Recent events prove now is the time for a modern nationalism

Diverse PakistanSeventy years ago, certain social and political ground realities existed which resulted in the political movement that created this country. I am not questioning the motivations or the historical environments which preceded the formation of our proud nation. However, it is also undeniable that since the past 70 years the regional and global order has undergone evolutions that have created new social and geopolitical realities that call for an evolution of our strategic and theoretical thinking to match.

Just as a person must evolve and adapt to take his proper place in the community when he ages, nations and societies must also evolve and adapt otherwise they will be unable to properly achieve their rightful place in the global community. What was necessary and proper 70 years ago has been established just as one’s culture and personality are established as one matures. However, one is not the exact same as he was even 10 or 20 years earlier but rather becomes more complex even as he is still grounded in his past.

Recent events have made clear that we have entered a new era in which the religious nationalism that may have made sense in the past is no longer sufficient to guide us in the new millennium. This has become increasingly obvious with the troubles of our participation in the Saudi military alliance, which was presented as a ‘Muslim NATO’ but was soon exposed as a dangerous experiment that threatens our own national security. The stakes were raised once again when a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states announced cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing borders, putting Pakistan squarely in another bad position.

While alliances with Muslim allies are causing no end of uncomfortable situations for Pakistan, it is ironically the atheist China which is proving to be more sensitive to our own needs. Where Saudi has given some loans that must be repaid, China is investing billions in infrastructure and resources that will advance Pakistani businesses and develop our own economy. It is not just economically that atheist China has proven a strong ally, but also in terms of respecting Pakistan’s positions in global forums such as the UN. Even on Kashmir, China has respected Pakistan’s position but not from any religious motivation as China is not Muslim proving that religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together.

Just as religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together, also it is not the only bond that can unite our own nation.

Now imagine a Pakistan that would have embraced its diversity instead of treating it with fear and loathing. Imagine a Pakistan that would give equal rights to all its citizens without considerations of religion or gender. Imagine a Pakistan that would not be held hostage by its religious clergy and where the rulers would refuse to be blackmailed by these contractors of faith. Pakistan as a territory blessed with geography, relief, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage.

If its leaders had any vision it would be the magnet for the world both for business and for tourism. The tourism potential alone should have been enough to transform us rapidly into a rich and prosperous nation.

As an example, we can see India is being torn apart by religious chauvinism and majoritarianism. We cannot allow ourselves to fall further into the same trap. Now is the time for an updated nationalism not based on our differences but on our diversity which is our strength.

The Lesson of Sadiq Khan

Sadiq KhanHistory is made and celebrated accordingly as the citizens of London, the capital of the British Empire, elected a Pakistani Muslim as Mayor. It was a triumph over the forces of Islamophobia and, for many, another step towards ultimate Islamic rule over the world. However, for others the blatant hypocrisy of such celebrations were too obvious to ignore. We celebrate the acceptance of a religious minority in England while hatred against religious minorities reaches a fever pitch here. The truth is that election of Sadiq Khan raises questions that deserve to be given due reflection and not just emotional reactions.

First let use clear up some important points.

Number one: Sadiq Khan is not Pakistani. His parents immigrated to Pakistan during partition, but left before he was born in 1970. He was born in London. He is an Englishman of Pakistani heritage, but let’s be honest please…he is an Englishman.

Number two: Sadiq Khan is secular. Much of the celebration of his election in Pakistan centres on his religion as he is personally a Muslim, but he just like he is not a Pakistani, also he is not a Muslim politician. He is a secular politician who just happens to be Muslim. As a politician, Sadiq Khan has supported gay rights and Jews. In 2013, he was declared wajib-ul-qatal and faced threats from jihadi extremists. He will be a Muslim Mayor of London, but he will not be Mayor of Muslim London.

Number three: Sadiq Khan showed what the son of a bus driver can achieve…if he is not in Pakistan. The third thing we are told after we hear about this “Pakistani” “Muslim” is that he is the son of a bus driver. This is supposed to be the lesson that all of us can achieve greatness, but it is missing a key component. Does anyone honestly believe that the son of a bus driver will be CM Punjab? Son of a sabji wala will be PM? No. What we quietly ignore is that Sadiq Khan has achieved greatness because he lives in a secular democracy.

