A Pakistani Hindu:’I am a citizen & that’s enough for me to hold my basic rights’

By Vijay Kumar

Yesterday, on Saturday, July 30th 2016, I got an opportunity to become part of a thought-provoking conference in Hyderabad, the second largest city in Sindh.  The conference was titled as Interfaith Youth Dialogue and Festival, arranged by a young social activist and past Pak-US exchange alumni, Dr. Rajesh Kumar. The session was led by some of the prominent personalities in the Sindh covering intellectuals, mystic poets, human right activists and academia.

The conference put lights on many important issues of religious intolerance and religious supremacy prevailing in the Sindh and Pakistan, in general.

During the conference, by listening to the panelists and with my own thought pattern, I summarized some of my thoughts on the issues and what I think we can do to curb them.

  • Here is a conflict now. If you pick a currency coin or any bill in Pakistan, it says the name of our country as “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. This causes an inherent flaw in our so called democratic form of the government. The constitution of Pakistan which regards Islam as an official religion of the state portrays an inherent religious supremacy of one religion over all affairs of the state and other religions. The truth is that, a state has no religion. If I say it more clearly then I would say, the state is not run by any belief system. It must be neutral from any particular belief system. The state can’t even be an atheist because that would still be treated as a belief system in where actually you don’t believe, actually. So a true democratic state would keep religion and the state affairs as two separate things. The problem in Pakistan and the reason why we are lacking behind in our collective social and moral uplift is that we have often seen state affairs with the lens of religious affairs. How can a country where people from other faiths are living and contributing their part since centuries can make sure that they own the state and buy into the decisions it imposes on them?
  • In Pakistan, a Hindu, a Christian, a Buddhist or any other faith in minority can’t run for the high level public offices like Presidency, Prime Ministership or Chief of Army Staff. How can we regard Pakistan as a democratic state where one faith is regarded as only doctrine by which everything will be measured?  The same constitution also proclaims to provide equal rights to the every citizen of Pakistan. This shows the double standards or ignorance of the public policy makers. Some of the people take pride while quoting that Pakistan is the only country in the world which was created on the name of Islam. Are you trying to say, that all other religious groups are like unattended sheep in a jungle. Let it be clear that I am not against any religion of the world. I respect and in fact I follow every religion. Because, I see every religion as a teaching guide to live a prosperous and successful life. What I don’t like is narrow-mindedness of people in power who fail to understand that other faiths who are in minorities also regard themselves as Pakistanis. I am a Pakistani. FULL STOP. That should suffice for the state to get me qualified for the basic rights.
  • Every successful society has always been an interdependent society where people from different faiths are interdependent on each others’ skills and talents. I am dependent on a superstore to buy my groceries and the store is dependent on me to earn its business. So in the same way, every citizen of a society carries different identities with him/her self. Some are businessmen, doctors or engineers and some are artists or musicians. The idea is to channelize these various identities and talents each participant of society has to offer to do collective good for the society and not to materialize the differences of individual religions or backgrounds and create an environment of a jungle where might is always right and everybody else is just there to exist on its own.
  • The term “minority” itself gives a false impression. Where there is a minority, there also has to exist a majority. Like I said earlier, in a true democratic form of government, there is not such a term of minority or majority as everybody has equal rights and equally accountable before rule of law. In a state’s dictionary, these both terms should be deleted permanently as it will always create a division of rights and responsibilities.
  • The term “Secularism” is often misinterpreted in Pakistan as something which creates a perception of a religion-less society where people don’t follow their faiths. It is a very wrong interpretation. Secularism is the concept of the same principle I have been saying in upper part of this write-up which is simply to keep the government and its institutions separate from any religion and religious institutions. In my view, religion is a very personal dogma. It should always be between me and my Creator. Let it not become a public affair and let it always be a private thing.
  • So where are we heading now? It has been almost 70 years since we got free from British colonialism. 70 years was so enough and too much time for us to make Pakistan a prosperous and a true democratic society.  But due to many political and religious conflicts we have been put into by various political leaders in the past, this is very unfortunate that we are still talking about the issues of education, health, poverty, infrastructure and religious intolerance. There are many examples of countries in front of us who took the different path and turned around their economies and social fabric of their societies in a few decades.
  • In summary, what I learned from my observations in yesterday’s conference and especially after spending a wonderful time in the United States and seeing the level of religious intolerance there, I can say that as a society we have to fight with our own moral corruption first before fighting with the corruption in the government institutions.  Our collective level of morality has become so low that we can’t tolerate people from other faiths and still we are fine with the economic corruption. It is a need of the hour that we start becoming responsible for our own blunders. I can tell you that this is much harder to fight with than any other type of corruption. It is like, we who have to change before changing our politics. The crime and corruption is inside us. Don’t find them inside political dorms. It is the time we revive the beautiful history of Sindh which was famous for its high caliber of hospitality and religious tolerance. Let’s imagine and work towards for a Pakistan where we all live together with peace and harmony, where people don’t take religion as a point of fight but a point to think, understand and respect. Where our children are not educated to fight with other religions or to make them feel like all other religions are wrong and have no right to live. Instead, we should teach them to respect and understand every religion and to capitalize on the points which are similar to their own religion while still respecting the differences.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Vijay has a professional background in accounting and project management. He loves to write on technology, start-ups and politics and perform music. Currently, he is working as an executive consultant at a renowned accounting firm in Karachi. He has also been a cultural ambassador in the U.S.

