Is secularisation of Pakistan possible? —Yasser Latif Hamdani

Source: Daily Times, Pakistan

Secularisation and state secularism, however, are distinguishable. The former is an evolutionary process and the latter a constitutional expression of the state’s impartiality to all religious considerations

In view of the Constitution of 1973 and the many authoritative pronouncements of our judiciary regarding Pakistan’s status as an Islamic state, it is logical to question whether secularisation of Pakistan is possible. Opponents of a secular Pakistan claim that since the state itself was founded in the name of Islam, secularisation is antithetical to it. This post hoc view on the raison d’etre of Pakistan is inconsistent with the historical facts leading to the partition of India and should have been void ab initio. However, the enactment of the 1973 constitution has given it the cover of legal fiction, i.e. Islamic ideology, which is said to be the grundnorm of the state.

Our stock myth is that our society was largely moderate until it was radicalised by the state’s Islamisation in the last few decades, when the reality is the opposite. The state’s Islamisation 1970s onwards was a faithful reflection of the bigotry that was ingrained in our society. The famous Munir Report in 1954 details instances of religious extremism and fanaticism not just in the early years of the new state but also during the British Raj. Parties like the Majlis-e-Ahrar, who paradoxically wanted a united India under the banner of the Congress Party and were dead set against the creation of Pakistan, had been involved in numerous incidents of religious violence in Punjab against Ahmedis, Shias and non-Muslim communities. The urban centres of Punjab had witnessed religious violence between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims since the early 1900s. The decade of the 1920s saw further deterioration of the communal situation, where firebrand Muslim and Hindu orators were at each other’s throats in public and involved in the so-called ‘pamphlet wars’. The Ahrar particularly benefited from the Shahid Ganj dispute in the 1930s politically.

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