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Do we need secularism? — by Dr Khalil Ahmad

For Libertarians, religious freedom is an inseparable part of this natural personal freedom that the Constitution of 1973 so purposefully protects. Protecting religious freedom as a fundamental right is not only morally, spiritually, and intellectually of greater merit but is also socially harmonious

Secularism is an old song that keeps reverberating in the liberal, enlightened, progressive, leftist, and socialist circles of Pakistan. Earlier this January, news from Bangladesh that its Supreme Court banned the use of religion by political parties provided a fresh impetus to the choir. Since then a plethora of op-ed pieces appreciating and envying this progressive step of Bangladesh continues appearing in the newspapers. They all regret Pakistan’s lagging behind in this important improvement.

In Pakistan, secularism have always been understood to mean something that is, harshly to mildly, against religion. However, the secularists’ position is quite different: they hold that the state ought to be acting in an areligious manner instead of playing the religious card. They aim at neutralising the state’s role vis-à-vis religion.

But has the Pakistani Left built its position philosophically? Or is it just a political ploy — an act of postponing it for a convenient future date to confront? Whatever the Pakistani leftists have intellectualised seems to ignore the tenacity of the religious factor! That makes their approach an idealistic one.

Another entity in Pakistan, the classical liberals or Libertarians, believe otherwise. Their position, though not based on the Constitution of 1973, is akin to many of the fundamental rights ensured in it. The Articles that relate to the issue under discussion here are freedom of speech (19), freedom of association (17), freedom of assembly (16) generally, and freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions (20), safeguard against taxation for purposes of any particular religion (21), and safeguards as to educational institutions in respect of religion (22) especially.

In essence, these constitutional Articles presume individual citizens of Pakistan as independent thinking beings. They consider them as holding many a different view, opinions, philosophies, and professing various religious systems of thought as well. That is why the constitution secures the above-mentioned rights (16, 17 and 19) as fundamental. More than that, by way of association and assembly it provides the individual citizens with the rights (20, 21 and 22) to practice their views, opinions, philosophies and religious thoughts as well. Obviously rights 20, 21 and 22 are integral to rights 16, 17 and 19. One group of rights is meaningless without the other.

Likewise, the Libertarians too consider individual persons as free and independent thinking beings naturally endowed with certain inalienable rights that include the right to life and property (Articles 9, and 23 and 24), and to a life of their choice as all the rights (Articles 4, and 8 to 28) in unison aim at ensuring. That is why the Libertarians in Pakistan do not favour secularism as a viable political philosophy. They hold personal freedom as supreme and see the Constitution of 1973 truly embodying this spirit in the form of fundamental rights and unequivocally declaring all the laws inconsistent or in derogation of these rights to be void (Article 8).

For Libertarians, religious freedom is an inseparable part of this natural personal freedom that the Constitution of 1973 so purposefully protects. This position is also tenable with the larger scheme of fundamental rights of individual citizens enumerated in the constitution. Thus protecting religious freedom as a fundamental right is not only morally, spiritually, and intellectually of greater merit but is also socially harmonious.

In contrast to this, the Pakistani secularists expect and demand from the state and via it from the individual citizens to act in an areligious manner. On the one hand, this amounts to denying individual persons their due fundamental right to religious freedom, and on the other, this invalidates the Constitution of 1973 and especially its Articles 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, and 22. Instead the liberals, progressives, leftists, and socialists of Pakistan should be putting their energies to pressurise the government to strictly implement fundamental rights generally, and to secure especially the fundamental right to religious freedom to all the individual citizens of Pakistan without any discrimination. That is the urgent need of the times.

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute, http://asinstitute.org, a think tank dedicated to the cause of personal freedom and rule of law. He can be reached at khalil@asinstitute.org

Source: Daily Times

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  • Secularism does not means that we become Godless. Its just that the state should not govern or make decision based on religious priorities. A secular system ensures that all religions are treated equally.

