Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
Member National Assembly, Patron-in-chief Pakistan Hindu Council
Just after the one year of independence, the sad demise of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, stating the unending debate regarding the ideological identity of the newly-established country. Interestingly, both sides used to quote his speeches in support of their point of views. One segment of the society was of the view that Quaid-e-Azam wanted to see Pakistan as Islamic Country while the other claimed that the Founder of Pakistan had declared religion a personal matter very clearly, and thus, he wanted to adopt Secular democracy.
The basic motive of creation of Pakistan on the basis of golden values of tolerance, equality and peace, was, no doubt, to form an independent state where Muslims in majority could be able to run the country affairs. Without going into the debate of secular state or Islamic system, I would like to state that Quaid-e-Azam had a very clear and positive approach towards the Non-Muslims citizens of newly born state. Quaid-e-Azam and his companion of Pakistan Movement wanted to give equal rights and opportunities to all the communities living in Muslim majority population so that everyone could work hard to engrave Pakistan’s name as a great nation on the world map.
On the historic occasion of transferring powers in 1947, while representing United Kingdom Government, when the last viceroy Lord Mount Batten hoped that Pakistan will treat its Non-Muslim in the same way of kindness as it was during the tolerant era of Akbar the great. In response, Quaid-e-Azam said that tolerance and good will practices of Akbar towards Non-Muslims is not something new, as thirteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to behave Non-Muslims with justice and kindness.
To keep his words and to run the affairs of state smoothly on merit basis, Quaid-e-Azam appointed Sir Zafar Ullah Khan as Foreign Minister and Jogandar Nath Mandal was given portfolio of Law Ministry and thus it was made clear that Government of Pakistan considers all citizens equal, neither there is any majority nor there is existence of any minority. In my personal opinion, we should also refrain from using the word “minority” for Non-Muslims living in Pakistan because it reflects a narrow mind set of the society.
After being elected as first Governor General of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam while addressing to Constituent Assembly to define the state policy, he said in clear words that “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” He declared that being Pakistani citizen all are equal and one nation.
Before concluding his speech, Quaid-e-Azam also tried to convince the Non-Muslim residents of Pakistan for not migrating and make Pakistan their homeland. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places 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,” he stated.
On the other hand, those elements who visualized Pakistan as an Islamic country refer to Quaid-e-Azam’s speech in April 1948 at Peshawar Islamia College, in which he said that the demand for Pakistan was not just to get a piece of land but a place where the people could spend their lives according to Islamic principles.
Here, I would like to remind the readers that the first Islamic Government in the entire world history was established by the Islamic Prophet (PBUH) where He signed peace treaties with Non-Muslim citizens. World’s scholars and political scientists consider Charter of Madina the first written constitution between the Muslim state and Non-Muslims. According to Charter of Madina, the Non-Muslims were ensured to have the same political and cultural rights as Muslims. “They will have autonomy and freedom of religion, and there will be no treachery between the two,” the charter emphasized all citizens regardless of religion to support each other in the time of need and joint struggle against the rebellious anti-peace elements.
At the creation of Pakistan, nearly one-fourth population (around 23%) was Non-Muslims, which according to Government official record has now reduced to 3%. Independents survey reports carried by Pakistan Hindu Council and other non-governmental organizations disclose that Non-Muslims form 5-6% of current population. According to recent report of Election Commission, Hindus are dominating the Non-Muslims vote bank by 50%. The purpose to show less population of Non-Muslims in official statistics is likely to provide lesser opportunities in their fixed quota; therefore immediate census without any delay is need of time.
I believe that deviation from Quaid-e-Azam’s vision initiated at the very beginning of Pakistan when massacre of innocent and peaceful citizens and occupation of their properties had started in the name of religion. Muslims immigrants, in a very bad condition, were migrating from Pakistan and on the other side in Pakistan, the carnage of peaceful Hindus was going on, who were living on the Pakistani soil from centuries. According to Liaqat-Nehru Pact, the head of Evacuee Property Trust Board must be a Non-Muslim which could not be implemented till today.
