More than 40,000 civilians and 5,000 soldiers dead at the hands of
religious fanatics leaves every Pakistani guessing – where did we go
wrong? Can we point out any single day in our 65 year history which
symbolizes our collective decision to surrender to the Mullah? Thirty
eight years ago, on 7th of September 1974, the Parliament of Pakistan
brazenly stepped into a territory which is the exclusive domain of
God. Pakistan’s law-makers adopted a constitutional amendment, which
excommunicated the Ahmadiyya community as “not Muslims” for the
purposes of law.
This was the second amendment to the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan for
which Z. A. Bhutto proudly took credit. The truth is that the
parliamentary proceedings were a farce. The debate between Ahmadi
representatives and the Ulema has been kept hidden from the public eye
for the last thirty eight years. If indeed this was a great service to
Islam by Bhutto’s parliament then surely the proceedings deserve to be
shared with the public.
While the amendment opened the door to the mixing of religion in
politics, it was an insult to the secular vision of Quaid-e-Azam
Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah had clearly warned that “Religion should
not be allowed to come into politics…religion is merely a matter
between man and God” in his address to the Central Legislative
Assembly in February 1935. On the eve of Pakistan’s creation, on the
August 11, 1947, he had again reiterated his wisdom through the
message that “Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to
be Muslims..in the political sense”. By declaring Ahmadis
“Non-Muslims”, our parliament became the religious arbiter – a god who
could judge on the faith and belief of humans. We, as a nation chose
to ignore the wise counsel and clear warning of our own founding
father. We have indeed paid the price for this.
Through this amendment, Bhutto did not win the hearts and minds of the
Mullahs. No amount of appeasement satisfied their desire for power.
Instead his downfall and the arrival of Zia-ul-Haq can be contributed
to the religious parties who wanted more after tasting success. Indeed
the precedent set by the second amendment of September 7, 1974 opened
up a pandora’s box. It gave the mullahs the audacity to intimidate the
state into doing their bidding. It made it alright for the government
to interfere in matters of faith and to use religion for political
purpose. It has ultimately made religious bigotry into a pestilence
which is difficult to eradicate. The controversial blasphemy laws
(1986), the Hudood Ordinance (1979), the anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX
(1984) were natural results of the parliamentary decision.
The second amendment has caused Pakistan incalculable damage.
Tolerance, pluralism and inter-religious harmony will not return to
Pakistan unless there is a major overhaul of our constitution in line
with Jinnah’s wishes of August 11, 1947.