  • MEETING OF TWO GREAT LEADERS OF THE COUNTRY

    MANO -O- MANO

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, what should I release the news of your meeting agenda with Mian Sb in media and press:

    President: Just say, Two leaders are meeting to discuss national security issues, country’s economics, foreign affairs, bilateral reconciliation and country’s overall situation.

    Spokes person of Nawaz: Sir, what news should I release to press for your meeting with the president

    Nawaz : Just say I am meeting the president to convince him to abide the rules of supreme court and fulfill his promises

    WHAT GOES INSIDE

    President : Jinab Mian sb, how are you, enjoyed the luscious and illustrious lunch I have given you? I specially ordered many type of chicken dishes for you and multiple sweet dishes famous in France. All my sheffs are imported.

    Nawaz : That was excellent Asif sb, thank you, that was a very good lunch you offered. PAIY were really good along with HALWA PURI. Maza a gia ! even though I am on diet. I asked your head sheff to pack the leftovers, so that I may enjoy it later on at home. The chicken and sweet dishes were excellent, mmm. Let me floss my teeth first then we will talk politics later some time.

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: NO ! this is not a political speech dummy. Just say, we have reached the consensus on providing ROTI to the hungry people of Pakistan.

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, consensus is found in providing fundamental needs to the poor and root out poverty

    ——————————————————-

    Nawaz: Gee Jinab Asif Sb, How are your governmental affairs?

    President: Just pulling on Mian sb, problems come and go, your transplanted hairs looking good on you

    Nawaz: Ya took a delayed decision but it worked, it was a costly deal

    Nawaz: Asif Sb, that was a neat trick, I admit

    President: Which one Mian sb?

    Nawaz: That one ..becoming a president, rather going for the prime minister ship

    President: Yes, was planning for it long before and was told so from abroad before coming to Pakistan for the first time, but then some advisors suggested to take the cover of section 248 and that’s what I wanted for an extensive time which I can never get even if I take care of my party’s affairs by staying outside the country. Without it was a risky deal.

    Nawaz : But Asif Sb, you should have taken the prime minister ship to play all the shots openly, I think that covert practice is going against you. But yes, you may be right, I got lucky as no body dared to suspect my money laundry transactions in the court other wise I would have done the same thing. But admit it Asif sb, your financial advisors were not that clever as they failed to hide out the trail and our Saifi got the chance to nail you down. My advisors are real professionals.

    President: Mian Sb, Don’t worry, nobody will dare to prosecute me as well, I have got complete control on all the case files and departments, in Pakistan and outside as well. I have got the immunity for 10 years. As for government affairs are concerned, I am new in business as well as most of my ministers and even poor prime minister is very much new in the field and has less confidence. The hot seats needs quick popular decisions where as the country’s situation does not favor quick and popular decisions. If I opted for PM ship then all the burden of wrong and unpopular decisions would have been on me personally and even I would have lost my own party favors. Now I have got a cushion of PM in front.

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: Just say, we reached the consensus on constitutional reforms, following the spirit of COD and strengthening the system

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, President Asif has agreed to curb corruption and vows to fulfill his promises

    ———————————————-

    Nawaz : Asif Sb Let’s cut the petty matters, I want to discuss an important issue with you. These stupid Pakistanis are now asking for a change. They are getting sick of our faces again an again and our party politics since last few decades.

    President: Change, what change ?

    Nawaz : yes, they need a change they say need other party to rule them now, ha ha ha ha ha

    President: ha ha ha ha ha ha , that’s really funny, but they are not allowed to as they can not change and can not have a change and Hilarious Clinton will not allow the change as she says they should not be allowed a change as they are too weak to change themselves. They can only vote, that’s it, they must understand, this is the best they can do to see a change after every few years.

    Nawaz : Ha ha ha ha ha , that’s right, so must not bother at all?

