Is there room for secularism in Pakistan?

Published: September 26, 2012

A more enlightened and prosperous Pakistan will emerge when state institutions are strengthened and tools like democracy and secularism are adopted. PHOTO: FILE

Each time China is mentioned in Pakistani media, the notion ‘all weather friend’ comes up. We look to China with respect, their economic growth and political might with awe, and their investments with huge gratitude. However, we still refuse to implement the system of governance which has secured it its strength.

When the current Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf recently paid a visit to Saudi Arabia, he repeated the old mantra that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are two countries but one nation. His predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani said that Turkey was a guiding star for Pakistan when his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Islamabad.

Yes, gratitude and respect is a part of diplomatic tradition. It is surely evident that a better living standard in these countries compared to that of Pakistan becomes the dream to reach for, but how out of touch can our political leaders be? At one side they are wishing for the same kind of institutions which have given Singapore, Malaysia or Turkey an economically strong middle class, while on other side promoting policies which oppose the same development.

Turkey has just managed to rid itself from a politicised military in a process to strengthen democratic institutions. Even though there is a religious-conservative political party in power, it agrees to a secular constitution and even advises the Arab Spring countries not to be afraid of secularism in the constitution-making process. Its civil law is based on that of Switzerland and its penal code is borrowed from France.

In Pakistan, the word ‘secular’ is shunned and is put together with la-deeniyat (being anti-religion).

Let it be made clear: secular states come in many forms.

China, for example, suppresses religion and has a secular outlook, but it is not democratic. A secular state which is additionally democratic, ensures that it does not suppress or promote one set of beliefs over the other. Secular states are hence not anti-religion, they are religiously neutral.

Another quality of secular states is that the society has the freedom to remain religious or cultural in its right sense ─ the state will not intervene. Social revolutions, reforms or revival movements come from the society and not from state administration.

In practical purposes, a secular state will be influenced from a majority religion and culture but only in a normative sense; for example, virtues and values to promote progression or identity. That’s the reason why, in Europe, Christian holidays are public due to a Christian majority population and history. It is also why Eid will continue to be national holiday, as will Mawlid, Ramazan or Ashura. Pakistan used to have public holidays for other religions as well in the 60s.

Some argue that God Almighty is Sovereign and thereby a secular state transfers sovereignty from God to humans. This notion is too refutable as the Sovereignty of God is untouchable and it cannot be revoked.

God has given human beings free will. This means we have the right to choose between right and wrong, and the right to rule the earth is in accordance to human-constructed systems.

Now that is exactly what an administration of a geographically separated territory is; it is a system which is created by man. Involving God-given faith in a man-made system will surely create an ugly output. History tells how such utopian systems failed when prophets were no more present to be omnipotent and guided by Divine Will.

Pakistan has fragile institutions which need to be strengthened. The overall mechanics used in these institutions are a Westminster-styled democratic elected parliament, Montesquieu’s separation of powers, Islam’s heavy emphasis on equality and justice, and to gather strength from diversity. The latter two are the least in effect.

Turkey follows a strict nationalistic ideology. One flag, one people, one nation is chanted. That is effective to form a strong connection in between the people and the state, but is also challenging because, in reality, the country has tonnes of different ethnic and sectarian groupings, and Turk-centricism has only succeeded because the recent military presence in politics.

Pakistan is also diverse and cannot continue to treat its people as being subject to established parameters of nationalism. State ideology is linked with one set of militaristic nationalism combined with Sunni puritanism. Majority of citizens do not adhere to such a description ─ they follow a centuries-old understanding of tolerating differences.

Indonesia on its side has adopted the indigenous developed state ideology dubbed ‘Pancasila’. It consists of five points;

1. Belief in one God

2. Just and civilised humanity

3. Unity of state

4. Democracy

5. Social justice for all.

It has worked to a certain degree especially when all of these principles are in place. Pakistan covers many of these parts in its constitution of 1973, but the amendments and exceptions remove the same given rights and guidelines.

Singapore has a flag with five stars which symbolise democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. Our flag‘s crescent and star symbolise progress and light. These five combined will function as description of the unclear understanding of ‘light’.

