Secular Pakistan

How does one go about making Pakistan a secular state? It does not require a revolution as much it does an evolution. The fundamental rights of citizens must be safeguarded at all costs

Last month, the justices of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan had a very interesting debate on whether Pakistan could become a secular state and what would be the modalities of turning it into one. This discussion should be welcomed by every Pakistani who wishes to see Pakistan a modern and successful state.

Who would a secular Pakistan benefit the most? The minorities? Minorities no doubt will be better off in a state that does not distinguish on the basis of faith but they would not be the only beneficiaries. Nor is the fact that Jinnah wanted a secular Pakistan the only reason why Pakistan should be secular. The real beneficiaries of the secular state in Pakistan would be the Muslims, for whose economic and political benefit the country was created in the first place. The misuse of Islam as an instrument of state policy has only served to divide Muslims along doctrinal and sectarian lines. As Pakistan moved further along the perilous course of cynical Islamisation under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and then General Ziaul Haq, the biggest casualty has been the Muslim community itself, which now sees itself not as Muslim but as Shia or Sunni, Barelvi or Deobandi and so on and so forth. It has also encouraged fissiparous tendencies along ethnic and linguistic lines because Islamisation was seen as the buzzword for centraliaation. Paradoxically, it was the demise of Pan-Pakistan Muslim unity in 1971 that led to greater emphasis on religion in the country. The kind of Islamisation the country saw in the 1970s and the 1980s would have been impossible before the separation of Bangladesh.

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