Reclaiming the original ideology
Liberalism is a political philosophy or world view founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism.
By Zahid Hussain
Liberalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism
Nawaz Sharif is under intense attack by the religious lobby for calling for making Pakistan a ‘liberal’ democratic nation. The chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami wants the prime minister to withdraw his comments, which were made at an investment conference. Though Sharif actually used the term in the context of the economy, it has nonetheless triggered a renewed debate on the ideology of Pakistan.
Islamic parties gathered under the umbrella of the Milli Yakjehti Council (MYC) have threatened to launch nationwide protests against what they describe as a ‘conspiracy’ to turn Pakistan into a secular state. “We cannot compromise on the basic ideology of Pakistan,” they have vowed. This squabbling lot that never agrees on any religious issue now appears united in defending the country’s ‘Islamic identity’.
Such a strong reaction to the mere mention of the term ‘liberal’ does not come as a surprise given the ignorance and narrow outlook of our religious elite. More shocking, however, are the views of some supposedly moderate political leaders on the concept of liberal democracy and secularism. One wonders how these political philosophies clash with the basis on which this country was founded.
Nothing could be more ludicrous than the claim by Sirajul Haq that the remarks by the prime minister are contrary to the Constitution, the philosophy of Allama Iqbal and the principles laid down by the Quaid-i-Azam. How do concepts of political and civil liberties and religious freedom come into the conflict with Pakistan’s original ideology and the vision of the nation’s founding fathers?
Liberal democracy was the core ideology of Pakistan’s founding, as articulated by the Quaid himself.In fact, it is an attempt to redefine Pakistan’s ideology that has harmed the country the most by widening the religious divide within its polity. The Islamist groups gathered under the banner of the MYC have been instrumental in fuelling sectarian differences and religious extremism in the country. One of the participants in the group’s recent meeting was Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed whose organisation is on the UN list of terrorist organisations.
Liberal democracy was the core ideology of the foundation of Pakistan, something that was clearly articulated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in an interview to Reuters in 1946. “The new state,” he said, “would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of their religion, caste or creed.”
Pakistan was never supposed to be, in the words of Mr Jinnah, a “theocratic state” that these religious groups strive for. In fact, the country has long deviated from this core principle. Theocracy is anathema to the modern democracy that the Quaid had envisaged.
The country drifted from its ideals when the state got involved in religious matters, and with deciding who was and wasn’t a true Muslim. It went from bad to worse when the religious groups, many of whom are part of the MYC, took it upon themselves to determine the Islamic credentials of different sects. This has also been the major cause for the deaths of thousands of Muslims in sectarian violence in Pakistan.
Rising religious extremism and intolerance have led to escalation in violence against religious minorities and their systematic persecution. The mob attacks on Christian colonies and the lynching of Ahmadis in the name of faith has given the country the dubious reputation of being among the most intolerant nations in the world. What happened in Shantinagar, Gojra, Joseph Colony, etc and more recently in Jhelum is testimony to that.
Many of these religious groups have been directly and indirectly patronising militant organisations such as the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. They rationalise terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of innocent people including young children and also provide religious sanction to suicide bombings. Is that the country that our founding fathers had envisaged?
Not surprisingly, the MYC has criticised the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the police guard who murdered Salmaan Taseer. Most of those comprising it have publicly condoned the killing of the former governor of Punjab in the name of alleged blasphemy. They have reserved their harshest criticism for that section of the ruling that said that calling for the reform of the blasphemy law is not blasphemy.
The misuse of the blasphemy law both against Muslims and non-Muslims has increased in recent years, in that it is being used as a licence to kill. Many of the mob attacks are instigated by clerics associated with these groups. The latest such example is the burning of an Ahmadi-owned factory and an Ahmadi place of worship in Jhelum last week sparked by allegations that some employees of the factory had committed blasphemy. Announcements from area mosques instigated the crowd to violence.
One wonders why the law has not come into action against Hafiz Saeed for making inflammatory statements. Although the media is barred from reporting the activities of his organisation, his remarks against the prime minister were widely covered. It is highly ironic that he is projecting himself as the protector of Pakistan’s ideology.
Liberalism is the essence of modern democracy. It is a philosophy that believes in progress, religious tolerance, the essential goodness of the human race, the autonomy of the individual and protection of political and civil liberties. How are these values in conflict with our religion as these self-styled guardians of Islam claim? For this country’s stability and progress we need to go back to the ideals of our founding fathers.
The country has suffered hugely as a result of religious bigotry and the wrong interpretation of Pakistan’s ideology. Pakistan was created to be a modern democratic state with freedom of belief and religion. It was not supposed to be an obscurantist state as the country is now being portrayed by assorted so-called Islamic groups. We must reclaim the original ideology of Pakistan if we really want to move forward and establish a tolerant society. Liberal democracy is the only answer to violent extremism and religious bigotry.
By Zahid Hussain: The writer is an author and journalist.
RIAZNov 25, 2015 07:27am
Liberal or theocratic are both irrelevant. Their is one and just one ideology practiced in Pakistan. It is feudal ideology in every nook and corner of Pakistan's culture and mindset irrespective of one's claims to be liberal or Islamic. Corruption, nepotism, patronage and the high and mighty being above law and accountability are feudal paradigms that are in the very DNA of Pakistan. The so called liberals keep the nation illiterate to ensure their vote bank of ignorants who vote for them no matter how corrupt and disgusting they are. The religious on the other hand ensure their vote banks by offering free education with free board and lodging. They churn out useless programmed human robots with ability to think rationally rendered immune for good at a young age with systematic and sustained dogmatic indoctrination.
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