Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party during a rally to protest the court ruling in the Asia Bibi case. Image Credit: AP


  • In the Muslim Pakistan that I call my homeland, my home, there is much that is done in the name of religion that has explicit injunctions to do exactly the opposite of what is done in its name.
  • What is happening in Pakistan today is what should never happen yet it happens again and again.

It has happened not just once. It has happened so many times there is no effective way for encapsulation of its impact. It has happened to all kinds of people, for all types of reasons, in ways that were varied yet had an eerie similarity.

Every decade has been shaped in its dark silhouette, every generation has been whipped into malleability without any inkling of the reason for its indistinguishability, every non-majority community has seen its shadow become a recurring nightmare.

There is no reason for its existence, yet it hovers like the blackness of sky at night over an entire set of people. It has happened in the past, it is happening now, and it will happen again.

In the Muslim Pakistan that I call my homeland, my home, there is much that is done in the name of religion that has explicit injunctions to do exactly the opposite of what is done in its name.

Islam, in its most fundamental teachings, and in its all-encompassing message, stands for one thing: obeisance to the Creator, belief in Allah’s Messenger, and to do good for His people. Islam, through the Holy Quran, is an illustration of haqooq Allah – rights of Allah.

It is also through the Holy Quran that Allah speaking through His last Messenger, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), teaches the importance of haqooq-ul-abad –rights owed to humanity.

The exquisite blending of the two, one more important than the other but both indispensable for human existence, perpetuation and absolution, is presentation of a divine blessing to mankind as a chance to show and practise gratitude for Allah’s gift of life and how to live that life in the best possible manner.

The Holy Quran says: You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. (3:110)

More than fourteen hundred years later, the message of the Holy Quran remains unchanged, pristine in its original form, uncomplicated in its expansiveness, and secure in its eternity.

In the world of today, in the diurnal monotony of existence and sharp restlessness of inadequacy, what is often forgotten is the divine message: O mankind! We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other [not that you may despise each other]. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is [he who is] the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted [with all things]. (49:13).

Misuse of religion

In the Pakistan of today, the injunctions of religion, in the claws of those who are self-avowed vigilantes of religion, are turning into whips with which to turn a vulnerable populace into a frenzied horde to unleash chaos. A shadowy déjà vu of a series of events that altered, imperceptibly at first, hesitantly at times, and noisily most of the time, the very fabric of Pakistan.

My 97 per cent Muslim Pakistan has never been in need of a religious saviour, yet it has remained, since its inception, in the vice-like grip of various entities that proclaimed to be fighting for the sanctity of religion.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s idea of a separate homeland for Muslims was for a country where their right to exist would be without fear, and where their rights were a given, and given without a fight.

The Muslim Pakistan was never meant to be a theocracy where religious rights of the majority would be of supreme importance with a complete repudiation of those who were not Muslim, or were the “wrong” kind of Muslim.

In August 1947, the green and white flag of Pakistan, reflective of the existence of its majority Muslim and minority non-Muslim population, was a symbol of Jinnah’s dream and vision of Pakistan.

In July 2019, the white on the flag still exists, apparently unblemished. It is anything but that.

Pakistan, even if it was meant to be a theocracy, could have been a splendid place for all its citizens. A country that is supposed to have been made in the name of Allah would have made His fundamental tenets its raison d’etre. Oneness of Allah and finality of prophethood are the essence of Islam. There is no Muslim in Pakistan who does not consider that to be the first belief of being a Muslim.

What is deeply troubling is the very convenient overlooking of the other very important aspects of Islam. What is inconceivable to any God-fearing Muslim is how anyone who claims to be a Muslim overlooks the importance of the verse that is the opening of 113 of the 114 surahs of the Holy Quran, the compilation of Allah’s messages to His people through His prophet, Mohammad (pbuh): Bi-smi llāhi r-Raḥmāni r-Raḥīm... In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Allah is Compassionate, Forgiving, Fair, and for everyone. How do those who claim to follow Him create divisions, hatred and violence among His people, misusing His name?

What is happening in Pakistan today is what should never happen, yet it happens again and again. Using religion for attainment of political power and using religion for a naked agenda of self-aggrandizement and electoral hegemony is sinking to a low that is a recurrent phenomenon in the very complex history of Pakistan.

There is not a single political party in Pakistan that has not, in some form, used the cover of religion for attainment of power. Mollycoddling of religious groups, which on their own do not have any real electoral strength, is a constant for most political parties of Pakistan.

Religion is a unifying force. In Pakistan, religion is used to create divisions, and deepen schisms.

Opposition games

In the political battle of the Opposition parties versus the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, there is a steady degeneration and coarsening of narratives. The no-holds-barred games, the take-no-prisoners stratagems, and the application of all forms of weapons, there is nothing that the Opposition parties have not tried, and still continue to.

They accuse the government of doing the same. After the July 2018 electoral success of Khan and his party, the refusal of the opposition parties, led by Asif Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif, to accept the defeat as part of a democratic process, has been instrumental in propagation of their narrative: that Khan is a “selected” prime minister; that power belongs to them; and that their legal accountability is nothing but a political witch-hunt.

The formation of a united opposition front is neither new nor alarming. Their conferences, interviews, press conferences, rallies and protest marches are their democratic right. Alarming is the direction this drama has recently taken.

Faced with a situation in which there is no escape from their legal accountability, and no NROs in sight, and after holding everyone — government, judiciary, military establishment–responsible for their present bleak political prospects, now the last refuge is religion.

The latest favourite political ally of Sharifs and Zardaris is the chief of Jammat-e-Islami Maualna Fazlur Rahman, who fully understands the power of misuse of religion to whip up a frenzied cacophony that can wreak havoc in Pakistan.

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Threats of overthrowing of Khan’s government are as flaky as the alliance of parties and people who hate one another’s guts on any given day. United, they have planned chaos. One weapon can be used to mobilise people, already exasperated with inflation and lack of opportunities, against an elected prime minister: self-avowed vigilantism of religion.

This holy alliance, secure under the umbrella of religion, understands that the only way to get people to unleash chaos in Pakistan is to brainwash them into thinking: Islam is in danger.

For the leader of the biggest religious party of Pakistan to announce that there would be a march to Islamabad in October to overthrow Khan’s government if Khan doesn’t resign in August is nothing more than blustery, petulant nervousness in the face of growing political irrelevance.

But what the same leader announced on July 27 in incendiary, very dangerous: “The finality of prophethood is part of Pakistan’s constitution, and it will be protected at any cost. Don’t think religion is without a protector. Our fight is for Pakistan’s real freedom and its self-reliance. We will end the fake government.” Hashtag: Namoos-e-Risalat Million March Quetta.

Allah and His beloved prophet and Islam do not need protection from any human being. In the Muslim Pakistan, Islam is not under any kind of threat. The divine is not dependent on the human for any form of protection. Eternally, it has been the other way around.

Making the persecuted religious minorities of Pakistan a target for public censure and violence for attainment of political agendas is so ugly a practice it defies comprehension.

Unleashing of public sentiments is planned through a fabricated scenario of blasphemy. Misusing people’s devotion to their Creator and His prophet for personal political gains is not a service to Islam.

It is blasphemy of the worst kind.

And it has happened in Pakistan many times.

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