“The Sectarian Divide” article in the local newspaper DAWN Islamabad published on Sunday May 4, 2014 took me back to my schools days where I studied about the struggle and efforts of some of the eminent leaders to obtain a separate homeland for the deprived Muslims living in India.
The history of Pakistan encompasses the very clear ideology of the Two Nation Theory and the vision (protection of one’s belief and liberty) that stimulated the struggle for independent state of Pakistan. One of the constructive thoughts behind this movement was renaissance through education. The urgency of this thought was put forward by an influential Muslim reformer and educationist Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. In his opinion education can transform people’s way of thinking and enable them to understand their socio-economic and political situation in a better way. Sir Syed’s British education convinced him that Muslim community of British India could only revive the spirit of progress by learning science and obtaining modern education and knowledge of western politics system. He believed that it will lead to an active participation of Muslim community in politics.
During his time Muslim community was by and large underprivileged as the prominent posts or jobs were enjoyed by the Hindu community. Their situation worsened even more when British rulers took the control over India. This distressed situation of the Muslim community gave birth to the notion of Two Nation Theory. It was formulated on the basis that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together as they have no privilege of equal rights, and protection and liberty to practice their beliefs. Sir Syed promoted the idea of Two Nation Theory through his writings, arguments, theory and efforts. This movement was supported by well known Muslims leaders and the All Muslim League was established with the support of Sir Syed in 1906. Sir Syed was known as father of Two Nation Theory. Sir Syed did not survive to see the fruits of his notion, however, his legacy was carried on by various Muslim leaders and in 1930’s; Muhammad Allama Iqbal and Quaid-i-Azam joined this movement and made great efforts in shaping this dream into a reality in 1947.
There is no doubt as Pakistan grew in its age it progressed in various walks of life and one could feel proud of what it has achieved over the years. There are schools, universities, medical colleges, hospitals and industries all over the country. Evidently, these contributions have helped to improve the situation of the people.
The founding story of Pakistan Movement has a central place in the memory of many Pakistanis and is covered in the schools, universities and text. The poignancy of this story is that the leaders of the past and present have had debarred its vision and unfortunately undermined the contribution and efforts of indigenous people who had equally supported and struggled to make Pakistan. The contribution and efforts of non-Muslims in shaping this reality had not been given emphasis. How can you close the eyes to that part of the history that the Jinnah’s vision of Independent state was supported by few of the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jews and Christians that lived in Muslim dominant regions of undivided India? It unfairly misses out the prominent contributions of people from other faiths who supported Pakistan Movement. Young people in schools and colleges are unaware of the fact that Jogindar Nath Mandal and Sir Victor Turner were among the founding fathers of Pakistan. After the independence Mandal was given ministry of law, justice and work-resource, Turner guided Jinnah and Ali Khan on economic affairs, taxation and to handle the administrative units. Alvin Robert Cornelius was elevated as Chief Justice of Lahore High Court and served as Law secretary in Liaquat Khan’ government.
The food for reflection is that why have these positive stories and the struggle of the founding members of the past have remained under the surface? Why has Pakistan failed to accept others who were different from the mainstream when they had been through same struggles associated with the formation of a new nation? It is painful and tragic to observe that the present alarming situation of the country where sectarian divide is on rise, instable socio-political circumstances has provoked faith-based violence which has further widened the gaps between different sects and tribes.
The vision of the founder of Pakistan Qauid-i-Azam as shared in his speech of 11th August 1947 clearly states, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosque or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan”. This vision has been buried under hatred, hostility and violent behaviour and has disoriented the idea of renaissance through education. The article by Muhammad Amir Rana in DAWN further establishes this fact and he writes that, Sectarian violence has manifested itself in three major forms in Pakistan: sectarian related terrorism; community and tribal sectarian violence; and irregular or instant sectarian violence. He further added that on-structured pattern of sectarian violence mainly arising from hate speech.
This significant issue is a calling to return to our moral, social and religious duties especially as it challenges the young people who are the future mason of Pakistan to play an active role to make it a peaceful place for its people. I had an opportunity to take a session with teachers (mixed group of Christians and Muslims) in one of the schools in Rawalpindi about “The Blessings of Peace” where it was blatantly obvious that both faiths share the moral responsibilities toward humankind. We live in a global world which has connected us to the wider world of technology, business and richness of diverse cultures and faiths. Unless we will learn to respect the difference and open our hearts to disregard the voices that invoke hatred and hostility we cannot become productive member of this global world and in making Pakistan a peaceful place for other human fellows. Pakistan is blessed with wonderful bounties of natural minerals, landscape, cultures and faiths.
Let us work together to make Pakistan a welcoming place for all to live together in harmony and peace as one nation by remembering the words of Quaid-e-Azam which he shared in his speech of 11 August 1947.
We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens and equal citizens of this state.
By: Mrs Awais Mughal