Conflict resolution in society would be made far easier if we had a secular base.
This view was expressed by IA Rehman, Director, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), while speaking at the launch of the book, “Conflict management and vision for a secular Pakistan: a comparative study”, by Dr Moonis Ahmar, Professor of International Relations, University of Karachi, at the Oxford University Press (OUP) head office on Friday evening.
Rehman said that after 9/11, Pakistan had been embroiled in a wave of violence and intolerance. “We have to create conditions where we can practise secularism without any hurdles. No doubt Pakistan has a long way to go to usher in progressive and secular values but the dividends will be highly beneficial. All we need is an earnest effort,” he said.
This book aims at examining the vision for the state of Pakistan as perceived by the founders of the country. It argues that conflicts, particularly those at sectarian and communal levels, can be effectively managed by following a secular approach. The author points out that this would require the adoption of a secular ‘toolkit’ primarily composed of tolerance, neutrality in religious matters, religious freedom, good governance, and the rule of law. This study argues that the issue of religious militancy and violence can be successfully dealt with by introducing a secular order. It aims to develop a secular approach and mindset that will unshackle the process of conflict management in Pakistan, based on the experience of European, Turkish, Indian, and Indonesian experiments with secularism.
Dr Ahmar said that secularism posed no threat to Islam and that it was absolute folly to think that secularism meant atheism.
Other speakers included Babar Ayaz. Both Ayaz and IA Rehman, underscored Moonis Ahmar’s stance that instead of taking up arms one should learn the art of managing a conflict and strive to resolve it in a peaceful manner. Ayaz termed the book highly timely as, he said, it had generated a debate and highlighted the umpteen advantages of secularism.
Dr Ahmar blamed the late ZA Bhutto for having provided space to radical religion-based factions to thrive.
“We stand in dire need of education reform and have to dispense with our class-based education system which breeds class hatred culminating in class conflict and communalism,” said Dr Ahmar.
He lamented that Islamic countries, despite the abundance of petro-dollars and resources, had not been able to take off. He said that Pakistan stood at 144 in the UN Human Development Index (HDI).
“We can resolve all issues provided the state is neutral as neutrality entails secularism,” Dr Ahmar said. He said that even though we were living in the 21st century, our mindset was ultra-orthodox and retrogressive.
Since 9/11, he said 50,000 people had been killed as a result of extremism and religious intolerance all because of the aversion to secularism.
He listed a four-point recipe for redeeming the situation, namely, rule of law; human development; a viable non-class-based education system; and clamping on hate-mongering and divisive demonstrations.
Earlier, Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director, OUP, termed the book highly timely as, she said, society had got involved in Conflicts that there was no time to left to tackle other crucial dilemmas like environmental degradation, poverty, and others.