Category Archives: secularism

WikiLeaks and Pakistan’s dysfunctional state

Raza Rumi

The WikiLeaks saga has reconfirmed the status of Pakistan as a client state. Its leadership — civilian and military — as a matter of routine, involves external actors in matters of domestic policy and power plays. We knew this all along but the semblance of documentary evidence confirms the unfortunate trends embedded in Pakistan governance systems. However, the orthodoxy that it is the West which interferes is not the full story. The inordinate influence exercised by ‘friendly’ Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, is also a sad reminder of how warped Pakistan’s way of living is.

India is the principal enemy; and our Saudi and Gulf friends wish the other neighbour, Iran, to be bombed. We are obsessed with “legitimate” security interests in Afghanistan. This is a dysfunctional state of being and has made us addicted to western aid, leveraging global great games and denying that regional cooperation is in our ultimate self-interest. Such delusional ways of looking at the world has made the state splinter and devolve authority to non-state actors, which can advance its security policies.

What is the picture that emerges from the cable-mess: A president lives in fear of being assassinated; the army chief ‘considers’ options to dismiss the elected president and then changes his mind because he “distrusts” the alternative — Nawaz Sharif — even more! The state benefits from American largesse and hates it at the same time. Civilian leaders regularly reiterate their support to the US — the second A in the power trinity of ‘Allah, America and the Army’. Sadly, nothing new. Yet, deeply disturbing. Continue reading


Filed under lawyers movement, Left, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, movements, Pakistan, Pakistan-India Peace Process, public policy, secularism, south asia, Zardari

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

Can an Islamic State be Secular?

Amaar Ahmad has written another thought-provoking and bold post for PTH. His argument and approach needs to be taken seriously if we have to overcome our current predicament and survive as a country. Raza Rumi

It can be argued that the minimum definition of a secular state is one that permits all its citizens to freely practice, profess and propagate their religion (or the lack thereof) and it does not enact laws which discriminates in worldly affairs between citizens on the basis of their faith. Can an Islamic state offer a constitution and an environment which meets this description of secularism?

If you seek an affirmative answer using the orthodox version of Islam as represented by our conservative politico-religious groups then you are going to be disappointed. But if you analyze the mission of Prophet Muhammad (sw) rationally then you are likely to be pleasantly surprised. The more you see into his life the greater the gulf you find between his actions (Sunnah) and that of our so-called Islamic leaders. The following ten arguments would show that the demagogues and self-righteous Mullahs have completely subverted the teachings of Islam:

1. Freedom to practise religion:
As ruler of Arabia, Prophet Muhammad granted a charter to Christians by declaring for them the freedom to freely practice their faith. The pact guaranteed that any Christian can profess his or her faith, that no Christian woman can forcibly be converted by her Muslim husband and that Muslims are supposed to respect and protect churches. This letter, sent to St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, was an unprecedented testament to the magnanimity and liberality of Prophet Muhammad in an era when the world did not know tolerance. It is therefore extremely embarrassing that modern Muslim countries limit the practice of other faiths within their dominions.

2. Freedom of worship:
There were hundreds of idols in the sacred Kaaba that had been built by Abraham and consecrated for the worship of one God. Before he returned as the conqueror (and therefore as a ruler), the Prophet spent fifty years of his life in Mecca but never took the law in his own hands to demolish them. Certain puritanical brands of Islam, however, make it incumbent on themselves to ‘cleanse’ shrines and mosques of any trace of Shirk (polytheism). The hideous attack on Data Darbar in Lahore which is a mausoleum of an Islamic mystic is therefore yet another transgression by these deviants. Continue reading


Filed under culture, Islam, Pakistan, secular Pakistan, secularism

Fear and silence

By Mohsin Hamid     Dawn, 27 Jun, 2010

Why are Ahmadis persecuted so ferociously in Pakistan?

 A victim of attack on Jinnah Hospital, Lahore

The reason can’t be that their large numbers pose some sort of ‘threat from within’. After all, Ahmadis are a relatively small minority in Pakistan. They make up somewhere between 0.25 per cent (according to the last census) and 2.5 per cent (according to the Economist) of our population.

Nor can the reason be that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Pakistani Christians and Pakistani Hindus are non-Muslims, and similar in numbers to Pakistani Ahmadis. Yet Christians and Hindus, while undeniably discriminated against, face nothing like the vitriol directed towards Ahmadis in our country.

To understand what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves, we have to see how it works. Its first step is to say that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. And its second is to say that Ahmadis are not just non-Muslims, but apostates: non-Muslims who claim to be Muslims. These two steps are easy to take: any individual Pakistani citizen has the right to believe whatever they want about Ahmadis and their faith. Continue reading


Filed under Citizens, Constitution, human rights, Islamism, minorities, Pakistan, Religion, Rights, secularism, state, Terrorism, violence

Religious Liberalism – Our Greatest Hope?

A.A Khalid has sent us his exclusive post for PTH. It is quite gratifying to note that PTH is becoming a hub for many of us who want things to improve without using the violent means and indiscriminate jihadist agenda. Raza Rumi

Is religious liberalism an oxymoron, or is it something long established? More to the point is there something known as Islamic Liberalism, or Liberal Islam? Surprisingly, there is indeed something, a discourse known as Liberal Islam. And contrary to popular perception it is not a contradiction in terms. Charles Kurzman a Professor in Sociology who deals with Islamic movements asserts there is a tradition with specifically Islamic context known as Liberal Islam (pdf file) . What’s more Liberal Islam is not monolithic it has multiple schools and traditions each with a different approach and (pdf file) different methodology. Each tradition within the Liberal school faces different challenges and has differing prospects. If such a tradition exists how is it that within the Pakistani discourses it is eerily absent, with instead conservatives and political Islamists dominating the interpretive discourse of Islam. It should be noted ‘’Liberal Islam’’ is known under many rubrics from Islamic Modernism, Islamic Reformism, Reflexive Revivalism to movements professing Ijtihad, Islaha, Ihya and Tajdid.

The situation in Pakistan is a paradox. Its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a secularist in the sense he sought an institutional division between mosque and state, the clergy and the government and to a greater extent religion did not have such an effect in his personal life. His political ideals are liberal a vision of a pluralistic society where the citizens of the State would be equal in rights and responsibilities. Towards the end of his life Jinnah attempted a synthesis, coining terms such as ‘’Islamic democracy’’, ‘’Islamic social justice’’ Jinnah tried to weld his liberal politics and ideals with religious faith. Muhammad Iqbal on the other hand was not a politician per se but a thinker and intellectual, hence his ideas are always going to attain a greater sophistication. Though Iqbal too can be seen as an Islamic humanist, a critical humanist, critical of both European ideas and traditions and the Muslim traditions, Iqbal focused on the free will of all human beings, an original and unique position among Muslim intellectuals and scholars. Iqbal’s focus on self development and his synthesis of philosophy, theology, mysticism and law which he tries to achieve in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, where he puts many traditions both from Islam and Europe in critical conversation is till this day and probably for some time to come an inspiration to religious reformists and liberals. Continue reading


Filed under Islam, Religion, secular Pakistan, secularism, Society