This is the lesson of Sadiq Khan. You can be from humble beginnings, and you can be a devout Muslim, and you can achieve greatness under a secular democracy that rewards people for their hard work and tolerance of those who are different. If we want this for our children, we have the choice: Leave Pakistan…or change it.

What do you choose?

Jinnah unequivocally wanted Pakistan to be a secular state

Ajeet Jawad Jinnah BookI am writing this article as a rebuttal to Khuldune Shahid’s article “Jinnah’s Pakistan a mirror of his contradictions.” It is necessary because if you do not counter a falsehood in public domain over time it is taken to be the truth. It is sad that there are many OpEd writers who when writing on this topic do not check their facts or at least try and understand what the point of view is that they are challenging. Khuldune’s article is no exception. It draws on several strawman fallacies which have nothing to do the argument that Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was a secular one.

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I.A. Rehman: Jinnah’s New Pakistan Is Possible

Jinnah The following piece is courtesy Dawn and was originally published on 14th August.

The discourse on Pakistan’s political ideal has taken a new turn. Those calling for the establishment of Jinnah’s Pakistan are being challenged with a demand for creating a ‘new Pakistan.’ Essentially, this is a new form of the tussle between secular democrats and advocates of a theocratic dispensation that is as old as the state itself.

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Jinnah’s Pakistan cannot be abandoned

The following article is reproduced with permission of the Jinnah Institute. The original article can be read on the Jinnah Institute website by clicking here.

This August has been cruel. Haunting images of Sindhi Hindus, essential to the cultural reality and demography of the province, leaving the country [i] shook those who believe that Pakistan belongs to all Pakistanis. This year’s minorities’ day – August 11 – inspired by the famous speech [ii] of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on a secular vision of Pakistan was dogged by the controversy of Hindu pilgrims leaving for India, perhaps never to come back.

August 11 1947 was the day when pragmatic leader Jinnah, the architect of a contested idea, “Pakistan”, set a new and indiscriminately inclusive direction for the newly created state. His earlier references to the “Two Nation Theory” (of Hindus and Muslims being two distinct nationalities in British India) employed as a political instrument to carve a separate country, required re-calibration and a governable definition. 1947 was not a straightforward or a linear event. It was a sum total of several accidents, failed negotiations and the inability of Indian National Congress and Muslim League to agree on a federal power-sharing formula.

The television footage of bullock carts carrying the belongings of Sindhi Hindus reminded one of the Partition’s most heart wrenching scenes. Those frozen black and white moments of mass migration, captured with monochromatic cameras, denoting misery, up-rootedness and uncertainty are all too familiar. For similar scenes to be re-enacted and televised in the information age are chilling; they indicate that the messy after-effects of the Partition continue to bedevil us even today.

It must have been a humid August day when Jinnah uttered these words in 1947, extempore, standing before the Constituent Assembly: “… and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State” [iii]. Sixty-five years later, Pakistan’s Hindu community feels insecure and many reportedly want to leave the country. Have we betrayed Jinnah, our history, our future?

Jinnah believed that modern secular democracy was compatible with and inherent to the Islamic teachings and that a federal, plural Pakistan could easily blend the two. But his successors defeated and defiled this vision, settling for a mighty post colonial state reinvented for the native civil-military bureaucracy that despised the ‘elected’ political elites. These elites also considered democracy ill-suited for Pakistan, for Pakistanis and a federalist structure an anathema for the centralized ‘nation state’. Almost all of these dilemmas continue to date, with the most worrying prospectbeing treatment of the religious and ethnic minorities, which may continue to utterly baffle the course of inclusive democracy in Pakistan.

The only exception in recent times was Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, two-time former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who articulated a similar vision as the great ‘Quaid’ Jinnah. Her last book “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West” [iv] argued that in several Muslim-majority countries, democracy failures were due to political rather than religious reasons and in most cases the ‘West’ played a problematic role. Islam per se was not antithetical to a democratic system of governance. Is it surprising then that Bhutto was brutally murdered in 2007 by extremists and their patrons?

The major exodus of Hindus from Pakistan took place around the Partition years. Hindus were nearly 16 percent of Pakistan’s population in 1947. With the separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) the numbers declined further, and now Pakistani Hindus comprise 1.6 percent of the country’s total population [v]. In terms of numbers, however, they are still a large community; over 2.8 million Pakistanis are Hindu [vi]. According to the 1998 census, there were over 3 million Hindus living in Pakistan with most residing in Karachi, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur regions of Sindh [vii].

