Jinnah’s words

Aug 13, 2018 by

Image result for Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

AUGUST 11 is of particular significance to Pakistan’s minorities. It reminds them of the iconic words spoken by the founder of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah on that day in 1947, words that contained the promise of a country where they would not be discriminated against on the basis of their faith.

“You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state….” declared the Quaid-i-Azam in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly.

In 2009, Aug 11 was designated National Minorities Day by the PPP-led coalition government, an initiative continued by the PML-N.

Participants at a convention held this year to mark the day emphasised the importance of including members of minority communities in national decision-making processes and in all tiers of governance.

They also called for Mr Jinnah’s iconic speech to be made part of the Constitution so it could provide guidance for the formulation of laws and policies in the country.

It is deeply unfortunate, but not surprising, that 70 years after Independence, minorities in Pakistan should still have to ask for a more inclusive society.

Most leaders who came after Mr Jinnah disregarded his words. Some appeased right-wing elements, even actively patronised them.

In fact, matters have come to such a pass that religion is often the touchstone of one’s worth as a citizen of Pakistan, and what one can expect from the state.

Non-Muslims cannot aspire to the highest offices in the land for which only Muslims, according to the Constitution, are eligible.

That in itself makes non-Muslims second-class citizens, excluded from serving their country in certain capacities, a discrimination based solely on faith.

Religious triumphalism means anyone advocating a secular ethos — essentially what Mr Jinnah was doing in his above-quoted speech — invites the risk of being called a traitor or an infidel, allegations that can result in a grievous outcome to the individual.

Meanwhile, a landmark judgement by Justice Tassaduq Jillani which ordered the state to take specific policy measures to address the persecution of minorities and ensure their rights has been gathering dust since 2014.

A constitutional democracy can only be strengthened when all citizens, regardless of their faith, actually believe they are equal before the law.

Source: Jinnah’s words – Newspaper – DAWN.COM

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