By Yasser Latif Hamdani
I know the self styled “progressives” hate it when I bring up Pakistan’s founding father but here I am forced to do so again:
Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. – Mahomed Ali Jinnah, The Founder of Pakistan
Sadly – Modern Pakistan is one of those states Jinnah warned against! If we started with this fundamental principle, well we have been moving backwards for over 63 years now.
All the excitement has gone down the drain. For all the hoopla about making Pakistan a progressive state, the PPP-ANP-MQM-PML(N) efforts have laid an egg. And it is stinking. One could barely justify closing the office of President to Non-Muslims by claiming that it was a symbolic office in a real parliamentary democracy (when it was first introduced in the 1956 constitution, this was the argument put forth) but to close the door for premiership and make it exclusive for a religious community- that is downright undemocratic.
The thesis – imposed on us by ethno-nationalists – is that by strengthening ethno-nationalists and then seeking a compromise we may achieve a viable Pakistani state. Untill recently I was naive enough to believe this ridiculous proposition.
PPP is a left of center liberal democratic party. ANP calls itself secular. To be fair ANP did file a note of reiteration for the office of president not prime minister. In other words after agreeing to sign the constitutional amendment, ANP also said “oh btw we would have liked to open up the office of president to Non-Muslims”. Be that as it may, ANP was more concerned about Khyber Pakthunkhwa to notice when the office of the Prime Minister was closed to Non-Muslims as it was in Bhutto’s 1973 constitution.
Over time, the door to PM’s office was opened up to Non-Muslims inadvertently after PM’s office had been reduced in stature post-Bhutto even though paradoxically the oath remained that of a Muslim but that was a bridge everyone thought would be crossed once we got to it. However as the powers have been transferred back to the Prime Minister, how could this be allowed to be even theoretically open to Non-Muslims? Shame on us for even thinking that in 21st century perhaps we shall attempt under a left leaning “progressive” coalition to move towards the kind of state that did not have bars against citizens.
In 1973 too PPP and ANP’s forerunner NAP “gifted” us a constitution which introduced Islam as the state religion and tried to blend Islam with democracy. This was ofcourse keeping with the horrible tradition set by Liaqat Ali Khan’s Objectives Resolution in 1949. But even with the Objectives Resolution, Liaqat Ali Khan clearly and consistently declared that the state so envisaged would not create bars against Non-Muslims for the offices of the head of state and government.
PPP claimed that it was undoing Zia ul Haq’s amendments. Ironically all the Islamic content of Zia’s Islamizing amendments has been retained in the constitution. Not even the ridiculous clauses in dreaded articles 62 and 63 have been amended to purge these of references to sagacity and being amin. The reason why this has happened is precisely because of the “consensus”. Since ANP etc are not really concerned about secularism or any of the ideals they claim to uphold and PPP has always been more concerned with “consensus building” instead of doing the right thing damn it, any and all attempts to change the constitution to make more liberal, progressive and egalitarian for all citizens of Pakistan were vetoed and the institutionalized role of religion persists.
Shame on every leader and his cronies who is party to this hogwash called the 18th Amendment. Liars, Crooks, Cranks And Madmen (and women), one and all.
Chalay chalo kay woh manzil abhi nahin ayee