Pakistan’s gradual evolution into a hybrid-theocratic state [viii] – with parts ruled under secular laws, parts ruled by traditional customs, and yet other parts under the yoke of one version of ‘Islamic law’ or another – has been a tragic consequence of the nation-state using religion as the sole marker of its identity, especially during the Zia regime, when a military dictator misused Islam and conservative elements of society so as to garner legitimacy to govern the country.

It all began with the ‘Objectives Resolution’ that declared the character of the state as Islamic without defining which Islam was it referring to [ix]. This becomes problematic considering that there are more than 73 sects or variants of the religion itself, some of which consider the others as non-Muslims [x]. The continuous adventures of the security establishment and Pakistan’s frontline status in fighting the Soviet Union during 1980s, through jihad or holy war, led to one particular version of Islamic jurisprudence guiding changes in Constitution, laws and cultural mores. The Arabisation and Wahabbisation of Pakistan since 1970s, in the wake of the Bhutto and Zia-led waves of Islamisation, have created generations of young Pakistanis believing in a monolithic Sunni state as the equivalent of an Islamic Republic [xi]. Thus, the constitutional freedoms and guarantees to the minorities are now subject to the cultural onslaught via the education system, ascendant seminaries and the media, which regurgitates this regressive, and exclusionary worldview day in day out. The Islamic Republic riddled in these pursuits has also turned blind to the diversity within Islam.

It was no mistake when the former Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, reportedly commented in 2010 that “Hindus” were responsible for terrorism in Pakistan [xii]. Later, the Court staff clarified that the judge meant Indians, but the deep identity of a ‘Muslim’ Pakistan and ‘Hindu’ India hides all the diversity in the two countries where millions are trapped between such Kafkaesque visions of nation states. Our judges on different occasions have also expressed their outrage at the idea of Pakistan going ‘secular’. According to DAWN newspaper, the present Chief Justice, rhetorically asked the following question during court proceedings: “Should we accept if tomorrow parliament declares secularism, and not Islam, as the state polity?” In its astute commentary, the newspaper published the following in its editorial:


“…Secularism is not ladeeniat [xiii], it is not anti-religion, as has been the claim of religious conservatives since the 1960s. It is one thing for Islamic parties to make that deliberately false claim, quite another for it to have apparently gained traction in the highest court of the land. Secularism is a very specific and narrow concept the separation of religion and the state. Rather than being anti-religion, secularism is religion neutral. Standing in the way of those claiming that secularism is anti-religion and even vaguely anti-Pakistan at some level is one giant Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The speech that the Quaid made from the floor of the constituent assembly in 1947 was a clarion defence of secularism, notable both for the occasion and the powerful oratory … Perhaps the SC should ponder this question would a constitutional amendment passed on the basis of the Quaid`s speech be declared against the `basic structure` of the constitution?” [xiv]

Jinnah’s successors have been clearly defying the August 11 vision of an inclusive and neutral state.

Such is the state of affairs that today Hindus are worried about their physical security and cultural space [xv]. Pakistan’s Hindu Council mobilizes rallies for rights but out of fear is quick to pledge undying loyalty to the state of Pakistan. Amid this confusion and fear earlier this year, the former (Acting) Chief Justice of Pakistan, Rana Bhagwan Das made the following remarks:


“Article 25 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan speaks about the equality of all citizens, whereas article 36 provides for the promotion and protection of right and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the legislature. However, under article 41 (2) and 3rd schedule [xvi] to the Constitution, minority groups are not allowed to hold certain public offices such as the president and the prime minister, which is a manifestation of discrimination…” [xvii]

Justice Das has also advocated electoral reforms and the need to increase the representation. The current government has tabled a bill [xviii] that seeks to increase the number of non-Muslim seats in the Parliament – but that may be just one of the many, many reforms needed to be undertaken. Reaching a point where even a conservative (former) functionary of the state had to complain about the level of discrimination and say that Hindus are perceived as “second class citizens” speaks volumes of where we stand today. The good judge also pointed out the insertion of Article 2-A [xix] in our Constitution: “The narrative of the Constitution and legal discrimination in the name of religion through articles 2 [Islam as the state religion], 2-A and article 41 [xx] [stating that only a Muslim can head the state] of the Constitution renders the minorities less preferred citizens…” [xxi]. It is ironic that a constitutional provision – Article 2A – inserted by a military dictator remains in operation and is leading the juridical debates in courtrooms. Legal arguments now cite Article 2-A more often than ever.