Pakistan is rich on diversity. One can write pages upon pages about the different types of people, culture, religion and sects its inhabitants have. Learning from history – especially the tragic Bangladesh debacle – we should use more energy on finding strength in diversity than forcing one artificial identity.

Hopefully a more enlightened and prosperous Pakistan will emerge when state institutions are strengthened and tools like democracy and secularism are adopted, with the inclusion of equality and justice in the very spirit of constitution and legislation.

For all this, political mobilisation is needed. It is up to our masses (youth especially) to encourage their respective political parties to lay emphasis on this point. Important change in direction is needed.

Remember, politicians will come to front these demands when they become huge enough to form sizeable votes.

This post originally appeared here.

Read more by Usman here or follow him on twitter @UsmanBaghi 

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Usman Asif

Norwegian born of Pakistani descent, writes on politics, society and religion. He blogs at He tweets @UsmanBaghi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sarfraz Malik

    We’ve given religion a chance and seen the results in our country,it’s time we gave atheism a chance.Recommend

  • Abdul basit

    Secularism won’t suffice,what’s needed is an atheist society.Organised religion has brought a lot of suffering in this world.Our society’s extreme fixation with religion has produced disastrous results.We have lost all ethics and behave like savages in the name of religion.Recommend

  • Sarah

    Excluding Zia’s tenure, we’ve almost always had leadership that believes in secularism (but does not have the guts to implement it in the country). The problem with Pakistan is, we’re divided on this issue; the elite wants secularism while the general public demands the country to become a true Islamic state (and no, we do not take Iran and Saudi Arabia as ideals). Unless and until we decide on what we want and then solely work on achieving that, we cannot progress as a nation, be it secularism or establishing and Islamic state. It’s important to note that a recent survey concluded that 82% Pakistanis feel laws should follow Holy Quran teachings.
    I personally believe there’s no place for secularism as there’s no concept of “the separation of the church and the state” in Islam. Islam isn’t just a religion, it’s a way of life, with injunctions both for our public and private lives, on both individual and community level (the belief that Islam does not include politics and governance of state implies that Islam does not have answers to all of life’s questions).Recommend

  • Sadia

    @Sarfraz Malik:

    Yes,an Atheist population would be the ideal outcome,but i don’t see that happening in Pakistan as atheism requires rational thinking and critical examination of things and these are qualities our ppl don’t want to have.Atheism involves confronting uncomfortable realities of the universe,it’s much easier to stick with a reassuring fallacy.Recommend

  • American

    “atheism requires rational thinking….” ….. LOL

    We’re prosperous in the West because we show our fellow man respect. Its as simple as that. And from statements like the one above we can see that it might be lacking among the “atheists” of Pakistan. Recommend

  • American

    Also, for the pseudo-intellectuals, you should try to be more evidence based in your arguments ( that would be more scientific).

    Look around the world at which economies are growing. That includes several Muslim nations by the way. The majority of Americans were religious when its economy was booming. Atheism has no correlation with prosperity. Turkey’s secular favoring governments had been embarrassments if you don’t remember.

    Try to look at the factors that actually have to do with prosperity of the country instead of blaming the Mullahs for all your problems. (Yes I know, everyone hates them, but to a certain extent its not their fault. That’s all they know). Recommend

  • Saif Qaimkhani


    Nothing new,religious fanatics pretending to be Americans to give their obscene thoughts more legitimacy.The only American you are similar to is Terry Jones. Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    I don’t know why “atheism” inevitably springs up in every discussion about secularism. They are very different things. Secularism is not even an antecedent to state-sponsored atheism.

    I’m an atheist, but I would never vouch for state atheism, which would be a violation of freedom not unlike a theocracy of any other kind.

    Secularism, however, is a must. In a nation that is an amalgamation of different religions and sects, it is unfair to put any one religion’s (or sect’s) laws above all others. For the state to promote one set of religious beliefs over the others’, is unacceptable discrimination.Recommend

  • “Pakistani Muslim”

    The author forgot to mention about Saudia Arabia’s history when he listed the country as having a strong middle class. He did mention Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey and chanted their system.