The zero tolerance towards Non-Muslims in Pakistan accelerated right after the death of Quaid-e-Azam when the Constituent Assembly under the influence of those extremist elements, which opposed the Pakistan Movement before partition, approved the Objectives Resolution in March 1949. On that occasion, Kumar Datta, a Hindu politician from East Pakistan had opposed it by saying that “if this resolution came in life of Jinnah it would not have come in its present form. Let us not do anything which lead our generation to blind destiny.’ There is no second opinion that this resolution created a division as the Muslim members except for Mian Iftikharuddin voted in favor of it and the Non-Muslim opposed it. Concerns shown by the Non-Muslim politicians were proved right as the Resolution has not been implemented so far in the true spirit, and the doubts in the minds of the Non-Muslims still exist.
Violent conflicts against the Ahmadi community stared in 1950s and a movement led by the religious groups to declare them Non-Muslim initiated and later on the Arab-Israel War also resulted in bad consequences for Pakistani Jews. Pakistani Hindus further suffered due to Indo-Pak War in 1965 and the factors involved in the separation of East Pakistan included social injustice and non-acceptance of election results but the local Hindu population was blamed for this tragic incident after which doubts were raised on the patriotism and loyalty of Pakistani Hindus. We must understand that Pakistani Hindus consider Pakistani soil as motherland with which dedication and patriotism is part of faith.
After the incidence of East Pakistan separation, the political leadership said to give equal rights to Non-Muslims under the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but till today there are many clauses in the constitutions on which Non-Muslims have reservations. Permission to carry Alcoholic beverages business in the name of Non-Muslims must be considered as blasphemy act. Later on, declaring weekly holiday of Friday instead of Sunday was one of the show-offs to please religious elements. Iran Islamic Revolution and military interference of Super Power USSR in Afghanistan also pushed Pakistani society towards the culture of violence to promote holy war. Every Non-Muslim was considered a foreign agent and enemy of Pakistan during the era of Jihad of Pakistan against Communist Russia. In a very systematic way, hate-material was included in the curriculum aimed to present Non-Muslims specially Hindus prejudice and Islam enemy so that the minds of future generations could be polluted easily. Services of Non-Muslims for Pakistan have never been included in any textbooks of private or public educational institutes.
The contribution of only noble prize winner scientist of Pakistan was badly neglected on the fact that he is a Non-Muslim. During the era of General Zia-ul Haq, the restriction to fundamental rights of Non-Muslims reached to peak and as a result of which Non-Muslim communities became vulnerable to uncertainty and insecurities. Hudood Ordinance was also imposed on Non-Muslims and people started playing with the lives of Non-Muslims owing blasphemy laws. In many cases the fellow prisoner kills the accused one without any investigation. The attempt to keep Non-Muslims out of national mainstream through legal tactics is getting intense day by day. After the demolition of Babri Masjid in India, holy places of Non-Muslims were also damaged one after the other. According to Pakistan Hindu Council, abduction of young Hindu girls, forced religious conversion, forced marriage, illegal occupation of temples, and unavailability of holy places are damaging the Pakistani society day by day.
In my view, Pakistan came into existence as a result of democratic struggle and the solution of all the challenges being faced by Pakistan also lies in the democracy. During the era of Pervez Musharaf, efforts were made to present soft image of Pakistan at international level by introducing reserved seats for Non-Muslims and women. But I don’t consider it a long-term solution because the Non-Muslims representatives in Parliament are not elected by people vote but selected by the winning political party. I think that just like in Azad Kashmir, Non-Muslims should given the dual vote right to select their representatives for at least 15 constituencies so that the real issues faced by Non-Muslims could be identified. With this step, not only the democracy will flourish but the elected genuine representatives will also be answerable to their community. Despite the constitutional restriction for holding the offices of Prime Minister and President, the active involvement of Non-Muslims in the state affairs could also give positive message to the Non-Muslims living across the country.