  • Harun

    Jinnah made a mistake and I am ashamed of being Pakistani
    Mahwash Badar

    Mahwash Badar is a clinical psychologist by profession and one of a handful of liberal Pakistanis who dare to speak the truth. On May 12 she wrote an opinion piece for Pakistan’s Express Tribune Blogs, titled ‘Jinnah made a mistake and I am ashamed of being Pakistani.’ However, due to the invisible hand of the ISI both this article and her Twitter profile @MahwashB have vanished. Below is a reproduction of the original article

    Anyone who has ever travelled abroad will tell you that no matter where you go, no matter how developed a country it is that you’re travelling to – if you’re a British national or a Caucasian American, the doors become friendlier. The security becomes less pressurising. Visa queues are shorter. Procedures are simpler.

    If you’re a brown Pakistani man (or even woman) who is travelling to another country – that’s a whole other story. You’re working in the Middle East, chances are your salary is just a little bit above the basic working wage – or anything that will get you a bed-space with seven other human beings. Respect is minimal.

    You’re not supposed to ruffle any feathers. Or demand for rights. Your children are thousands of miles away studying (because you can’t afford education for them here), your wife probably has another job to help make ends meet and your job squeezes every drop of your blood into a tiny container that helps build the skyscrapers and that little container is thrown away quicker than you can say “burj” as soon as your company decides to say bye bye.

    Pretty much the equivalent of … well, I don’t know. What is that the equivalent of? What analogy do I draw to represent the utter misery that is being a Pakistani in this super-power dominated world?

    As if the current state of the country, what with its years of dictatorship and lack of infrastructure, hasn’t driven us insane enough, there is the added bonus of inviting religious extremists and letting them destroy everything we hold near and dear. Sure, apologists will reason it saying “this is not true Islam” and whatnot. But my question is when – seriously – when do we set aside the debate of what is true Islam and what isn’t?

    Let the clerics and the religious scholars sit in their mosques. But once and for all, eliminate and annihilate the savage, beastly, cowardly, immoral men who buy the bodies of fragile, poverty-stricken, desperate men, strap them with explosives and send them into markets filled with innocent women and children. Finish these abhorrent elements in the society that attempt to throw us back to the Stone Age.

    A recent article in the New York Times reported on the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaration of the polio emergency in Pakistan.

    Last year, a polio worker was killed in Peshawar, as well as another who was shot dead in Khyber Agency. Several were kidnapped in Bara. In January this year, gunmen killed three health workers taking part in a polio vaccination drive in Karachi, not Kabul, not Sierra Leone, not Riyadh, Karachi.

    My heart boils and burns as more devastating news and reports flood the channels. The New York Times article further stated that according to a report, the highest refusal rates for polio vaccination were recorded in wealthy neighbourhoods of Karachi because they had “little faith in public health care.” In North Waziristan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have had vaccination forbidden for years. Pakistan thus has 59 polio cases to report, the highest in the world.

    Being a mother, it scares me. It keeps me awake at night. It reminds me that even if I run far away from the borders of my own land, its demons will continue to haunt me and my future generations. I Google “Pakistan” on the news and everything that is reported is about death, destruction, squabbling politicians, ailing children, extremists blowing up things and a struggling economy.

