Quaid’s vision for the minorities

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And the reality in today’s Pakistan

 

 

The founder and father of the nation of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was undoubtedly revered and trusted by all, irrespective of citizens’ faith, belief or creed.

During his struggle for the independence of Pakistan, Christian organisations and activists along with others actively supported Mr Jinnah in his great mission even before the final phase of the freedom movement. Christians not just loved him and agreed with his thinking and ideology but also offered endless support. Leading Christians at that time also took active part in the freedom movement including Mr Pothan Joseph, who rendered valuable services as a journalist and propagandist for the Muslim League.

After Pakistan came into being in 1947, Mr Jinnah repeatedly promised complete equality to all the citizens but unfortunately his promise has not been kept by his successors.

In his address to the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on 11th August 1947, Mr Jinnah said:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples; free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed that has Nothing to do with the business of the state”

So, let us start with this fundamental principle of citizen equality in a state, which is vital for the development and progression of any state and nation.

I firmly believe that Mr Jinnah was a very forward-looking leader, who whole heartedly wanted Pakistan to become one of world’s greatest nations in the shortest possible time. His education in the west and vast global knowledge facilitated him to foresee problems, that often meet nations and become hindrance in progression, therefore, he wanted to address them and warn the nation clearly of such obstacles. Hence his speech, on 11th August that has been quoted above, evidently sums up his thoughts and views on the role of religion in relation to the state and its affairs. This speech continued to be heard on radio Pakistan until 1957 and since then has never been broadcast again.

Quaid obviously understood the sensitivity of the matter and knew that breaking nation into groups and circles based on cast or religion would do us no good. So, he taught equality amongst all citizens and love towards each other; leaving religion and creed to a side as a personal matter of individuals which should not obstruct the progress of the country.

Perhaps his historic speech of 11th August, considered by many as the founding charter of Pakistan, sums up Quaid’s views on role of religion in the state. Pakistan’s founding father envisaged a progressive, democratic and tolerant society that retained its Muslim character whilst giving equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal respect to its non-Muslim citizens.

As I hinted earlier, Christian communities fought hard for independence along with their Muslim brothers in the freedom movement. In 1947, the division of Punjab became a major dispute between the All India Congress and All India Muslim League. Both parties were trying to have the maximum part of Punjab on the basis of religious majority that was endorsing the aspirations of Punjab Assembly and there was quite a majority of Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab Assembly, and of-course the Hindu Unionist party was in support of All India Congress.

It looked as though the All India Muslim League did not have enough votes in the Punjab Assembly and neither had enough territories to command a Muslim majority. In such a situation, Christian members of the Punjab Assembly openly sided with the All India Muslim League and blatantly declared that the Christian population should be counted with the Muslims. So, when the votes were cast, Christian Members of the Punjab Assembly, including Mr Dewan Bhadar, SP Singa, C E Gibbon and Choudhry Fazal Elahi, voted with the Muslim League Members on 23 June 1947.

History tells us that the Hindu Unionist party supported by the All India Congress got 88 seats, whereas All India Muslim League got 88 seats but the three votes from the Christians leaders named above played crucial rule in the formation of West Punjab.

When they were entering the Constituent Assembly, Master Tarah Singh shouted at the stairs of the assembly: “Whoever demands Pakistan will get Qaberastan”, and in return, Mr SP Singha (Christian member of the Punjab Assembly) replied: “We will have the bullets in our chest but we will get Pakistan”.

Finally the voting took place and 91 votes were casted to Muslim League including three Christian, but the final, decisive and the casting vote was given by the Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Mr S P Singha who was a Christian.

The above account clearly demonstrates trust of the Christian community in the ideology and promises of Quaid. Also upon his request, Christian leadership appeared before the Punjab Boundary Commission along with the 35 prominent Christians and asked the boundary commissioner Sir Cyril Redcliffe to consider Christians as part of Pakistan.

Today in the 70th year of independence of our motherland, questions are being asked by non-Muslim leadership that why our forefathers supported Pakistan and a simple answer is: the founder of Pakistan Mr MA Jinnah repeatedly promised them security, equality, freedom and free access to practise their faith in the Islamic state of Pakistan.

