1. I am Pakistan
2. For you your religion, for me my religion
It startled the participants of an interfaith dialogue hosted by Mr. Hanif Jallandhary at his madrassa at Lahore when I, while working for human rights, pointed out that the non-Government organisations working for peace and harmony should have done meaningful work instead of mere slogans or, perhaps, working for personal aggrandisement. Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Agha Zahid Ali Akbar, a few Bishops and a Hindu, were amongst those who fully agreed to the point that organisations should make inroads amongst the vulnerable communities to have incriminating information of people to pre-empt and deal with any untoward happening. However one of the minority stakeholders went too far to blame the participants for doing nothing at all. He was, however, corrected by counting efforts of Muslim participants and other intelligentsia even at the risk of their own life from their Muslim fellow beings.
Surprisingly, the very next morning, the unfortunate incident of Yohanabad took place which set examples of cruelty on both sides with a high toll casualties of the minorities and burning alive of the two innocent laborers seeking their livelihood there. It was then an utter mess and the angry mob spared no soul or thing on their way. All the claims of Muslim and especially the minority human activists fell apart when they were exposed of lacking even basic contact with the people at the grass root level to handle any such situation. Even, the minority ministers were lacking basic information, intelligence of and links in the area which exposed their so-called efforts for peace. Many of the point sellers handsomely sold their “peace and interfaith product” whereas many people working genuinely for peace were disillusioned.
Once being a police officer posted at a number of key positions in the town and subsequently a human rights activist, I have observed law enforcement agencies letting loose all their wrath, by including a huge number of suspects in the FIRs and raiding them. I have also seen many others from the minorities maneuvering to get their names entered in the FIRs to seek asylum abroad which they successfully sought later on.
Being moved by the plight of Muslims as minority in Delhi and Punjab in India during an official visit there I thought of working on this front. In India I was shocked at the meager socio-economic conditions of the Muslims, especially in the vicinity of Jamia Masjid Delhi and in the five star hotels where any Muslim family entering in the hotel was seen as ‘acchut’ or untouchable, unlike their counterpart minorities in Pakistan where relatively they seem to be living in honor and respect.
I worked a lot for interfaith harmony by attending and organising a number of dialogue sessions at the highest forum such as LUMS and Quaid-i-Azam Library, inter alia, joint Christmas, Eid-milad-un-Nabi and other donation ceremonies despite the criticism from my Muslim fellows. I can fairly claim that I was first to suggest to the concerned to change the world ‘minority’ to some other word equivalent to ‘privileged’ used for the handicapped to bring them out of the sense of deprivation and give respect. I wrote a number of articles for their bereaved families and my spouse also wrote a novel for peace and harmony but I was disillusioned by the conduct and behavior of certain groups from all communities, including Muslims, who are merely working for their ulterior motives and not for any love of God or humanity.
Tangible peace can only be brought when human activists decide to work for the actual vulnerable beneficiary with purity of cause. As directed by the father of the nation, as one Pakistani nation, Muslims respected minorities’ religion as they respected Muslim’s religion. We are enjoined to maintain under the Verse 6, Surah 107 of the Holy Quran in the words, “For you, your religion, for me my religion.”
Let their services be acknowledged. During the Pakistan Movement, the Christian and Sikh minorities joined the Muslims as Islam offered more religious freedom than Hinduism. They supported the Lahore Resolution and a few key minority members voted for Pakistan in the undivided Punjab Assembly in 1946 paving the way for its creation.
It is universally acknowledged that the plight of all minorities sounds almost similar everywhere in the world. The minorities tacitly seem to have accepted this reality in their respective positions. States are governed by the constitutions set by its majority members. Pakistan is no exception; a state created in the name of Islam to be practiced therein for its majority, that is, Muslims as a matter of right. Hence, though the debatable, Objectives Resolution and other Islamic provisions were included in its Constitutions along with those protecting the rights of the minorities. Duly, under the Articles 4, 9, 18, 20 and 25, 25A and 36, rights of equality, security, profession, education and legitimate services are safeguarded fairly. Misuse of blasphemy laws by society, police and courts for exploitation, negligence, inefficiency, personal security or expediency must be taken up tactfully as well as with iron hand. Legislation should be made to take the accused into protective custody instead of arrest for his own and his family’s security, and should put the case to a proper body of stakeholders and experts for its logical conclusion.
Both the majority and minorities should realise our national problems and expectations as they belong to the Pakistani nation first, within their respective religions, as actually envisioned by the Quaid. Their intelligentsia must disseminate this spirit and approach, saying I am Pakistan.