It is a sad statement about Pakistan that 67 years after its founding, our education system and public culture continue to distort key ideas enunciated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah to govern the country. To make matters worse, even his words end up being mutilated.
In his landmark speech to the first Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, Jinnah laid out what he saw as the principles for a future constitution for Pakistan. The speech tackled the relationship between religion and the state. This has proved to be more controversial than he could ever have imagined. It has been subjected to distortion and censorship over the years and his words are once again under attack.
In perhaps, the most significant part of his address to the Constituent Assembly Jinnah said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state. … We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one state.”
It is clear from these words that the Quaid saw Pakistan as a state in which there would be a separation between state and religion and that Pakistan would be a country in which people of all faiths are equal citizens. There was to be no distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim in terms of rights, privileges and responsibilities.