Category Archives: secular Pakistan

Was Jinnah secular?

By Yasser Latif Hamdani 

(In wake of the national debate on ideology and textbooks, Mr. Raza Rumi, the founder and editor of Pakteahouse, recently asked me to revisit the issue of Jinnah’s secularism through a comprehensive blog-post. This blog post is written for PTH exclusively and may be reproduced by giving PTH credit.)

Many people (though not all) on all sides of the ideology divide in Pakistan take umbrage with the description of Mahomed Ali Jinnah – the anglicized founder of Pakistan- as a secular leader or a secularist. Islamists in Pakistan say that he wanted an Islamic state. Islamic modernists say he wanted a modern Islamic democratic state (whatever that means), some people from the left say he was a communalist who was not secular because he championed Muslim separatism (albeit only in the last 11 years of his life). All of these groups agree that if Jinnah had been secular, it would not have been necessary to make a separate state. All of them – unconvincingly and inaccurately- claim that those who lay claim to a secular Jinnah are basing it on a solitary speech of Jinnah made on 11 August 1947. A slightly different claim is made by the Wali Khan group- which is ideologically consistent if historically errant- which claims that Jinnah wanted a secular state and that his push for Pakistan was the result of British manipulation and divide and rule which made him utilize Islamist rhetoric for the creation of Pakistan. While respecting all these points of view, I disagree with all of them and through this article I will explain why. Continue reading


Filed under Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, liberal Pakistan, Pakistan, secular Pakistan

Why are some Secular Pakistanis Afraid to be Identified as Such

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


Filed under secular Pakistan, secularism, Society

Jinnah And Jefferson : Dreams From Two Founding Fathers

 Originally published by Washington Post on the independence day of the US and Jefferson’s death anniversary,  we reproduce the same article on our Independence Day.

By Akbar Ahmed

Sunday, July 4, 2010


“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship. . . . We are starting in the days when 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.”

These are the words of a founding father — but not one of the founders that America will be celebrating this Fourth of July weekend. They were uttered by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of the state of Pakistan in 1947 and the Muslim world’s answer to Thomas Jefferson.

When Americans think of famous leaders from the Muslim world, many picture only those figures who have become archetypes of evil (such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden) or corruption (such as Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf). Meanwhile, many in the Muslim world remember American leaders such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, whom they regard as arrogant warriors against Islam, or Bill Clinton, whom they see as flawed and weak. Even President Obama, despite his rhetoric of outreach, has seen his standing plummet in Muslim nations over the past year.

Blinded by anger, ignorance or mistrust, people on both sides see only what they wish to see, what they expect to see.

Despite the continents, centuries and cultures separating them, Jefferson and Jinnah, the founding fathers of two nations born from revolution, can help break this impasse. In the years following Sept. 11, 2001, their worlds collided, but the things the two men share far outweigh that which divides them.

Each founding father, inspired by his own traditions but also drawing from the other’s, concluded that society is best organized on principles of individual liberty, religious freedom and universal education. With their parallel lives, they offer a useful corrective to the misguided notion of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.

Jefferson is at the core of the American political ideal. As one biographer wrote, “If Jefferson was wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson was right.” Similarly, Jinnah is Pakistan. For most Pakistanis, he is “The Modern Moses,” as one biography of him is titled. Continue reading


Filed under History, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, secular Pakistan, secularism, USA

Under-reporting of non-Muslim Pakistanis – a major problem

Sardarji patrol- I almost got ticketed by him on Multan Road the other day for driving and taking his picture while driving.

     By Yasser Latif Hamdani

According to our official census Non-Muslims make up 3% of the Pakistani population.  In Punjab the number of Hindus is reported less than 20,000.   Sikhs are fewer than 10,000 – this too according to the official census.  Christians are said to be the second largest religious group in Pakistan with approximate 4 to 5  million adherents all over the country, again according to the official census. Continue reading


Filed under Jinnah's Pakistan, Pakistan, secular Pakistan, secularism

Good luck, General Kayani

Raza Rumi

In a hurried non-speech, the prime minister has confirmed that the incumbent army chief will stay on for three years. Unprecedented as the decision might be, it is perhaps the best option under the current circumstances. Pakistan is battling against domestic and external terrorism. Given how the army works, it is clear that the military establishment wants a continuation of national security policy.

Lack of policy continuity has been the hallmark of Pakistan’s governance.  At least with General Kayani’s extension, the military operations in the northwest and approach to the Afghanistan imbroglio will also remain unchanged. This is good for Pakistan for three reasons. Continue reading


Filed under Afghanistan, Islamabad, Islamism, Kerry Lugar Bill, Pakistan, Politics, Power, public policy, secular Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, violence, war, War On Terror

Multiple Identities II

By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Part III of Ishtiaq Ahmed’s article, reproduced on PTH website, has considerably clarified his position on many issues. 
While he is on the money on the issue of exclusive nationalism,   especially when such an idea is adopted by a state to the disadvantage of those who are not from that group,  he fails to see that nationalism, inclusive or exclusive, is ultimately the ideology of the other.  For example the difference all but disappears between the inclusive and exclusive variety when both nationalisms try to over-ride diversity and differences.   Continue reading


Filed under Pakistan, Partition, secular Pakistan

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.

Continue reading


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