Monday, July 17, 2017

Perspective: Pakistan -- Of ‘true’ Muslims and ‘half’ citizens | Mubashir Akram

Religion was in a way intrinsic to the idea of Pakistan, nonetheless,the state should have focused on nurturing responsible citizenship among its people

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Daily Times
By Mubashir Akram | July 17, 2017

A fairly large size of the minority population lives under constant fear of persecution in the name of religion 

According to the Federal Bureau of Statics, Government of Pakistan, 96.28% of Pakistanis are Muslims. Many minority organisations and their leaders dispute that, but let’s go with the official statistics, and this makes 7.44 million Pakistanis as non-Muslims. This is equal to the combined population of Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta. Imagine the size of these four cities that they are all populated by the non-Muslims, and you shall have an idea of the scale and size of the numbers. Many among them may live their lives as any other common citizen of Pakistan, but a fairly large size of the minority population lives under constant fear of persecution in the name of religion.

As I write these lines, it is being reported (July 15) that yet another Christian has been booked under the blasphemy laws in Dinga, district Gujrat. Take a critical look at the news text, and you might be able to determine the accuracy of the charges, and that more than the religion, it probably could be a matter of a social conflict that is being settled via this instrument. Think for a second about the way Christian community, who by the way are equal political citizens under the constitution of Pakistan, would be living there in Dinga at the moment!

This might be “information” for many, but Muslims in Pakistan make the largest group of victims under the laws that are connected with the local interpretations of Islam. In most cases, a baseless rumour is enough to destroy lives of dozens of people of a family in an otherwise deeply conservative society. Mashal Khan is an example, where fewer citizens of Pakistan in Mardan rallied for him than the ones against him. An entirely incorrect but popular opinion was that Khan must have committed “something” that got him lynched. Sad part: educated, exposed and literate people also paddled this argument.

One frequently comes across this obscure reasoning where an act of violence is justified on the basis of a devotion that Pakistanis, particularly youth, feels toward their religion. The sensitivity of that is totally understandable, though not justifiable when mob justice is considered alright and tacitly endorsed, mostly because, it hasn’t happened to you – yet. Though, it very well could, as all it takes is a rumour in a volatile situation.

The knee-jerk emotionalism of the society, particularly the youth should have been a moment of deep thoughtfulness for the State a long time ago. But policy and decision making officials in the higher echelons of the State instead kept busy in “manufacturing” good Muslims across Pakistan. Not only did they totally forget importance of creating good citizens among youth, but probably ignored it deliberately. Resultantly, we have a population, mostly youth that is ever-ready to boil its blood merely on rumours, and is inaccurately focused on challenges and issues that have hardly any importance in their personal and professional lives. Ask your friends and yourself a question also: when was the last time you saw on media, or even if you were interested in an educational program on the principles and responsibilities of citizenship in Pakistan? Did it ring a bell, any bell at all? I doubt!

Indeed, religion could be an extremely important aspect in one’s personal life, but so is responsible citizenship when it comes to political, social and economic roles that we all must play in the society we live in. In my personal opinion, one should not live with either of these two by completely ignoring the other, as both these must complement each other.

There could be dozens of examples to prove that the mutual exclusivity of religious beliefs and citizenship among Pakistani youth. Take just one basic human obligation of citizens to the society: cleanliness, and you probably did not know that among the dirtiest 15 cities of the world, three are Pakistani: Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi. Seven among these 15 are Indian, if this pleases your heart!

As religion was in a way intrinsic to the idea of Pakistan, the State should have rather focused on creating responsible citizenship among its citizens. But the State and society drifted in to judging people’s belief systems.

Pakistan started on Baba Jinnah’s promise of equal citizenship in the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. Most youth aren’t aware of that. 68% of the Pakistani population is under the age of 30. Many term that as an asset, and a hope. But I shudder in fear as a majority of youth might be Puccay (true) Muslims, but are Kacchay (half) citizens.They believe that both these ideas are mutually exclusive, and the national journey can continue that way too.

Mubashir Akram is a social entrepreneur and a student of Pakistan's social and political challenges. Twitter: @mkw72

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