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November 9, 2015

‘A secular, democratic Pakistan the only way forward’


November 9, 2015

To be pulled out of the quagmire of religious fundamentalism it finds itself in today, this country needs the right kind of politics but that cannot be achieved by staying apolitical, stated veteran human rights activist and secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), IA Rehman, on Sunday.
Addressing a gathering, organised to ascertain the impact of and ways to counter Talibanisation, terrorism and sectarianism in Pakistan, held at the Arts Council, Rehman said the country continued to look the other way while the tribal areas were systematically being rid of their culture and the dissemination of the occupier’s (Taliban) narrative was being imposed through sophisticated means.
“Instead of providing the tribal area residents quality education and medical care, we established communication with them only through military means.”
As per Rehman’s opinion, the Taliban had succeeded in maintaining cultural autonomy and now they wanted to establish an Islamic country, albeit in accordance with their teachings, but it was a proposition nobody could deny, not even the prime minister, since it was the ruling elite who in the first place set the tone for the country’s politics to be dominated by religion.
“The Left is absent from mainstream politics, while those in the middle are hardly in the middle,” he said while speaking of the absence of political forces which traditionally generated a counter narrative in Pakistan.
It was due to the class-based policies of our political leaders that inequalities arose, and it was only through all-inclusive strategies that we could defeat terrorism, Rehman said, adding that for mindsets to change, there was a dire need for public discourse to be initiated in society.
Presiding over the event, renowned left-wing politician Mairaj Muhammad Khan, drawing a parallel between the rise of Talibanisation in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan war, initiated

during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime, and the rise of hate crimes in India, said, “Narendra Modi and his politics are an extension of Zia-ul-Haq and his policies. People such as these two always promote extremism, no matter where they exist.”
As for the systemic promotion of religious fundamentalism in Pakistan, the veteran activist opined that nothing more than an absolute absence of democratic forces could have come out of a country which was marred by an unstable economy, human rights violations and a history ridden with martial laws.
With reference to the much (mis)quoted August 11, 1947 speech of the Quaid-e-Azam, he said the entire speech was a message to the constituent committee of the time, but the members chose to ignore the speech and adopted the Objectives Resolution as the preamble to the constitution. He demanded for the speech to be made a part of the constitution and, consequently, the national curriculum.
“It was not the forces of the Left - which the state ensured did not survive - who attacked the Faisal and Kamra bases. Instead, it were those who were given a free hand to propagate their politics of hate,” Khan added.
He called for the country to stop differentiating between terror groups, be it the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The event was addressed by the finest literary personalities, journalists and activists belonging to all walks of life including Fehmida Riaz, Justice (Retd) Rasheed A Razvi, Ahfaz-ur-Rehman, Zahida Hina, Sahar Ansari, Mazhar Abbas and Zahid Hussain.
The speakers called for the judiciary to hold every citizen as equal in the eyes of the law, instead of the ones with power to have the space to use it for their nefarious means. “Until the likes of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf are not treated equally by the law, there can never be a change in the country’s politics,” stated Justice Razvi.
They also demanded a change in the national curriculum so as to inculcate in children the idea of inter-faith harmony, whereas, the need to promote secular literature was also suggested.
The speakers also criticised the role of the existing political parties, which they claimed were the ones who indulged in the politics of opportunism instead of fighting for the shrinking space for democracy. “Political parties would have to strengthen democracy within them by focusing on trade unions, journalists' unions and lifting a ban from student unions, for which some hard decisions would have to be taken,” said eminent journalist Mazhar Abbas.

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