    What do you have to say about KSA? Dont forget about Turkey that they were shrunk from the empire to a peace of land politically not encouraged by Europe and specially the Vatican!

    Eventually things boil down to collaterally exists with each of their identity with the power under the governance. China seems to be the opposite extreme where justice is not served for practicing religion, where as Pakistan still facilitates 100s of churches, Hindu Temples and other religions. As per “American” the Mullahs need not to be blamed for every mistake the seculars do. Unfortunately the condition of our country is due to its people, and the leaders must not be solely blamed. If our leaders would be religious, they would have given way to the tolerance which by our fate its not the case.

    In the end, work hard to correct the society not to come up with intellectual articles or whatever. Everyone has now started to be an observer and a critic. Recommend

  • American

    @Saif Qaimkhani:
    I guess you proved my point. I asked for respecting your fellow man (even if you think s/he’s wrong) and you call my thoughts “obscene”. Not sure what you found obscene…..

    Then I asked you to provide evidence, and you went on to call me a fraud and compare me to Terry Jones. The whole point of secularism is to promote tolerance in society. And my point was that the self proclaimed atheists commenting here seem to lack it.

    I will give you this much, I was always infuriated myself when I visited Pakistan. And I doubt I would identify with the religious crowd had I lived there. But you need to take a look at your own attitude first. Recommend

  • Rex Minor


    What type of constitution Pakistan presently has? How do you translaate secularism in the language of the majority of Pakistan people. It would seem that you have misunderstood the system of Govt which Turkey has or other European Govts.have. Do you want me to tell you what a secular system of Govt. is and who ensured secularism in Europe?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Zalim Singh

    boring article.Recommend

  • Anas Tanveer

    Well, I respect everyone’s views expressed here, but with due respect i would disagree to it. I do’nt know whay are we bonding Secularism with Atheism. As the author himself, name some countries , being secular, does any of them have the majority of Atheists? Secularism doest come with Atheism. It’s just not a religious thing, we are misreading it or trying to misportray this thing.

    Being secular doesnt ask you to forefeet your idealogies or the beleives. It’s something near to Humanity, as “American” get it quite right, that it is purely abour tolerance. Being a follower of Muhammad(s.a.w) , i have the best example of Secularism in history.

    My Beloved Prophet(s.a.w) forgave Habba( The lady who chew Prophet’s Uncle’s Kidney out) at the time of Fateh Makka.

    That is, for me the best example of secularism.

    And last but not the least, Secularism teaches us to respect the people, their idealogies, regilion, everything. It can be well described in one line:

    Live, and let others live.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Anas Tanweer,

    Let the author answer what his understanding about secularim is ?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Faraz Talat


    The author seems well aware of what secularism is. What do you think the term implies?Recommend

  • aaaaa


    “Atheism has no correlation with prosperity”.

    A logical corollary would be that a lack of atheism, Atheism variable=0, (the presence of religion) will have no correlation with prosperity either which is what you suggest on the statement preceding this one.Recommend

  • Magus

    Haha, a German guy lands up on random Asian blogs and hears voices in his head telling him he is being addressed when he is not. Treatment needed, desperately!!Recommend

  • gp65

    “China, for example, suppresses religion and has a secular outlook”
    Sorry. You do not understand the meaning of secular. Secular means that
    a) the state will not promote any religion
    b) will not discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religious beliefs including the belief that there is no God
    c) will allow freedom of worship to all those who choose to worship.

    China does not allow b and c and hence cannot be called a secualr country. India, USA, France, UK and Turkey are examples of secular countries.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Rex Minor: Pakistan is definitely not secular since
    – it makes decisions about what an individual’s faith is
    – forbids non-Muslims from ever becoming PResident, Prime Minister or CJ
    – has anti-blasphemy laws that protect only one religion
    – has constitutional provisions requiring an MNA and MPA to be a good Muslim
    – considers apostasy illegal even while considering conversion o Islam legal
    – has a rule that any law inconsistent wit Islam can be struck down. No such requirements to be compliant with the Bible, Tora, Bhagvad Geeta or the Grantha Sahib.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    The author has written a good article but has not researched the subject of ‘secularism’ fully which most Indians and pakistanis talk about. Let me try to explain; It simply implies that the democraticaly elected Govt shall conduct the country’s affairs independent of the religious clergy. This system came about in Europe after Hitler and Mussolini, yes the fascist leaders of Germany and Italy entered into the concord with Pope, the head of the christian church, who agreed no longer to interfere in the affairs of the Govt., which in return agreed not to interfere into the religious afairs of the country and promised to collect the religion tax from the citizens on behalf of the Church which amounts to 10 % on peoples income.

