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‘Religion and politics’

November 27, 2012

THIS is apropos of Zubeida Mustafa’s article ‘Religion and politics’ (Nov 7), and Nadeem F. Paracha’s article ‘Refiguring Jinnah’ (Nov 11), presenting their case for a secular polity in Pakistan on the basis of Jinnah’s Aug 11, 1947, speech to the Constituent Assembly, in which he said that religion had nothing to do with the business of the state.

I disagree with their basic premise on the grounds that nowhere in his speech did Jinnah use the word ‘secular’ even once, nor did he ever mention it in any of his statements throughout his life.

Jinnah’s oft-quoted and oft-repeated speech of Aug 11, 1947, has been misinterpreted. Rather his many references to the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) on numerous occasions as the basis of Pakistan’s constitution are conveniently ignored by them.

In fact, the underlying theme of the speech is not whether religion should be part of state business or otherwise, but to emphasise ‘impartiality’ in the business of state and equal fundamental human rights of all citizens irrespective of their faith.

Impartiality in statecraft and equal rights for all citizens no matter which religion they believe in are not antithetical to Islamic polity.

I was the assistant collector, Customs, at Pakistan international containers terminal, Karachi (Model Customs Collectorate of Paccs, Karachi) way back in 2007.

One morning, one of the examiners at the terminal told me that mister so and so, an exporter, was a Qadyani (Ahmadi) and an ardent supporter of his community. I replied: “So what? We are civil servants and not supposed to discriminate against any exporter or importer on the grounds of his faith. We need to be impartial in the business of our office.”

This impartiality in state business is what the Quaid implied in his speech of Aug 11, 1947.

Secondly, I disagree with the above mentioned writers that only secular leaders were at the forefront in the struggle for Pakistan.

If history is any evidence, the pivotal role played by ulema like Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, Allama Zafar Ahmad Usmani, Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, Sheikhul Hind, and many others in the Pakistan movement can’t be denied.

Historian Sharif Al Mujahid in many of his books and articles has elaborated their role. Needless to say, the Muslim League’s performance in the 1945 elections, in juxtaposition to its poor showing in the 1937 elections was to a great extent, the result of influence of ulema.

Similarly, the referendum in the North West Frontier Province and in Sylhet district were also influenced by religious people, vindicating that Muslims wanted an Islamic, although not theocratic, state in their future homeland.

Zubeida Mustafa’s remarks, “Then what went wrong?” needs to be further elaborated upon. I will tell you what went wrong in our country. Soon after the demise of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, secular elements in Pakistan hijacked the country, squabbled over Constitution-making, delayed it for nine years, and rejected 52 unanimously- agreed-upon points of the ulema of different schools of Sharia.

As I said in my letter, ‘Faith in decline’ (Sept 21), “We need to jettison the extremist and militant brand of Islam and teach our young ones the liberal an humane aspects of Islam.

“In a nutshell, by reforming our curriculum and regulating our ‘firebrand’ media, we can bring about positive changes in our society.”