The PTI government has taken an apparently controversial decision of withdrawing Hajj subsidies for Pakistani pilgrims. The decision has taken some people aback and consequently has attracted criticism from the beneficiaries of such a subsidy. It is also noted that some sections have approved the decision of the government. Hajj is a great spiritual experience for the faithful and one of the basic beliefs in the great religion of Islam. Pakistan claims to be the Islamic Republic, and the very structures of the state are founded on faith-based principles. Technically, faith is the state’s purview, therefore it becomes the state’s sole right to interpret it. Crudely put, whatever the state deems faith, becomes faith. States always act as per their national interest. If subsidizing Hajj would fulfil the state’s aspirations in terms of national interests, it would certainly subsidize, or vice versa. In recent times, the Pakistani state has been on a course of ‘moderation’, consequently shunning old interpretations and coming up with new ones that suit its interest at present. Religion, since the very beginning, has been a tool in the hands of the Pakistani state that if effectively uses when and where needed. It is used to influence politicians, democratic forces, liberal sections of society, and even the media. The state, at the moment, is also constrained financially, so it makes perfect time to get rid of Hajj subsidy. Nation states are very strong entities, thus any criticism or row over this subsidy would itself die down very soon.

MALIK ATIF MAHMOOD MAJOKA,

Australia, February 3.