By Feroz Khan
Pakistanis are not ashamed of being secular but they are afraid of being seen as secular. The reason lies in the question of who made the mullah strong and powerful in Pakistan? It was the so-called western educated Pakistanis, who in hopes of retaining their hold on power repeatedly appeased the religious right. The failure of secularism in Pakistan is the faliure of its liberals, educated classes to define what secularism stands for and this failure paved the way for the religious right’s assendency to power.
From Objectives Resolution in 1949 to Z. A. Bhutto constitutionally declaring the Ahmedis as non-Muslims to Pervaiz Musharraf supporting the MMA into power, it was the educated, westernized, liberal Pakistanis who have historically helped the religious right into making Pakistan a theocratic state. The reality of secularism in Pakistan is that no government will support it, because all governments that come to power do so with the agreement, with the mullahs, that its duration in power is contingent upon allowing the religious right to define for what passes for Islam.
An average Pakistani will not support secularism, because he or she knows that their goverment will readily foresake them to the religious right just to stay in power. To be secular in Pakistan means to have access to powerful patrons and to the right centers of influence and above all else, to be privileged enough to be above the law. Those who have this access can be secular and those who cannot, are afraid because they know they have no protection against the fury of the mullah and hence, are afraid to be identified as secular.
Secularism in Pakistan will happen not because of a media revolution, but because laws are created and enforced that protect the rights of all the people irrespective their of wealth, and positions in society. Secularism comes from a sense of tolerance and tolerance comes when a citizen’s basic constitutional rights are secured from arbitary excesses of power and intimidation. The first step towards this would be to tear up the Objectives Resolution and the 1973 constitution and to create a new social contract that is based on the notions of a political, social and economic equality and not on the basis of a religious creed.
The question is: is Pakistan prepared to do this and if it is not, then all the talk of secularism in Pakistan will remain a mere rhetoric and no law passed, on the basis of religion can be ever be questioned and the end result of this will be perpetual injustice and intolerance and inequality for the majority of Pakistani citizens who were unlucky enough to be born on the margins of privilege and influnece in Pakistan