This year has seen three disturbing trends. First television anchors in their zeal to sell religion during Ramzan undertook a live conversion of a young Hindu man. [xxii]This was a distressful display of insecurity that grips the public mind about the conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan. That a country with 97% Muslims had to convert one more was nothing but the pursuit of a totalitarian vision articulated by extremists. There is no legislation banning forced conversion in the country

Second, the case of Rinkle Kumari [xxiii] and now Manisha [xxiv] who converted to Islam apparently out of choice to marry Muslim men became communal and legal battles. The cases are still shrouded in mystery and such is the hold of clerics that every individual case turns into a battle for Islam. Human rights activist, MarviSirmed writing on Rinkle’s case had raised a pertinent question:

“The question arises why in last six months, kidnapping of Hindu girls, forced conversions and abduction of Hindu and Christian youngsters and saints is increased. ‘They want us to leave the country. They are forcing us to flee from our motherland. But we will not deter,’ said Amar Lal, Rinkle’s counsel.” [xxv]

The role of the police, courts and other law enforcement agencies was also not satisfactory in the case of Rinkle Kumari. The otherwise activist Supreme Court had to factor in the might of the clerics and treaded carefully while pursuing the promise of ‘complete justice’ enshrined in our Constitution. Sirmed puts it rather bluntly:

Anger and disillusionment after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Rinkle Kumari case is not limited to her family. It seems to be shared by Sindhis in general and Sindhi Hindus in particular…it is not very difficult to see how the entire state structure in collusion with landed influential politicians, religious elite and ‘independent’ media swindled the process of justice.” [xxvi]

Thirdly, there has been a increase in radical outfits and movements in the Sufi-worshipping province of Sindh. For instance, reportedly in district Khairpur, 93 seminaries out of the total 117 are not registered with the government and in the Umerkot district where many Hindus reside, there are more than 400 madrassas [xxvii]. Last year, a Hindu member of Sindh Assembly, Ram Singh Sodho, resigned from his seat and migrated to India after he received threats from militant groups. Yet all of this is not the case of extremism as kidnapping of Hindus for ransom is also the handiwork of criminal networks, which operate independently of militant organisations [xxviii]. A recent story in an Indian magazine looks how the Pakistani Hindus “are crossing over in ever larger numbers” and refuse to leave India even when their visas expire. “They prefer the life of illegal migrants with intermittent employment, and say that it is better than the discrimination and violence they face in their home country” [xxix].

Who are abandoned, condemned, forced to immigrate & forced to survive heartbroken

Some day even the goddess of time will have some pity on us!

May this happen I would ask to exactly this “Have you been forced to immigrate?”

– Halina [xxx]

These trends are inimical to the Sindhi cultural landscape, which has historically been a bastion of pluralism and syncretic belief systems. At the same time, much of Sindh remains a poor province mired by iniquitous land relations, absence of social services, and marginalization. It is not just the Sindhi Hindus who are bearing the brunt of poverty and exclusion; the landless haaris (peasants), the tenants on farms and existence of bonded labour haunt the idea of an independent and equitable Pakistan. In Sindh alone, according to Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, two million households own no land; and 26% of 700,000 households possess the lowest share in land – furthermore, over 80% of rural workers do not own homes and live on farms without the right to shelter [xxxi]. The plight of rural Sindhis (including Hindus) therefore is not only driven by increasing religious intolerance, but it has to do with their status as poor farm workers or tenants trapped in a system that refuses to change.This is another defeat to Jinnah’s vision as articulated by him on August 11, 1947:

“…if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor”.  

Sadly, too much of emphasis has been laid on independence from the Hindu majority in 1947, overlooking the essential fact: independence from extractive, exploitative colonial rule. The agenda of social transformation remains a pending one as the judiciary has reversed the modest land reform of the 1970s (comprising landholding ceilings determined by the Land Reforms Regulation, 1972 and Land Reforms Ordinance, 1977) by deeming them as un-Islamic applying a narrow interpretation of theology on private property. [xxxii]

Jinnah’s words are strikingly relevant today: “I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fairplay without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill-will, in other words, partiality or favouritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world.”

