Saturday, August 29, 2015

The question of religious freedom in Pakistan

Nasir Khan, August 29, 2015

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

— Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan (1876-1948).
No doubt, the ideas of Mr Jinnah in the above citation are admirable and meet the needs of the present times. But what happened in practice in Pakistan after his death, to his idea of a democratic state and to Pakistani citizens’ freedom to follow any faith or creed without state coercion and interference?

The Pakistan State was transformed into a sole monopolist of Islam; and Islam was made an instrument to exploit the people of Pakistan. Consequently, the magical mixture of State and Religion (Sunni branch only!) was baptised as ‘the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’.

 No great Caliph has appeared on the political horizon yet, even though the late dictator general Zia-ul-Haq left no doubt where he stood!

 However, under the infamous blasphemy laws the minorities suffer. In fact, anyone can falsely accuse a member of any religious minority, mostly to settle personal vendetta or conflicts, as has happened on many occasions, and thus start the vicious litigation against innocent people that can result in incredible punishments.

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