    This is how the secularism Govt was created and the contract with the church is valid todate.

    And here is the additional info which one must know.

    . The constitution of the German democratic republic reflects the values, and I repeat, the values of the Christian religion.

    . Turkey is a democratic state and its constitution reflects the values of Islam and its Govt is secular in so far that muslim clergy is not allowed to interfere in the govt affairs and the Govt does not interfere into the affairs of the clergy.

    The use and misuse of the word secular is confusing for India and pakistan because of the translation of the word ‘Secular’.

    Both China and India are Godless states, one operating the communist system in some parts democratic, whereas in other parts a planned economy. India has transplanted more or less the French constitution and legaly banned the caste system, whereas it still practices caste system but is of hope that over a period of time the caste system shall disappear.

    There we are with Secularism. Have we solved Pakistan problems? Certainly not! Pakistan imust decolonise most of its institutions, develope a constitution which reflects the values of Islam, not the copy of 7th century laws, but the 21st century requirements.

    though shall not kill is God’s commandment and therefore death sentence must be abolished from its constitution.

    No human has the right to decide wheather an individual is a muslim or not. Excommunication from the christian church is practiced by the Pope but in Islam it has no place.

    All citizens of the country must have equal rights regardless of their religion and ethnic divide. Pakistan must stop its caste system inherited from their hindu ancestors and become a pluralistic one, and not exclusive.

    And so on: Pakistan must have competent constitutional lawyers and elite judiciary, they could follow the European system, which Turkey is committed to abide in full before it can be accepted as a full member of the European Union, but this is another topic.

    Alternatively wait until Morsi has come up with Egypt constitution and the form of the Govt. though I personaly prefer the parliamentry system and not a Presidential form of Govt.

    Rex Minor

    PS I trust the author agrees wih my input. Recommend

  • sana u llah khan

    who will mobilise the poor illiterate and easily decieving people of this pureland.indeed pakistan needed secularism but who in the parliament judiciary and in other institutions will take first step.
    suppose if any parliamentarian of this country talk about secularism he/she will be labelled by our ignorant media and our mullahs as infidels and as a spy of jews christian CIA etc.
    through blogs and articles we can educate our masses about the true spsirit of secularismRecommend

  • Anoop

    If Pakistan adopts Secular principles how is it different from India?

    I thought Islam supported Democracy, as Jinnah claimed, then what is the need of Secularism?

    Here is a quote from Jinnah,”We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.”

    What do you have to say to that?

    Yes, I know about the Aug 11th speech. One speech is not going to negate this one. I can give you such more quotes from Jinnah which are potentially dangerous, in the sense that they can be interpreted in an unsecular manner. Clearly, Pakistan was not really meant to be a state which practices India-type Secularism. It was meant to be some experimentation that none had carried out, based on false presumptions. Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Mr Khan,

    Pakistan does not need secularism! This denomination is for the birds. Pakistan religion clergy has no power over the Govt., it does not intervene in Govt affairs.

    What Pakistan needs is a New Constitution which reflects the values of Islam! The Parliament should legislate 21st century laws and not 7th century laws! Name such laws as the Sharia laws of 21st century.Knowledge is the power and all knowledge is imbedded in Quraan. Every citizen should learn arabic language to understand what Quraan says. decolonise educational institutions and offer free education to all citizens. Pakistan can no longer afford to have uneducated class as heads of govt. Get rid of them! or

    wait for Morci who is gong to ensure that Egypt new constitution is construced with the engineering precision! It was him and no other muslim leader who declared to the wrld that denegration of Islam and its Prophet(pbuh) is not acceptable, and freedom of expression was intended to prevent extremism and not encourage!