    I raise my eyes to our neighbouring country and see what could have happened if we were still a United India. Maybe we would have been polio free too. We would have been a unified part of a process of being the world’s next big force to reckon with, of being a part of the next blazing economy.

    I find myself deeply wishing that Jinnah hadn’t made this mistake – that he had thought about the future of Pakistan. He didn’t think of the obscurantist mindset that he had propelled forward, the countless millions that died at the hand of this vague agenda that fails to unite us as a nation. I look at the years of struggles that Pakistan faces, the fall of Dhaka, the provincial wars, the stark separatist mindsets and I wonder what Mr Jinnah was thinking when he decided to leave the Indian National Congress (INC).

    We share more with our Indian brothers than our ancestral DNA. Our food, language, clothes, lifestyles are more like them than the Arabs we so badly want to mimic and ape. I stare at the green passport with the same self-loathing as the fat 16-year-old girl with pimples on her face who is told that she cannot get married because she will always be blind, diseased and fat and her elder, stronger, prettier, better-educated sister will snag all the good catches because she ended up with the better caretaker after the divorce of their parents.

    I am ashamed of being a Pakistani today.

    I am ashamed that I belong to a country that kills human rights lawyers and sitting governors, and issues death threats to university professors.

    I am ashamed that we believe in spaghetti monster theories and pie in the sky conspiracies and risk the future of our children.

    I am ashamed that we have rejected our scientists just because they believe in a different dogma.

    I am ashamed that we cannot protect our women, we cannot protect our children and we cannot protect our men from the evil that is extremism, fundamentalism and the foolhardy idea that Pakistan is a great nation. Pakistan is a fledgling, flailing state.

    And those 59 children, whose legs can never work anymore, the family of Raza Rumi’s driver, those who shed tears for Salman Taseer, for Perveen Rehman, for Rashid Rehman, for Dr Murtaza Haider and his 12-year-old son – every single person who went out to have a normal day and never made it home alive – are all paying the price of the empathy, respect and awe YOU show cowards like Mumtaz Qadri.

    – See more at: http://archive.dhakatribune.com/long-form/2014/may/26/jinnah-made-mistake-and-i-am-ashamed-being-pakistani#sthash.d2Q4UylC.XAg787vH.dpuf

  • BJK

    Harun, I doubt that it is Jinnah’s fault that Pakistanis don’t treat fellow Pakistanis well (which is at the root of most of the problems that Pakistan faces today).
    If Sunnis kill Shias, why is that a fault of Jinnah?
    If most Pakistani Muslims gang up on the tiny population of Ahmadis, why is that Jinnah’s fault?
    If the rulers of Pakistan make a deliberate policy decision to “hunt with the hounds and run with the hare”, why should there be any wonder that the average Pakistani is looked at with suspicion by the West? How is that Jinnah’s fault? Didn’t he already die over 65 years ago?
    And even if he were somehow implicated, as far as the creation of Pakistan is concerned, he was only representing the wills of what your baap-dadas wanted at the time! Why blame HIM now?

  • m asadi

    It is Jinnah’s fault, he played into the hands of the colonial bastards to use their methodology of divide and rule, he infused the nation with an Islamic identity syndrome that the imperialist occupation forces, aka army hast exploited. People in the West do not look at the geopolitical details of relations between countries when looking suspiciously at Pakistanis, they look at the color of your skin and the Western war narrative. Shia Sunni divide is inflamed by those who seek to profit from destabilizing Pakistan. The Ahmadi “issue” is a non-issue and quite irrelevant, it is given prominence by assholes who want to destroy Pakistan, but yes, it is linked to Jinnah’s politics of religious identity.

  • Harun

    Hindu Doctor Shot Dead In Karachi

    http://m.ndtv.com/world-news/hindu-doctor-shot-dead-in-karachi-1440896?type=news&id=1440896&category=World&browserpush=true

    The killing of Hindu doctor in Pakistan doesn’t shock me. What shocks me is that there was a Hindu doctor in Karachi

  • Studebaker

    A Pakistani Hindu:’I am a citizen & that’s enough for me to hold my basic rights’.

    Pakistan was made for Muslims. Muslims will decide your basic rights. Whether you are a citizen or what kind of a citizen you are are also not your concern.