    President: Not at all

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: I am sick of you, just say, both leaders believe and agreed to protect the present democratic process and promote reconciliation

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, President Asif has agreed to uphold democracy and constitution, terms in COD and vows to fulfill his promises

    ——————————————-

    Nawaz : Asif Sb, there is a serious issue, now the media has turned on me as was against you some time ago. We must make a deal, now you instruct your ministers and pet media to stop pulling the strings around me and I will instruct my ministers and my pet media men to do the same on you and your government. We both will survive. I have instructed Shahbaz to take care of Kiyani for some time. You keep on taking control of establishment. I am afraid, if any of my scrap import case or money transfer to Saudi Arab and UK is opened, I am doomed. They even have my Income Tax return and wealth tax return, in which I have paid Rs.5,000/- tax.

    President: That’s not an issue I have paid Rs.25,000/- tax in 2007 I think, nobody can prove our real worth how much they struggle, as all the records are systematically changed and real data removed. But OK, that’s a promise, I will instruct my people and you instruct your party people. But we must not comment on each other’s corruption, etc openly and avoid scandalizing each other in public rallies and media. As the media use to pick up those issues only which are suddenly made hot by each of us, then it just moves on other hot issues completely ignoring the previous. We must use these tactics to evade further corruption debates in media. You see how, they have almost forgotten NRO. Don’t worry about GEO and Dr. Shahid Masood, I have asked few of my men to take care of him and Mir Khalil will automatically handle him shortly.

    These are good news, as that Dr. Shahid is always trying to keep dead issues alive. OK, it’s a deal.

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: No you idiot, just say, that both leaders have reached a consensus on critical national issues and free media

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, President Asif has agreed for joint efforts and vows to fulfill all his promises

    —————————————-

    President: Mian Sb, Hilarious Clinton called me yesterday, you are promoting Talibanization in Punjab that is why, you are threatening the establishment, Army and foreign forces directly.

    Nawaz : Well Asif Sb, Tell her not to worry, max population has gone extremists as I was planning since quite a long time to lead them as Amir Ul Momineen if you remember, I have got plenty of votes in these regions, without which I loose the game. I have got many supporters from Saudi Arabia as well who finance me and them and they want me to keep a hand on these elements. We will keep on condemning terrorism publically, but not the Talibans and Jihadi Tanzeems so in future I will be able to use them.

    President: Be care full Mian Sb, don’t let these remarks go public

    Nawaz : I know Asif Sb, I have complete control on media and press

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: Just say, this is our war, Pakistan is in the state of war, both parties have agreed to fight against terrorism and will condemn extremism, no further question asked.

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, we always condemn extremism and bomb blasts and President Asif has agreed and vows to fulfill all his promises

    ——————————————

    Nawaz : Asif Sb, I am facing immense pressure due to your price hike policies. Why are you not taking interest in lowering the prices of commodities?

    President: Mian Sb, come on don’t play baby any more, you know better than me, how many sugar mills, atta mills, steel mills, ghee mills and other mills do you and your partners have, so do I and my partners, so you understand it well. The profit margins since last two years were huge, you must agree. Just like you, I have invested heavily abroad. I simply can not reduce the prices as you know it well, this will not be a business trait, you know. You must do politics or you better do business, you can not mingle these two together. I know you have invested in three oil companies and so did I, so I can not reduce the prices of petrol and diesel as well.

    Nawaz : Yes I agree that’s why me and my party didn’t made it much an issue in public, I owe you on this, specially sugar prices and relating scandals. Shahbaz took rebate from government treasury to reduce sugar prices and saved his sugar mill’s production and stock prices. In this way he supported judicial decision and saved his own stock as well. Hamza was very happy on this measure as he owns the major share in mills.

