The struggle for independence started on a violent note in which the people were subjected to untold miseries on each side of the line of divide. The dichotomy of the subcontinent let out a river of blood, which had to be crossed before the independence became a reality. Once the most sought after separate homeland was secured, it was expected that we shall set up a society where there will be enormous scope to cultivate communal harmony among the people of different faiths and thus shall be able to present to the world a model civic structure where everybody will be in a position to live in perfect peace regardless of the color of his skin and the nature of his religious precepts.
Unfortunately, we failed to achieve what we had envisioned and the storyline of our ideology never really produced the final effect in the form of internal peace that had been so circumspectly scripted. Let alone promoting an understanding with the people of other faiths, our internal strife within the framework of our religious beliefs was overplayed by the politics of the time so much that the situation often became tense and the excesses now being relentlessly carried out against Shias, Qadianis, Christians etc. are a fallout of the past political blunders. Even after over 60 years, we are nowhere near living in peace with each other. Being the majority, it was our responsibility to create conditions for the people of other faiths to feel at ease while living with us. On the contrary, the minorities are now living in fear. There is not only clear discrimination in providing economic opportunities to all the citizens, minorities are treated with scorn, they are looked down upon and live under a veritable threat ad infinitum. We have failed to extract anything positive not because of the smallness of means available to bring peace but only for lack of will to succeed in setting examples for others to follow. Nothing succeeds like success but to achieve success you have to sometime move the heavens and earth to meet the demands of a colossal task on hand.
There are some basics to bring peace in the society. First of all we must make sure that access to law is easy for everyone and no one is treated with bias as redolent as is the case with us. There are allegations of forced conversions/marriages and we need to satisfy the affected families. Basic necessities of life and opportunities of education must be commonly available to all the citizens regardless of their religious attachments. Employment in civil and defense areas should be open to all the communities and not forbidden on the basis of their communal identity. Patriotism of minorities should not be questioned. In India, Gen. Manekshaw was a Parsi and Abul Kalam a Muslim. There patriotism was never doubted. Cecil Chaudhry, a Christian and 1965 war hero, stood out in the aerial combat at a time when we had our backs to the wall. We have before us the living example of Euro-American societies where millions of people from all over the world, belonging to different faiths and cultures, are living in peace and sharing the windfall of civil rights and social privileges equally with the autochthonous people. In case of any discrimination the local law is invoked and the situation redressed. The local people, in general, are not ethnocentric and education/employment opportunities are in easy access to immigrants as much as they are available to the locals.
The irony is that here in this country we do not want to drink water from the same jug a Christian is drinking while overseas we sit smugly, sharing the same table, for dining with the people of those countries. Fortunately, there has been no such tragedy as Gothra in this country. Yet, isolated incidents like those of Rimsha and Aasia are enough to trigger of friction and defame us. There has, in general, been soft-pedaling and in the absence of an effective mechanism, it has always been infinitely impossible to deal with communal fermentations. If the communal tension then runs high, it can easily be understood. The politicians do keep contacts with unruly religious elements to utilize them against their political opponents. Take for example Rana Sanaullah’s close ties with Maulana Ludhianvi, which is a well-known secret. Sh. Rashid is going in tandem with the extremists like Hafiz Saeed whose byword is that all the nations in the world should pay jizzia or the poll-tax to Muslems and live as passive subjects in deference to their authority. Can there be anything more stupid than this? Who created the Arab countries after Balkanization of the Turkish Empire and is still providing protection to all of them? Did anybody ask Osama as to why did he come all the way down to this part of the world to wage an unwarranted holy war against Russians instead of taking to arms against Israel on his native soil? He created troubles against Qadhafi, Asad and Saddam, the leaders of the frontline Arab states. Who benefited from his desperate desire to become a knight errant? He destabilized and devastated this region whereas Israel still stands towering over the Arab countries. I know neither Hafiz Saeed nor anybody else has a satisfactory answer to this serious enquiry.
The time has come now to take over the religious institutions and work them on the lines Arabs are doing (ironically). There are no private madrassas in the Arab countries. The mosques are built and Imams are appointed/paid for by the Government. All the running expense is met from the national treasury. Friday sermons are prepared by the Auqaf Department in written form, which are confined to the basics and never allowed to run even a trace over 10-15 minutes. Imams only have to read them before the allocution (khutba). They are not supposed to add a word to them. Compared to this discipline, the speeches in this country in Friday’s congregations are generally prolonged, boring, irksome and provocative. Our holy book does not tie down the people unnecessarily, as it says “when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday”, the Muslems are admonished to leave off business but after the prayers they are advised “to disperse through the land and seek of the Bounty of Allah”. In addition, the so called religious nurseries and academies in this country have clear commercial overtones. If we succeed in realizing this end, a set-up like that of al-Azhar can be founded to provide education to all schools of thoughts under one roof. In-house discussions, debates, disputations and/or bickering disallowed on even the smallest theological issues. We are living in the 21st century, after all, and not in the dark ages. Tolerance should be the keynote of our education and the students infused with the spirit of leading the life by example so that the people of other communities are drawn closer to look at us with envy and admiration instead of choosing to stay away like the birds keep their distance from a scarecrow.
Unless, we are prepared to reform our system on the above lines, make no mistake that the peace in our society shall remain elusive as ever and that the incidents like those of Aasia and Rimsha, Qadianis and Shias shall continue to hang around us and the minorities left to live in horror. The latest twist is that the Hindus from Sindh currently on a visit to India are not coming back. I am not overambitious but the reforms can be made if we have the will to do it. There will be resistance, no doubt, but somebody has to come along the line and introduce these reforms for the good of the country. It is a common knowledge that in the absence of a complete harmony among the people of this country, regardless of their creed and color, the progress and development will remain a distant possibility. A strong hand is needed to come down heavily on disruptive elements operating unchained in the country, foster amity among the people belonging to different hues so that the country retraces its steps and gets back on track to flourish while at peace with itself.
To qualify for a benediction, I would rather end the discourse on a religious note: “Blessed are the peace-makers, because they are the children of God”. Follow the farewell words of Jesus, the prince of peace, to his disciples “Peace I leave with you”. So, bring peace to the people of this earth and the Almighty will reward you immensely in the heavens. God is love and He wants His people to love each other so that paradise is brought right down to the earth. Paradise – an epitome of peace and tranquility, with streams of milk and honey to boot! Bridal chambers are guaranteed in the list of trappings and the celestial company assured to enliven the solitude.
The writer is in his mid 70s and has to his credit a vast experience of working with national and international business executives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org