Category Archives: Liberal Democratic Pakistan

Religious Right in Their Own Words; the Concept of an Islamic State

Part 1

By Adnan Syed

This two part series revisits one of the pivotal events of the early Pakistani history; the riots by the religious right wing parties to get Ahmadis declared as non-Muslims, and the subsequent Munir-Kiyani inquiry commission report into the causes behind the riots. The report went on to interview the religious leaders of the newly formed state of Pakistan regarding their motives and their ideas of Pakistan as a pure Islamic state. As the interviews revealed the incongruous replies of various leaders, they also showed  vague but chilling ideas that the right wing parties harboured to turn the newly formed Muslim nation into a political- Islam-dominated theocratic nation. The interviews reveal the role of democracy, non Muslims, Jihad and punishments like apostasy that would be practiced in an ideal Islamic state.

The interviews are as relevant today as they were 56 years ago. If anything, they foreshadowed the violence that would engulf Pakistan as the state gradually ceded to the demands of the Islamic right wing parties. Religious parties kept incessant pressure on the newly formed state to take a turn towards Islamism. At the same time the pressure was on to the governments to kick the Ahmadis out of the fold of Islam by a state decree. It was not until 1974, that another bout of religious agitation got Prime Minister Bhutto to accede to their demands and get Ahmadis declared non-Muslims. If anything, Pakistan has paid dearly for ignoring its founding father who spoke unequivocally that the newly formed state would not be theocratic, and that everyone is free to practice their religion as an equal Pakistani first and foremost.


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Filed under Constitution, Democracy, Islam, Islamism, Jinnah, Judiciary, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, Religion

Liberal Pakistani Websites and Indian Right Wingers

By Raza Habib Raja

 Liberalism as a philosophy is more inward looking and therefore does not try to blame others for the follies of one’s own nation. Thus it takes a stark divergence from the conservative and ultranationalist philosophies who assume that identity cultivated on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or geographical location is always under threat from outside forces. Therefore liberalism’s natural thrust is towards self introspection and on fostering cooperation with the different ethnicities and nations. This orientation  always bring it into conflict with the ultranationalists who often accuse liberals of being “unpatriotic”, soft and even traitor!

Pak Tea House is one of the liberal website in Pakistan and let me assure you such websites are rare. We are committed to cultivating a spirit of self introspection and are doing our bit to cultivate an atmosphere of tolerance and plurality. Another major objective of Pak Tea House is to promote goodwill towards the foreign countries and particularly those against whom the ultranationalists right-wingers have been whipping hatred and what we believe misunderstanding. India is our neighbour and is also an important stakeholder in this region. But more importantly India and Pakistan share a troublesome history (of course Pakistan is also partly guilty) starting from a violent partition and subsequent wars and proxy wars.

We at Pak Tea House firmly believe that the two neighbours should bury the hatchet and move forward. There are so many issues which are our common issues and we admit that our side has also been guilty of rumor mongering and a state sponsored cultivation of institutionalized hatred of India which was primarily done to ensure integrity of the state and to carve out justification of a large army. For these reasons we are constantly striving to cultivate a favourable image of India.

 However, I regret to say that the behaviour of few (not all) of the Indian commentators is proving to be completely detrimental to our aim. These commentators are just spewing hatred and coming up with various ways to humiliate Pakistanis, which  at least on this site as well as other liberal sites, are largely moderate. The liberal theme of self introspection actually becomes a counterproductive weapon as some of the Indian commentators use the self critical articles by liberal Pakistani authors as an opportunity to mock and ridicule.

 Constant derogatory references to religion are being made. Personally I am not a religious guy but I understand that mocking someone’s religion is not a prudent thing to do. Religion is a part of everyone’s identity. Even Einstein, an atheist, started to proclaim himself as a Jew, when his coreligionists were hounded and prosecuted by the Nazi regime. Mocking Islam will only reinforce conservatism and religious fervour particularly when it is being mocked by those who do not share it.

Apart from this, constant and needless references to “failures” of Pakistan are made and “successes” of India are being touted. Articles about peace are mocked by touting about strength of India’s GDP. I vividly remember some comments boasting of 1.3 trillion dollar economy and being dismissive of any “peace” as India does not need Pakistan for economic purposes.

 This kind of behaviour mirrors the Pakistani rightwing nonsense and in a twisted way strengthens it. After seeing the comments the Pakistani right wingers are often in a position to “justify” their nonsensical hate mongering against India.

Moreover just like Pakistani rightwing brigade which generally spins everything under the sun to levy the blame on RAW and CIA, these Indian right wingers also blame ISI for everything from Mao rebels to Mumbai attacks. Literally each one of them tries to project himself as a foreign policy expert and like a true arm chair theorist comes up with mind boggling spins.

 This behaviour, while being obviously bigoted, also seriously undermines the efforts of Pakistani liberals and successfully paints them as “unpatriotic” in the eyes of normal Pakistanis. Obviously when articles about peace are being mocked in a humiliating tone, the peace makers end up appearing as weak and unpatriotic. The mocking comments become a weapon in the hands of Pakistani right wingers who end up having a citable evidence of Indian hatred.

 Of course one can argue with the “freedom of speech” angle and say that since it is an open forum therefore anything should go. However, every privilege in this world comes with a responsibility. Freedom of speech is a privilege and comes up with a responsibility that it will be used with care and not for mocking as well as insulting others.

 Yes freedom of speech has to prevail and it will prevail. But I can only request that it should be used in a mature manner. Those Indians who are desperate to settle scores of Mumbai attack, frankly Pak Tea House and for that matter any liberal website is not the place or the forum to do so!! If you think that Pakistanis are bigoted and deserve rebuke frankly there are so many Pakistani rightwing sites and your responses will be well placed there.


