Saturday June 22, 2024

Bias and prejudice

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
July 29, 2022

In a recently held meeting with the German parliamentary delegation at the Parliament House Islamabad, participants discussed various topics of mutual interest including bilateral relations.

Germany is one of the most economically stable economies in the world and the only European country that has contributed a lot towards improving bilateral trade with Pakistan after the latter attained GSP Plus status. Our annual imports with the country have reached $1.3 billion, and our exports currently stand at $2.5 billion.

There was a time when under the leadership of the late president Ayub Khan Pakistan lent Rs120 million to (former West Germany, and the German government formally acknowledged Pakistan in an official letter. Later, the once-separated parts of Germany reunited and emerged on the world map as the Federal Republic of Germany, and the eastern part of Pakistan separated from us and became Bangladesh. Even after five decades, Pakistan and Bangladesh do not enjoy the best relations.

A question which keeps echoing in my mind is: when enemy countries of the past can reach out to each other to become economically strong, why is Pakistan still stuck in internal turmoil and uncertainty? In my view, the main reason for this is our behaviour which makes us look at others with prejudice.

At the time of the creation of Pakistan, the non-Muslim population was about one-fourth, and today, according to the 2017 census data, non-Muslim community is less than four percent of the total population; it comprises 2.14 per cent Hindus and 1.22 per cent Christians.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a compassionate leader who reiterated his commitment to protecting the rights of patriotic non-Muslim minorities through practical steps. He appointed Hindu politician Jogendranath Mandal as the law minister. Also, Jagannath Azad was a famous Hindu poet of his time. A few days ago on July 24, the 18th death anniversary of Jagannath, who was born in the famous area of Isa Khel in Pakistan’s Mianwali district, was marked in India.

Azad had a love for Urdu language, and he wrote more than seventy books, which included poetry, poems and travelogues. He is also known as an authority on Allama Iqbal’s life, philosophy and poetry. He was also the president of the Iqbal Memorial Trust in India, and was serving as the president of the Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu (Hind) at the time of his demise.

One of Quaid-e-Azam’s sincere wishes was to give Urdu the status of being the national language of Pakistan, and for him, Jagannath Azad was the best choice for the promotion and development of Urdu in the country. This is the reason he gave the special task of preparing the national anthem of Pakistan to the Hindu poet. Jagannath completed this task in a short period of five days successfully, and the anthem was broadcast on Radio Pakistan on the night of August 14, 1947 after the declaration of independence. It remained the national anthem of Pakistan for about 18 months.

Through his decision, Quaid-e-Azam delivered a clear message to the world that even though Pakistan might have come into existence in the name of religion, there was no space for any kind of discrimination on religious grounds in the country.

History teaches us that ‘history does not forgive anyone’, but our tragedy is that we indulge ourselves in distorting history. We still cannot understand the real purpose behind the creation of Pakistan. Sir Ganga Ram, Sardar Bhagat Singh, Jogendranath Mandal and Jagannath Azad are among the countless great personalities of our glorious past, but we have forgotten them only because of our prejudice.

I have already discussed with the National Assembly speaker to celebrate the upcoming 75th anniversary of independence in a unique way to not only identify our past mistakes of the last seven decades but also chalk out a plan to rectify them.

This year, during the period between August 11 and August 14, all Pakistanis should make an effort to acknowledge all our national heroes including Jogendranath Mandal, S.P Singha, Jagannath Azad, Sir Ganga Ram, Sardar Bhagat Singh, regardless of their religious affiliations.

We must analyze the reasons that are pushing us backwards every year. We need to figure out why Pakistan lags behind when other countries that achieved independence after us have transformed themselves into strong economies. We need to ensure that our society is free from bias and prejudice.

The writer is a member of the

National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

He tweets @RVankwani