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November 16, 2008

‘Religion and state should not interfere in each other’s functioning’

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November 16, 2008


Religion, although a very sublime and noble force, must never be allowed to interfere with the affairs of the state and the two must be kept distinctly apart to preserve social harmony and national cohesion, said Air Marshall (retd) M Asghar Khan. Khan was addressing the Fourth Vice-Admiral Choudhri Memorial Lecture that was held at the Defence Central Library on Saturday evening.

In support of his contention, he quoted two speeches of the Quaid-e-Azam. The first was his address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947,wherein he had said, “In the new state of Pakistan, there will be no Hindus, no Muslims, no Parsis, (in the political sense, of course) but we shall all be Pakistanis”. Khan said this was a mighty tribute to the intellectual magnanimity of the Father of the Nation and his dedication to religious freedom.

He then quoted the address of the Quaid to the officers of the armed forces on August 14, where the Quaid had said, “Never forget that you are servants of the state. Your job is to obey the representatives of the people. You do not make policies. It is the people’s representatives who make policies”. According to Khan, the defence services were servants of the people, not their masters.

The retired Air Marshall lamented the fact that following the Quaid’s death, the nation deviated from both these guiding principles. The Shia-Sunni divide widened with the passage of each day and resulted in gory consequences. He cited the manner in which Ziaul Haq manipulated Shia-Sunni riots in the Gilgit Area in the 1980s that resulted in the loss of so many precious lives. He also spoke about constant Shia-Sunni friction in the Kurram Agency that has claimed hundreds of lives. Khan cited the killing of a hundred doctors in Karachi within a year on religious grounds owing to the extreme hatred for certain religious groups. These doctors, he said, had come to serve their own country after attaining

knowledge and expertise from overseas.

Khan criticized both army generals and politicians for flouting the guiding principles of the Quaid. “We all know how the ambitious generals made a mockery of Pakistan, a country that was built on the sacrifices of millions of lives”, he said. Khan launched a scathing criticism of former general (late) Ziaul Haq and said that the US-sponsored Afghan Jihad came as a Godsend for Zia whereby as US arms poured into Pakistan, Zia’s stranglehold on power further tightened. “Zia started posing as a religious reformer and began to convert Pakistan into a theocratic state, believing himself to be the self-appointed Khalifa. The spate of recent bloodshed is the result of the Zia era,” Khan said. In the political sphere, a politician was considered successful only if he succeeded in fooling the masses. This, he said, had come to be the yardstick of a politician’s adroitness.

Khan was highly critical of the country’s financial management and said that the alarming economic mess that the country was currently embroiled in was the result of unmitigated extravagance and misappropriation of the state’s exchequer. He criticized the countryís leaders for their frequent trips overseas with a highly bloated entourage which was a crippling drain on the country’s resources.

According to Khan, constantly seeking out the US for financial and economic aid due to gross financial mismanagement in the country has resulted in American hegemony over Pakistan. “Obviously the US will dictate terms when we become overly dependent on them financially”, he said.

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