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Usman Asif

    Thank you for the readup and comments. I will try to answer some of the questions as best as i can.

    @Sarfraz Malik, @Abdul basit, @Sadia
    As clearly put out in the article – secular state does not mean a atheist state. If state takes the side of atheism it is no better than any other state which takes side of one religion or set of belief over the others. Secular state does not need a atheist soviety – it needs a society in where respect/tolerance for difference in thought/belief exists and citizens understand that a religious-neutral state will guarantee their own as well as others rights.

    And rational thinking do exists among the believers as well, perhaps not on the faith matter, but on wordly matters – i.e. secular ones – they all are on the same page. Hence need for a secular state will not touch ones own belief, it will secure it.

    I disagree with the notion that elite wants secularism – elite has since day one only sought power and played realpolitics and populistic. Laws formulated and legislation done has only been divertion from a genuine popular consern which is jobs, welfare and education. As leaders cannot deliver such because of incompetence and meddling from a oversized military they seek to prolong their stay in power by implementing reactionary laws/ordinances. It has a short term benefit for the conserned office holder, but in long term damages society.

    Secondly, many argue that there is not any consept of separation of state and church in Islam. I would disagree – the current understanding of a islamic state is the product of recent centuries and decades thinkings – these origined in certain types of environments, most notably a lack of being powerless and succumbed to colonial rulers. Separation of state and church has been evident in the history of muslim ruled dynasties, after the Prophets demise different forms of ruling and administration came forth and all were adjusted to their given realities of time. Today (or for the last two centuries) a new consept of a state-citizen contract of equality prevails where nationstate secures everyones rights – but in turn remains neutral. It is important to secure stability and hinder secterian violence.

    No secular state can claim to be perfect – India is a quasi secular state in where right-wingers can from time to time become the main factor in defining what nationalism is. The Arya Samaj movement has caused other groups and faiths to react with the same coin. India is perhaps more secular than Pakistan, but it needs to understand that a new definition of nationhood/nationalism cannot end the centuries old understanding and acceptance of diversity and variety – there is no One India – there is thousands of it – but there is one state for practical purposes.

    I do not agree that west has managed to prosper because it shows fellow man respect. It was a long struggle all since the dark-ages where hermits and philosophers sought to understand nature which church had abandoned and where scriptures from notably Arab world were translated even though considered blasphemous. Further these thoughts influenced the need for a secular society and virtues and values as equality, freedom and justice prevailed following french revolution. A new consept of nationhood emerged in Europe based on ethnic origin and equality before the law. It suceeded until ethnic cleansing and now values as equality and freedom dominates.

    @Loneliberal PK
    i agree with you. Bringing in atheism in the secular state debate harms the intentions. Atheism has no monopholy over a secular state. But a secular state will ensure rights of belief or non-belief.

    @Pakistani Muslim
    Saudi Arabia has no strong middle class in the sence of economic productivity. Its original population lives on rent. Its education system is a farce and country is net-importer of doctors, professors and engineers. Country is also highly discriminatory to shias (15-20%) and Sunni-traditionalists in addition to arab sub-groups who are alien to Najd/Dariya-arabs, especially in Hejaz. Their productivity and profit is limited for some and their stability is non-other than the result of a oppressive regime.

    @Rex Minor
    Each nation should adopt values, systems and institutions which ensures stability and secures citizens rights. In this order it also has to make these things indigenious- Call secularism what you want, but its essence and principles needs to be implemented. Without genuine local engagement for such it will be seen as a foreign and alien import and shunned.

    I agree on your lenghtly post in most of its part. But secularism has not its origin in Nazi-Germany or that times fascist states. These states were ethnic centred and their religious counterpart would be a theological state. Secular state has its origin in philosophy from amongst other ibn Rushd and even before him from ancient Greek, not to forget the old Indian and Chinese philosphers who too often gets in the background comared to Greece.

    Further secularism came into its modern practical state following the french revolution, where the citizen demanded rights. Clergy was at that time weakened for a while, but it was the aristocrats which felt the major blow.

