girl -- by the untouchable Ahmedi 'non' Muslims who want to pollute our Masjids -- and by the 'apostate' Shias who demean our three Khalifas.
Abdullah Aug 26, 2012 08:44am
In Pakistan we know what is being implemented is not religion/Islam. However we all know that the non religious or the atheists or the secularists control the WEST. Now are they any better?
iagnikul Aug 26, 2012 02:51pm
Well said.
Rapid Aug 26, 2012 02:52pm
Religion is just mind control! Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.
Cyrus Howell Aug 26, 2012 01:49pm
Pakistanis are obsessed with "who is better". The question is "do we have a functioning government?"
Shagufta Naaz Aug 28, 2012 09:13am
Brilliant Cyril. Sharing
G.a Aug 26, 2012 02:49pm
It's a big challenge because I don't think we can find precedence in any other nation where such idelogical distortion has taken place combined with external and internal threats. Pakistan is a unique case. Usual retort is to educate the people. But then we find educated people living in the West who are more extreme in their views than the poor, illiterate sea of humanity in Pakistan.
Agha Ata Aug 26, 2012 02:07pm
The only superiority Pakistanis love to feel is humiliating everybody else. That gives them a feeling of power and superiority. For them pulling down everybody else is the answer to their problems, not climbing up.
Zaheer Abbasi Aug 26, 2012 06:35pm
Here is another one."The world suffers a lot.Not because of violence of bad people,but because of the silence of good people." -- Napoleon Further, should the silent majority keep giving them the so called space-they the hordes will keep asking for more, until sadly there will be no space left to give. Zaheer
Najeeb Khan Achakzai Aug 26, 2012 01:32pm
we weep for democracy and denounce dictatorship........ it is more frightening and horrible than those pitiful types of Governments. no doubt we haven't signed a social contract between ourselves and we have to, even; i must say that we must be facing these bloody situations around us. Our ALLAH is not happy with our deeds.
Najeeb Khan Achakzai Aug 26, 2012 01:37pm
Ashfaq sahb hm mitti he pattay chalay aa rahay hain and today we are facing all this intolerance, unpragmatism, irrationality and inustice. we have to think seriously and act practically to save our land.
Manu Aug 26, 2012 01:35pm
Jinnah surrendered to the right when he ordered the bloodshed of Direct Action in 1946. Aug 11 speech too little and too late to dismount from the tiger he mounted
Cyrus Howell Aug 26, 2012 01:54pm
The USA was founded on the assumption that God does not intervene in the affairs of human life on earth; that we can expect no help from God. God should do everything for you? God wants to see something from you.
Zafar Jaffery Aug 26, 2012 11:12pm
Utter nonsen
Zafar Jaffery Aug 26, 2012 11:13pm
Marks Batley Aug 28, 2012 03:39pm
It is true but is this coming from Pakistan or outside.
Sagar Sohail Aug 26, 2012 10:19pm
We keep talking about Jinnah's August 11 speech but does it really make any sense to declare Pakistan a secular state when the whole idea of it's creation was based on religious divide in India? I wonder if our leaders were confused from the very beginning? Demanding a country just for the Muslims in itself alienated all the non-Muslims of this land and what is happening now, perhaps started right from the day that Pakistan came into being. A land in the name of religion will have the religious lobby in the driving seat. No light even at the end of the tunnel!
Gerry D'Cunha Aug 26, 2012 11:45am
Why don't one agee to the fact that Pakistan has been hijacked by the demon 'moulvis' who were never in favour of the creation of Pakistan and are now to destroy it - they even call the founder Quaid-e-Azam 'kafir' - unless these moulvis are handled like 'Naseer of Egypt' did during his reign, there will never be peace in Pakistan
vijay dixit Aug 26, 2012 12:04pm
Cast a look around the world & you will notice that not a single Muslim country is a democracy or a secular society.They are all Islamic zealots interested in spreading their version of Islam.Expecting them to treat their minorities in a fair manner is foolish.In the times to come no minorities will survive in any Muslim country.
Asker Husain Aug 26, 2012 12:08pm
One has to diagnose the exact nature of the illness and acknowledge its existence before thinking of a cure.
zeal Aug 26, 2012 01:56pm
You do remember this is a state that was created for Muslims only, don't you?
sattar rind Aug 28, 2012 12:42pm
great article and yes m justice munir report is a prof that no any one mullah had defined a single definition of Islam.
Falcon Aug 26, 2012 10:44am
Cyril - For the first time ever, I am disappointed to see your article. So depressing??? Do you think talking like this will solve the problem? How about we all go and lay down in front of the train and wait for our death rather than fighting it out like brave human beings?
Asker Husain Aug 26, 2012 09:20am
Unfortunately, absolutely true!
Qalandar Aug 26, 2012 09:15am
Cyril, today you talked on very important matter! Shall we not sometime talk of the truth? A theory of minorty that was somehow supported by the then power and made to succeed reflected its internal thougths, as if to avoid to itself what it had done to the majority; separate minorties from the day-one and put them away in their own place so as to unable it to challenge the tyranny of the majority that was to come. Oh dear wasn't it clear even in the flag that we adopted? No Cyril, the future in Pakistan must not belong to the right; the future of Pakistan must belong to Pakistan; that is what is left of it now. But how? Jinnah's 11 Aug - 1947 speech was not only, '...religion or caste or creed -- that has nothing to do with the business of the State,..' It was much more and deeper. Basically, all was related to, as to how the lawmakers should be framing the constitution of the new country, mind it, it wasn't any speech of Jinnah, it was an address to the Constituent Assembly for Pakistan on the occasion of its first meeting. He talked about the lawmakers themselves, reminding them of their 'responsibility,' duty of the goverment 'to maintain law and order,' 'put an end to bribery and corruption,' and 'Black-marketing,' that were the biggest and most grievous of crimes. He talked about 'the evil of nepotism and jobbery,' the well-being of the masses and the poor,' and so on but last and not the least,' We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State..' So, again Jinnah's 11 Aug - 1947 speech wasn't any speech but an address to the lawmakers where he presented an outline of the future constitution of Pakistan, one should emphasize that! Can any country survive and prosper without those fundamentals? It is naive, then, to think we can do without those principles in Jinnah's address. The lost of one part of the erstwhile Pakistan bears the proof of the un?a?void?a?bil?i?ty of the basics that Jinnah laid open in his 11 Aug - 1947 address
Haji Ashfaq Aug 26, 2012 09:14am
Is saare masle te mitti pao.
Yousaf Aug 27, 2012 07:08am
Usmaan I strongly disagree with your comment. To remain with India would have been to face relegious discrimination with no recourse open to us. At least today we have a country, and InshAllah it will get better. The comments that I see here prove that things will get better. At least there is awareness. Dejection and disappointment leads to death.