Friday June 21, 2024

Equal treatment to minorities in Pakistan

By Zafar Alam Sarwar
September 22, 2019

The people of Australia appreciated the 19 February 1948 broadcast talk of the founder of Pakistan when he talked plainly about regard and tolerance of other creeds.

“We follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we’re members of the brotherhood of Islam in which we all are equal in right, dignity and self-respect, and, consequently, we’ve a special and very deep sense of unity; but make no mistake, Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it, Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds and we welcome in closest association with all those who, of whatever creed, are themselves willing and ready to play their part as true and loyal citizens of Pakistan.”

In the same context worth-remembering is the reply of the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah to Lord Mountbatten’s address in the Constituent Assembly on August 14, 1947.

He said the tolerance and goodwill showed by Emperor Akbar to all the non-Muslims was not of recent origin.

“It dates back (more than) 13 centuries ago when our Prophet (peace be upon him) not only by words but by deeds treated the Jews and Christians with the most tolerance and regard and respect for their faiths and beliefs. The whole history of Muslims, wherever they ruled, is replete with these humane and great principles which should be followed and practiced.”

Inspired by the leadership and character of the Quaid-i-Azam, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto bore in mind many of his significant speeches, including the one at a public meeting in Chittagong about a month later wherein he emphasised that “brotherhood, equality and fraternity of man were the basic points of our religion, culture and civilization.”

Like other Pakistani statesmen, the Pakistan People’s Party founder believed Islam stands for justice, equality, fair play, toleration and even generosity to non-Muslims who may be under our protection. They are like brothers to us and, as the father of the nation declared, the citizens of the State. This spirit of humanity prevailed upon the founding members of the party while its manifesto was being prepared.

How remarkably relevant is the Press conference of Mohammad Ali Jinnah at New Delhi a month before Pakistan came into being!

“Minorities to which ever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They’ll have their protection with regard to their religion, their faith, their life, their culture. They’ll be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. They’ll have their rights and privileges and, no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibilities also, and they’ll play their part in the affairs of the State. As long as the minorities are loyal to the State and owe true allegiance and as long as I’ve any power, they need no apprehension of any kind.”

One can recall the speech of the Quaid as Governor-General at a rally at the University Stadium in Lahore two-and-a-half months after the establishment of Pakistan. “The tenets of Islam enjoin on every Musalman to give protection to his neighbours and to the minorities regardless of caste and creed.

Despite the treatment which is being meted out to the Muslim minorities in India, we must make it a matter of our prestige and honour to safeguard the lives of the minority communities and to create a sense of security among them.” The father of the nation impressed upon every Musalman to avoid retaliation and to exercise restraint, because retaliation and violence of law and order will ultimately result in weakening the very foundation of the edifice people have cherished to erect.

The policy and performance of the government as regards the minorities have to be gauged by the yardstick of principles of democracy in the light of the Islamic teachings and vision of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.