    And i dont believe India to be a ‘godless’ state. It is religious neutral to a degree, but suffers from hindu nationalism from time to time. It provokes reactions in the form of Khalsa movement, christian radicalisation in north-east and islamic extremism.

    @Zalim Singh
    Too bad the article couldnt entertain you enough

    @Anas Tanveer
    I agree with you

    I mentioned secular outlook – China is irreligious in state administration – i.e. secular – but it also uses that to supress religious groupings – that is authoritarianism and lack of freedom and equality. Hence a true secular state which is needed should be religious-neutral and in addition a democratic state with respect to equality and freedom.

    @sana u llah khan
    i agree with you. Thats why it is important to talk more about this subject. Poor and illiterate dominate society and do not care for what constitution it is. They need to be told that some candidates from all political parties who favour such a state work for the people. In addition, populism and reactionary groupings needs to be critisized and parties need input from civil society groups. One good step is to revive the chai-stalls where intellectual debates occured and launched youth with ideas which would benefit the nation. Its a slow process and i believe all institutions do have some who would come along with it – even among some clerics, army men, judiciary and politicians – the last one will follow strong if they get to know the voting strenght of a youth which believes in secular state

    Struggle for Pakistan was a consequence of several happenings. It was not the end of goal, but the consequence of it. The first genuine demand was separate electorates due to economic and political backwardness of Muslims. Then several factors led to the inevitable. Now that is history, we have to reconsile with it, we even need to close the chapter of partition and bring justice to those who suffered the bitter pogroms – now reality is different, Pakistan failed itself when Bangladesh got separated, India failed because its populist and reactionary groupings neglected the minorities – especially Muslims. Both countries have challenges of their own, need to focus on that.

    In the end: Secular state is no guarantee for economic prosperity. But Pakistan cannot prosper if its state/administration/establishment discriminates other minority ethnic groups and sects. Because that triggers nationalist seapratist movements and secterian violence – which gives instability and lack of proper conditions for investment and industrialisation.Recommend

  • umer

    So true !! If we focus ourselves with how to finish the extremist edge, educate people, introduce progressive islamic ideology in madarrassas etc. such things will help us resolve all the issues !
    Right now the elite minority like always wants to impose their ideology which is not acceptable to even an ordinary muslim let alone the straunch or so called straunch believers.
    Good analysis SarahRecommend

  • http://Bangalore Anoop

    @Usman Asif:

    You completely sidestepped my point!

    My point was Jinnah said Islam is a package deal, which also has Democracy embedded in it. Secularism is non-interference of Islam in political matters.

    So, why does Pakistan need the traditional India-style Democracy?

    I relish this utter confusion in the minds of the Pakistanis, if I were to be honest. Why are you so against Islam? The same Islam which has been practicing Democracy since ages, as said by the erudite Jinnah? I am sure his vision of Democracy also means the establishment of all other institutions.

    Why can’t Pakistan continue to be an Islamic state and be just? Is that a failure of Islam as envisioned by Jinnah?

    India is a secular state, but also a Hindu one at that(Not symbolically per the Constitution, but just because of the overwhelming number of Hindus). That doesn’t stop India from celebrating Eid and giving Holidays on Christmas. Secularism succeeded because it goes well with the Hindu ethos of tolerance and pluralism. Islam is similar, I am sure.. Well, isn’t it?Recommend

  • Paki Existentialist

    It is a sweet dream topic and how so funny that some people even demand state-sponsored atheism ignoring uproars of religious frenzy around them.Let’s be pragmatic. Atheism is an ideal for mankind, poor humans are likely to.achieve it on this globe one day(many many years after when we will have perished).
    However secularism is a genuine pursuit which is the most pragmatic step for viability of a state like Pakistan which constitutes a multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian society.
    @ Anoop
    Once again you have impressed with your logic. Jinnah was sincere but Mr.Anoop the business of politics is compelling. He was a seculrist in his approach but after failure on Muslim nationalist political stage (1936-37 elections being an example) he took a fateful step of using religion as a charm. It worked miraculously. Then goal served and he wanted to roll it back,11th August speech was official speech and this was real Jinnah.But poison had worked.Jinnah was sincere because had he known this will prove a frankenstein monster for his people in the long run,he would definitely had excercised greater caution.

