Introspection : Secularism _ a panacea?

Originally written on June 3, 2010

The Model Town incident in Lahore has restarted the exercise in introspection in the Pakistani media and blogosphere. The arguments always fall into similar categories: some say that  Quaid-e-Azam did not want an Islamic state just a Muslim state, others go as back as to blame the original sin of carving out Pakistan, a few point fingers at Objective Resolution and last but not the least the policies of Mard-e-momin Mard-e-haq Zia ul Haq for introducing Klashinkov culture . The arguments usually end with blaming Bhutto for introducing clause 260(3) in 2nd Amendment of constitution which defines Ahmedis as not Muslims concluding  invariably that all such terrorist activities will end once constitution of Pakistan is given a secular color.

What we seem to forget in these exercises is that the people carrying out the rampage have neither respect for constitution (secular or otherwise) nor seek any legitimacy from it for their heinous acts. They did not select Ahmedis as their targets because the constitution describes them as non Muslims.

Today they have murdered Ahmedis, but a few days ago they were murdering general population (religion/sect no bar) in moon market blasts in Lahore, prior to that attack during Friday prayers in Rawalpindi mosque, on Sri Lankan cricket team, on Manawan police academy outside Lahore, GHQ attack, shia procession, pathan roti walas and thailay walas in Karachi and prior to all this killing of shia professionals in Karachi.

What all this shows is total breakdown of law and order in the country. There are people hell bent on killing (people belonging to a particular group/sect/ethnicity might get killed more than others) and the state is incapable of doing anything against them.

I respect Quaid-e-Azam and what I am today is because of Pakistan and hence my gratitude for him. However, Quaid was not a prophet nor an angel. He was a mere mortal and mortals can make mistakes and not everything they do and say is 100% correct. This is not to say that he said anything wrong. He may have wanted a secular constitution but he believed in democratic principles and left it up to the people through their representatives on how they want to be ruled. If the constituent assembly or the future assemblies decide (rightly or wrongly) that Islam is to be state religion, then democratic principles imply that it should be.

Islam gives equal rights to people from other religions to practice. However, if the Muslim population does not allow the minorities equal rights, its not Islam’s fault, rather it is the fault of Muslims and Islam being the state religion has nothing to do with it.

When minorities are attacked, it has nothing to do with non-secular nature of the constitution. Take the case honor killings that take place in Sind and Balochistan (most secular of all the ethnicities in Pakistan). It does not have any implicit protection in the constitution. How many persons have been tried for honor killings?

Akbar Bugti ( murdered extra judicially by Musharraf) himself claimed to have murdered his subjects in his youth just because he could. Israullah Zahri of Balochistan National Party (secular party) and minister in the government had stated that we should respect the Baloch culture of burying women alive after five women were buried alive. Except for little hue and cry when he made the statement, nothing else has happened against him. He even did not have to resign or retract his statement.

I am not recommending here that constitution and law should not be improved. What I am implying is that even if we change the law, things will not improve because all this happens in spite of the law, not because of it.

With the exception of Zia and Nawaz Sharif, the country has been ruled by  secular or liberals. We lost half of the country under the stewardship of liberals i.e., Islam had nothing to do with it other than probably delaying the secession of Bangladesh. Seculars were ruling the country under a secular constitution. Compared to the murder and rape that took place in Bangladesh under secular governments in Pakistan, the current crimes against humanity pale in comparison.

Many commentators are exploiting the Lahore tragedy to spew vitriol against Islam. Will they be happy if so called Islamic injunctions are taken out of the constitution of Pakistan? I don’t think so because a few weeks ago some of them were spewing in a similar vein against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa asking for making Hazara region a separate province. And this is when Khyber is ruled by a secular party.

Karachi, which is ruled between PPP, ANP and MQM, all three are secular parties, is a boiling pot of ethnic tensions with once 16 people killed in single day and continue to get killed with NO hue and cry anywhere.

You can make the constitution as secular as you wish, but the fact is that secularization of laws will not make your problems go away. You need to be able to implement the law which (due to lack of resources or will) does not seem achievable in foreseeable future.

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2 thoughts on “Introspection : Secularism _ a panacea?

  1. A very insightful write-up. In my opinion the law does helps in the long run. But I agree that implementation of law is more difficult than legislation. Actually we focus more on the severity of the punishment rather than certainty of the punishment. It’s the certainty of the punishment for the law breakers that is a more effective deterrent.

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