Pakistani Muslims and their diversity are under attack by armed militias aiming to purify the land. Thus Pakistani ‘minorities’ are no longer non-Muslim. The Shias, Ahmadis [xxxiii], Hazaras [xxxiv] are all suffering and physically endangered [xxxv] due to the grand departure from the type of Pakistani state envisaged on August 11, 1947. Instead of a neutral arbiter of citizen interest, the state is a partisan and often complicit in persecution of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Keeping the business of the state focused on welfare independent of religion, sect, ethnicity and other such differentiations of ‘creed’ has been abandoned with tragic consequences.

Pakistan has to take some existential decisions. Its survival now depends on if its state wants to revert to what Jinnah had outlined in terms of justice, equity and retaining the inherent pluralism of Pakistan. A tolerant Pakistan, at peace with its neighbours is vital to achieve progress and ensure the security of its diverse citizenry especially the poor and the marginalised.

There is, alas, no other option.


[i] Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <>.

[ii] The full text of Jinnah’s speech can be found here:

[iii] The full text of Jinnah’s speech can be found here:

[iv] Bhutto, Benazir. Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West. New York: Harper, 2008.

[v] Library of Congress, Feb. 2005. 10 Aug. 2012. <>

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Population Census Organization, Govt. of Pakistan. Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <>.

[viii] This term has been used by Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani scholar. I have used it narrowly. Siddiqa holds that Pakistan is turning into a hybrid-theocratic state “which encapsulates a mix of economic neo-liberalism, pockets of social liberalism, formal theocracy and larger spaces experiencing informal theocracy.” See:

[ix] Full text of Objectives Resolution, now a preamble to the Pakistani Constitution, can be found here:

[x] Web. 06 Aug. 2012. <>.

[xi] For a detailed discussion, see Sadia Toor’s book “The State of Islam”, New York: Pluto Press, 2011.

[xiii] An Urdu mistranslation of the term ‘secularism’ – ‘irreligious’ or ‘anti-religion’ – introduced and popularized by Islamic parties of Pakistan.

[xiv] “SC`s responsibility?”; editorial, Daily DAWN.

[xvi] The third schedule has oaths of office where all senior constitutional functionaries such as the President, Prime Minister, Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly, and others, have to swear: “That I will strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan”.

[xix] Article 2-A makes the Objectives Resolution of 1949 an operative part of the Constitution and thus justiceable. Prior to this, it was a preamble in all constitutions (i.e. 1956 and 1962) of Pakistan.

[xx] The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Pakistan’s Legislative History,

[xxi] Web. 10 Aug 2012. <>

[xxiv] Rinkle Kumari, a 19 year old Pakistani Hindu, was allegedly kidnapped by one Naveed Shah and forcibly converted to Islam so that they could be married. Eventually, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took notice of the case and sent Kumari – now named Faryal Bibi – to a shelter (forcibly, as Marvi Sirmed claims in her article:

[xxv] In August 2012, a 14 (some reports say 16) year old Hindu girl by the name of Manisha Kumari disappeared from her parents’ home Jacobabad; a few days later, she called her parents and informed them of her ‘voluntary’ conversion to Mahvish, and of her marriage to one Ghulam Mustafa Channa. Manisha’s parents maintain that she was abducted. See: <,-14,-converts,-marries-Muslim> and <>

[xxvii]  21-27 Oct. 2011. Web. 10 Aug 2012. <>

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Aug 2012. <>

[xxxii] The decision of Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court dated August 10, 1989 in Qazalbash Waqf v. Chief Land Commissioner (PLD 1990 SC 99).

[xxxiii] 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Aug 2012. <>

[xxxv] According to the “International Religious Freedom Report” for 2011, “the country’s interpretation of Islamic law allows offenders to offer monetary restitution to victims and allows victims to carry out physical retribution rather than seeking punishment through the court system”. See: <> . Shia killings have increased in recent years and banned militant outfits and their leaders have been set free by the courts due to lack of effective prosecution.

This material does not reflect the views of the Jinnah Institute, its Board of Governors, Board of Advisors or the President. This material may not be copied, reproduced or transmitted in whole or in part without attribution to the Jinnah Institute (JI). JI publishes original research, analyses, policy briefs and other communications on a regular basis; the views expressed in these publications are those of the authors alone. Unless noted otherwise, all material is property of the Institute. Copyright © 2012 Jinnah Institute.