    The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. (Hegel)Recommend

  • Usman Asif

    Not against Islam, because Islam is in its essence a religion for individual and society, not for politics and administration.

    Secondly, as Paki Existencialist politics of those times must be understood in the hot tempered situation of sub-continent. If that factor is put out, then yes, surely one can portray Jinnah as a political-Islamist, but reality is he was not. Not in private, nor in his administration of matters. It is only party rhetorics which can be understood in this way or the other.

    And as is with all remarks, ideas of national leaders, they if not understood in context can become regressive and anti-modernist. As Jefferson remarked, constitutions have an average life of 12 years, they then needs to be updated to new parameters. So is it with the idea of Pakistan, its national discourse and lessions from history.

    The Pakistan which made Bangladesh to suffer from slaughter was not from the ideas of Jinnah, it formed since the band of his sub-leaders managed to topple his cause/perspective and replace with their own.

    India is secular to a limited degree, but culturally religious – not only Hindu just because of size, but sub-hindu groups, and other groups as sikhs, jains, parsi, muslims so on. They all have their due share in society. Pakistani minorities and majorities have their share in society and can be guaranteed only that in a state which is religiously neutral.Recommend

  • http://Bangalore Anoop

    @Usman Asif:

    “The Pakistan which made Bangladesh to suffer from slaughter was not from the ideas of Jinnah, it formed since the band of his sub-leaders managed to topple his cause/perspective and replace with their own.”

    My point is precisely opposite to that. The Pakistan that Jinnah envisioned doesn’t matter. What matters is what Jinnah ended up creating.

    You often hear from older Pakistani commentators that the Pakistan they grew up in was far more secular, pluralistic and tolerant. It was as if some unseen force was pulling it towards radicalism. There are a lot of what ifs – What if the Russians hadn’t invaded Afghanistan? What if Pakistan hadn’t supported the Mujahideens? and so on..

    But, you got to wonder why people like Bhutto and Liaquat Ali Khan called Ahmadis as non-Muslims and proclaimed Pakistan as Islamic republic respectively. They were living in a much less radicalized Pakistan, there was no real reason apart from it was convenient to use Islam to gain popularity and approval. Exactly what Jinnah did.

    Jinnah is a secular person or was forced by the circumstances to speak thus doesn’t matter anymore. The legacy matters. Jinnah’s legacy, the real legacy, is very very poisonous; the legacy that nobody prefers to talk about.

    “India is secular to a limited degree, but culturally religious – not only Hindu just because of size, but sub-hindu groups, and other groups as sikhs, jains, parsi, muslims so on. “

    M.J.Akbar, an Indian journalist and historian, once commented, “India is secular not because the minorities want it, but the Majority Hindus want it to be”. The Hindu culture is inherently pluralistic, my friend. You have to question if the Pakistani society is, any Islamic society can be. Recommend

  • Nandini Patra

    What is the Point in having a separate country Pakistan if it becomes secular. What is the point of Partition of India is Pakistan is not Islamic?Recommend

  • Tailor Program

    I just want to say how much I enjoy this information. I also like “Is there room for secularism in Pakistan?” for the title. Very valuable information Usman.Recommend

  • surya

    “M.J.Akbar, an Indian journalist and historian, once commented, “India is secular not because the minorities want it, but the Majority Hindus want it to be”.
    As a matter of fact I read the article on the day it was out, a couple of decades ago when I visited India. He was very mature to write things like that I thought then.Recommend

  • Usman Asif

    Sorry for the delay in answering

    @Anoop @Nandini Patra
    I am not of those who say that those days back then were a golden period. Compared to today, they might have been better in the sense of violence, but percecution and hatred prevailed then and many more issues were not even recorded. But both the communal tention and the social evils in society were common for recently free colonies, especially in where colonial power had created groupings based on ‘nations’ alongside religious lines. Muhammadans and Hindus were not common grounds before british consolidated their power, the nation definition before that was in cultural and caste based paradigms. But long story short, Jinnah had a vision of a progressive state which would be created for muslims, it failed, mainly because half muslims remained in India, secondly, Pakistan was not his prime or final goal, it became so after several events which started with separate electorates within the Indian dominion. And no, Jinnah can be criticized for his politics – many points on that – but the legacy from the feudals around his person were the makers of jegacy.