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: No you moron, just release we have reached a consensus to eliminate poverty from the country

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, we will fight against corruption to eliminate poverty and President Asif has agreed and vows to fulfill all his promises

    ——————————————

    President: Mian Sb the state of law and order is deteriorating in Pakistan, specially in Punjab. Our governor keeps on informing me all the time about Shahbaz trying to appoint his favorite SHOs, DSPs, SSPs, IG, magistrates, etc in place of our favorites. This will negatively impact the balance of power. Further, your minister for law and justice is always found blaming and abusing our Governor.

    Nawaz : Asif Sb, OK I will instruct Shahbaz to put few of yours in Punjab as well. Sana Ullah is actually active in creating and empowering my vote bank in Punjab, that’s why I have allowed him all the liberty to act and comment. You know, we both should have some dirty politics, mud slingers and politicians going along to keep the public busy and enjoy the politics through active live media.

    President: We both must agree, Lots of laughs

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: Aaaggghh, Just write we believe in reconciliation with other parties and spirit of tolerance in politics

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, we will honor the COD in letters and spirit and President Asif has agreed and vows to fulfill all his promises
    ——————————————–

    President: Mian Sb, that Iftikhar Ch. is on my neck. Tell me how did you managed judiciary in the past.

    Nawaz : Asif Sb, its easy, don’t oppose, first create your credibility in public and then select a suitable time to storm the supreme court, like I did. Now you have Atizaz in your side, he will advise you how and when to storm as my legal advisors like Akram Sheikh did. So don’t worry and just stop commenting against judiciary in public rallies and on media.

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: Just say, we believe in free judiciary

    Nawaz Spokes person: Sir, what should I release to press and media

    Nawaz: Just say, we believe in free judiciary and President Asif has agreed and vows to fulfill all his promises
    ————————————————-

    President: Mian Sb, one last matter, Shahbaz and Nisar keeps on meeting Kiyani all the time. This act frightens us all. What on earth he talks with Kiyani ? Is there a conspiracy going on against us from your party.

    Nawaz: Oh no no, Asif sb, what conspiracy, if Kyiani gets on taking the system, I will be a sufferer as well. Shahbaz used to discuss ………………….

    Nawaz Spokes person: ‘the country’s political, law & order and security situation with the Army Chief’ (Sir, Shahbaz sb told me to release this news to press when he met the Army chief)

    Nawaz: Yes that’s right, that’s right.. that’s why he met Kyiani. Very good spoke person, you are an intelligent man.

    Presidential Spokes person: Sir, Should I release this in the media and press:

    President: NO!……… at least learn something from his spokesman……….. just say we respect Pakistan army and we will extend the job tenure of Army chief and ISI chief.

    ————————————————-

    OK Asif Sb, OK Mian Sb.. it was nice meeting you .. that was a fruitful meeting and I think we must keep on meeting in future to address various issues encompassing ……us both, while in this country.

    Presidential Spokes person & Nawaz Sharif’s Spokes person: Sir, What should we release in media and press.

    President: You better resign, when I have to do all the things around here. Write as follows

    ‘The meeting was held in very friendly environment and cordial manner. Both leaders unanimously agreed on major issues confronting the nation. Both parties agreed on the continuance of democratic process with reconciliation, free media and judiciary. Both parties agreed on taking measures in strengthening the pillars, eliminating corruption, poverty and raising the basic standard of living. Terrorism and extremism was condemned vehemently. Both parties vows to favor the acting government(s) and will never support anti-democratic forces ’

    Presidential Spokes person: But Sir, these are the same comments of past 4 meetings in last two years.

    Shut up and do what you are told to do. What do you think should we invent new tidings for the public. Idiot.

    Nawaz: Add all of above statement and finally add that President has agreed and vows to fulfill all his promises soon.

  • The religious propaganda is inculcated into our combined consciousness and it sees Pakistan as the epicenter of the world where we are the “fortress of Islam” and the plight of whole Muslim Ummah falls upon Pakistan.
    We talk about the rights of minorities but with such an ideology can these segments relate to the ideology of Pakistan, the allegiance of Pakistani minorities always remains under question!