Mr Jinnah had a special approval from the Muslim League’s Core Committee for the flag of Pakistan to have white colour in it along with green to show the world that this new state wholeheartedly considers non-Muslim as equal and integral members of the state.

Mr Jinnah was very clear in his vision that he did not want non-Muslims in Pakistan to suffer as the Muslim minority suffered in India. Hence, he thought that Muslim minority upon becoming majority would not forget how it feels to be a minority and would rather offer security, love and equal treatment to the other minorities dwelling in Pakistan while they are in the majority.

Mr Jinnah’s speeches and actions are evidence that he genuinely believed in an ideal Islamic state that cares and caters for everyone irrespective of their creed, breed, religion or language. History tells that on first Christmas after independence, in 1947, he went to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi and celebrated Christmas with Christians.

Today, what is happening in Pakistan? We are totally negating our Quaid’s message of Unity, Faith and Discipline and are divided into different sections based on religion, language, caste and breed. We have even come to a point where sometimes we do not even feel proud to be Pakistanis.

Pakistani non-Muslims and particularly Christians are serving the country and nation with total vigour and devotion beside many challenges and difficulties. There are countless non-Muslims who have played prominent role in Pakistan’s development and its betterment, and it would be in-justice if I don’t call upon a few names, including: Justice A R Cornelius, who became Chief Justice of Pakistan; Mr Justice Bhagwan Dass, who became active Chief Justice of Pakistan; distinguished Pakistan Air Force pilots: Cecil Chaudhry, Peter O Reilly, and Mervyn L Moddlecoat.

Christians have also contributed immensely as educationalists, politicians, doctors, lawyers and businessmen. Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti gave his life defending Quaid’s vision along with many Muslims who have sacrificed their lives in defending Quaid’s Pakistan namely: Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto and Shaheed Salman Taseer. Our armed forces and law enforcing agencies along with many innocent citizens have also been killed by those forces who do not share our Founding Father’s dream. We must not allow those forces to succeed, who are denting the good name of our beloved country.

As Pakistanis we proclaim to love our country and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad. Ali Jinnah but we must not leave it to words alone but put it to practice, and surely love is incomplete without faithfulness. I am proud to say that Christians of Pakistan have been serving Quaid’s Pakistan with total vitality, devotion and faithfulness beside many challenges and discriminatory laws that have been thrust upon them.

Christians (and in-fact all the minorities) continue to love their beloved country, despite frequent atrocious attacks on our churches, colonies and leaders. We are targeted and martyred due to our creed and love for the country but even then, we continue to pray for our country that we acquired after countless sacrifices with our Muslim brothers, but yet there seems to be no ending of sacrifices for us.

In the recent past many tragic attacks on Christian’s took place, an entire dwelling of Christians, Joseph Colony in Lahore, was burnt to ashes, and again one Sunday, two suicide bombers in Peshawar attacked a church, killing in excess of 83 worshipers and injuring countless. And then there are other countless incidents and scars in the form of: Gojrah, Korian, Shanti Nagar, and many, many more. Despite all this our love for the country never dares to shrink but keeps on growing and we continue to pray for its progress and success in our personal, family and congregational prayers.

After every persecution and oppression we habitually hear sympathetic and supportive words by social, political and religious leadership but they very often remain words as not much is done practically to prevent such atrocities and injustices against minorities. “Actions speak louder than words.” Today we feel more frightened and insecure than we ever were during the freedom movement under Quaid’s leadership in 1947. This due to the lack of security and ill treatment many of us often receive on the hands of mischievous elements.

Pakistan is a great country and I believe that answer to the gigantic challenges and problems it is facing today is embedded in reverting to Quaid’s Pakistan and his original vision : the rule of law, good governance, justice, religious freedom and equal rights for all the citizens of the state irrespective of one’s creed or social status.

Long live Pakistan.

1 COMMENT

  1. If we really wish to live in peace & harmony, we shall have to treat every citizen with equal status irrespective of his personal belief & color. The father of the nation advised us to never show any grudge on the basis of ones personal belief & thoughts. We have no right whatsoever to criticize the followers of any religion.

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