    I can agree with M J Akbar a bit, but as Muslims, Hindus are not one mass. B R Ambedkar even converted to Buddhism as he found too much oppression in the way hinduism was practised, especially related to castes. So was Periyar disillutioned and launched a popular atheist movement. The lingayats in Maharashtra are a Bhakti legacy and monotheistics even non-political in their nature when it comes to religion. And then you have the ordinary castes, creed and scheduled castes which did not had any word to say in the big mans Congress club. India is secular because Congress knew the consequences of a Hindutva aligned India. Thats why Gandhi was killed and thats why Shiv Sena demands legislation based on Maharashtri culture and Gita theology. India knew its diversity, it knew it could only survive as a secular state because there was no one group with significant size, and because it knew if it went non-Secular then more ‘pakistans’ would be created. India did well, Pakistan went wrong with its Punjabi-Pashtun dominated aristocracy which ruled Pakistan as a personal fief.Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Usman Asif:

    Usman, let me clear something up. Two Nation theory is ABSOLUTELY correct. Jinnah is correct. Jinnah is correct, but his politics and the way things went about were not.

    I am a big fan of the greats 3 Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi.

    Gandhi and Nehru were softies. They didn’t realise that Jinnah was actually right. What Jinnah did wrong was to demonise the people who could have actually helped him create a country he envisioned. Jinnah distrust of Nehru was evident and he, intentionally or otherwise, misjudged him saying Muslims will not be safe under Nehru, at the same time linking up with people like Suhrawardy, who was primarily responsible of the human tragedy that took place after Jinnah’s call for Direct Action day. Nehru goes on to be the saviour for Muslims, who thank him to this day by voting for his grandchildren.

    Can you imagine the pacifist Gandhi and romantic Nehru calling Direct Action day?

    Two Nation theory is right. Islam is wonderful, has Democracy embedded in it (I personally think its utterly untrue but I trust Jinnah on this blindly). But, its a big ‘But’.. But, Islam is not suited for India.

    Jinnah did something which ended up saving India from riots, communal politics, extreme polarisation. Imagine a united India today – 500 Muslims battling, using violence as a tool for every possible issue. Riots would have engulfed India and India would have torn apart long ago.

    Today India is Jinnah expected Pakistan to be.

    Two Nation theory states that its Muslims who cannot live with Hindus, but I would like to change the statement to Islam instead of Muslims.

    Islam is a very politically oriented Religion. It calls its followers to bear arms for any perceived or real injustice(We see evidence of that in the world today. In this day and age, with all this knowledge, people like Osama and Imran Khan use the word Jihad and justify violence). It just doesn’t suit India. Jinnah helped India without even knowing it. For that I will be forever grateful.

    Jinnah was a hardcore realist, yet so arrogant that his hatred of Gandhi and Nehru made him run into the arms of Suhrawardy and Liaquat and other Feudals. For him, a Feudal dominated Muslim League was better than Gandhi/Nehru dominated Congress…

    I am tempted to call this stupidity, because it very much sounds like it.

    You seem to be more like the Gandhi and Nehru. I resemble more of Jinnah. You see the good in men, specially people like Jinnah, all the time. I, like Jinnah, see things for what it is, yet do stuff with good,noble intentions. Funny isn’t it?

    Hoping to get your reply much sooner than the last one. Cheers. :)Recommend

  • Sardar Sohan Singh

    There is no room for secularism in Pakistan. Period. There will be absolutely no scope for secularism in Pakistan even in the next century. Pakistanis will either kill each other along Shia -Sunni lines or ethnic lines. Pakistan will always remain a feudal, agri-rural and violent society. It will surely get much much worse than it already is. This is the truth. Everything else is mere wishful thinking.Recommend