Filed under India, journalism, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, liberal Pakistan, Pak Tea House

Fatima Bhutto: please focus on fiction

Nasima Zehra Awan

Pakistan may have lost a talented fiction writer when Fatima Bhutto went into journalism. Clearly, she is adept at spinning a tale, fudging facts and re-defining reality in a manner that is the exclusive domain of talented story tellers. Throw in her photogenic looks and her propensity to endear herself with the security establishment and she is the poster child for them. This poor author does not share the same connections as Fatima Bhutto, so she will clearly not pass of (Fatima’s) alleged ISI links as established fact. Clearly, my humble perception was reinforced when I read her recent article, “Why my uncle Asif Ali Zardari’s rule in Pakistan cannot be trusted“.

The most outlandish spin in her article was that it was President Zardari who had banned facebook in Pakistan:”banned 500 websites — including YouTube, Facebook and Google — under the pretence of protesting against anti-Islamic material on the web” Two months ago, in their zeal to accommodate their political benefactors, Pakistan’s compromised Judiciary allowed for petitions that called for the banning of facebook and all the sites alluded to by Fatima. In their Islamist zeal, the Lahore High Court passed a judicial order that called for closing internet access to facebook. Zardari’s coalition government, already being lynched by the Judiciary had no choice but to comply. It is extremely disingenuous of Fatima to completely remove the context and the major instigators of internet censorship in Pakistan and place the blame on the President. The latter had already limited his role in governance by initiating and guiding the parliament to pass the 18th Amendment that gave back most executive powers to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers! What Fatima completely fails to mention is that the temporary facebook banning in Pakistan had nothing to do with Zardari and everything to do a politicized Judiciary that was returning favours to its Jamaat Islami backers. Continue reading


Filed under Benazir Bhutto, journalism, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Politics

Habib Jalib’s tragic murder – a blow to national integrity

PTH strongly condemns this act of barbarity and tragic persecution of Balochi leadership. We cannot afford to let this continue. About time, the Balochistan package is fully implemented and widened in its scope. We have to redress all genuine grievances of this troubled province and instead of looking for a foreign hand, analyse where we went wrong. If the Balochis are with Pakistan, no foreign hand can be successful. This would the beginning of a new chapter in our federal history. We are posting a press release by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that makes pertinent points and gives a way forward for the rulers. We cannot allow the elimination of representative voices.  Raza Rumi

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Filed under baluchistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan, quetta, Terrorism, violence

Daily Times: Nationalism: inclusive versus exclusive — III

Cross Post from Daily Times

Published July 13, 2010

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

Rather than hate India, we should learn from India. It has five times a greater population, far greater ethnic and linguistic variation and myriads of religious faiths and cults. It is not a democracy in the social sense but it is a sophisticated democracy in the political sense

I have presented, mainly, the exclusive model of nationalism and state-nationalism that I have argued emerged in Pakistan, notwithstanding the very bold attempt of Jinnah to supplant it with inclusive nationalism. Exclusive nationalism — whether based on race or religion or some other cultural factor — discriminates, constitutionally, people who do not qualify as members of the community because they do not share the specific cultural ties that have been chosen to define the nation, even if they live in the same territory. Israel is a case in point. Jews from anywhere in the world can come and settle in its territories but not Palestinians who may have lived there in 1948 or in 1967 or in 1973. Only Jews have a timeless law-of-return privileging them over the Palestinians.

The question arises: are states and nations fixed and frozen forever or can things change for the better? In other words, can an exclusive type of nationalism be transcended by an inclusive type of nationalism? The answer is, yes. After all, the nations of Western Europe were originally founded on membership in the State Church. Before World War II, most states in Western Europe required membership in the State Church in order to hold public office. Thus, for example, Sweden, where and my family and I are now settled, required even schoolteachers to be members of the Lutheran State Church.

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Filed under Democracy, Identity, India, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, minorities, Pakistan, Religion, secular Pakistan

Freedom of Religion and Religious Minorities in Pakistan

We are posting this well-researched paper by Tayyab Mahmud for the readers here. Hope the debate here gets informed and enriched as a result of this brilliant exposition. Raza Rumi

The full paper can be read by clicking on the title: Freedom of Religion and Religious Minorities in Pakistan


Filed under Democracy, Egalitarian Pakistan, Islam, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, minorities

Daily Times: Nationalism: inclusive versus exclusive — II —

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

When the Hindu members of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly expressed their worries about ‘sovereignty over the entire universe belonging to God’, Liaquat Ali Khan assured them that a Muslim state should have no problem in having a non-Muslim as prime minister. However, this was not true

Jinnah wanted to establish a Muslim-majority state, but not a Muslim-majoritarian state that would privilege Muslims over non-Muslims in their status and rights as citizens; hence he spoke of Pakistani nationalism and not Muslim nationalism when on August 11, 1947 he addressed the Pakistan Constituent Assembly:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state…We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state…Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

Stanley Wolpert, who is considered a sympathetic biographer of Jinnah, has noted that when Jinnah was delivering his address even his immediate disciples were visibly confused and shaken. What Jinnah was doing was repudiating the basis of nationhood on which he had demanded Pakistan: that Muslims were a separate nation from other communities of India. Now, he seemed to champion inclusive nationalism. Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur mentioned (‘Whose progeny? — I’, Daily Times, June 20, 2010) the 1928 Nehru Report as having made the same pledge. In fact, this was explicitly stated in the Nehru Report: “There shall be no state religion; men and women shall have equal rights as citizens.”

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Filed under Democracy, Egalitarian Pakistan, History, Identity, Islam, Islamism, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, minorities, Pak Tea House, Pakistan