Secularism as a model for Pakistan
By Aamir Butt
There are arguments in favour and against Pakistan being an Islamic republic.  Some of the arguments take strength from the Pakistan movement.
I don’t think such arguments can be applied to justify the mistake of Pakistan being an Islamic republic. Islam was indeed the relying cry of Pakistan movement but in the context of facing an overwhelming Hindu majority. Now that within Pakistan we have an overwhelming Muslim majority.  Dragging Islam into running of state can only cause disunity and discord between Muslims which  can  even be worse to the non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan.
Besides changing the ideological basis of Pakistan we need to abolish all laws that use religious doctrine as their basis. Laws, such  as blasphemy law  have no place in the modern world.
If the state  declares itself secular it will not have any business in deciding the religion of its subjects, in terms of deciding who is a Muslim and who is not. Within this context the state is to declare that all citizens will be equal regardless of their religion, religious practices, beliefs and gender orientations.  This will entail revision of laws that discriminate against women in the context of legal testimony, inheritance, marriage etc.
National Identity
This is related to the above. Our national identity cannot be defined by religion for this would exclude non-Muslims who have as much right of being Pakistani as we have.
Also we should have a national identity separate from the Arabs who’s cultural values should not be accepted as synonymous with Islam.
Provincial Autonomy
I think it is time to move away from a strong centre and to devolve power to the provinces. Plenty of models exist and can be referred to.
Foreign Relations
These have been the cause of  much of our problems.  The persistent state of war with India and the bad relations with Afghanistan have created real and perceived security concerns.  As a result military expenditure has consumed the bulk of available and scarce resources while projecting the military in the forefront of national importance. This has forced Pakistan into alliances with imperial powers like the US and thus made her vulnerable to exploitation.
Some argue that we should switch alliance from the US to other countries like China.
Any political party that would do any good needs to demonstrate that it has clear plans regarding these issues. Just declaring that relations with India will be improved is meaningless without any mechanism of how they can be improved.
In my opinion Pakistan should unilaterally repudiate the claim on Kashmir.
Pakistan should stop insisting the application of UN resolutions on Kashmir in the current form; announce de-militarization of whole of Kashmir and offer India to hold tripartite talks with Pakistan, India and representatives of Kashmir in deciding the future of Kashmir. The options to be discussed should include independence of Kashmir. Any decision or options can be put to plebiscite in the state of Kashmir.
As regards the Western border Pakistan needs to negotiate with Afghanistan the chronic border dispute and should sincerely offer to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
The urgent problem to discuss is land reforms and agricultural taxation.
Only by real and enforced land reforms will reduce  the hold of the Jagirdars/feudal lords on the lives of the people and national politics can be broken.
One unfortunate consequence of the creation of Pakistan was that it made feudalism much stronger. I am afraid any party that does not have concrete plans to tackle the feudal system will soon be just another instrument of the feudals.
It is beyond belief that agricultural income is not subject to income tax!!
As the feudal families have also setup industries they can get away from paying tax by showing that income as agricultural income as well.
Other then above many different models of economy can be used, perhaps the micro-economic system used in Bangladesh is worth a look. 
It is great that emphasis is being put on education. It was mentioned that Islam places so much emphasis on education and yet we neglect it. I think Islam places emphasis on Ilam (comprehensive knowledge) and not taleme (which can be translated as education).
While in the current situation we will do well  even if we can achieve basic literacy among the people, in the long term we should keep in mind that a complete overhaul of how knowledge is dispensed as required.
The world of Islam took a wrong turn when it subscribed to the recommendations of Ghazali and completely shunned rationalism in favour of divine mysticism.
One of the greatest Muslim thinkers of all times Ibn Rushd (Averroes in the West) tried to counter this but was hounded out. It was in fact the  West listened to him and reformed Christianity to make it receptive to progressive scientific thought.
It is ironic that the map of Western renaissance was drawn by a Muslim scholar who made it for his fellow Muslims who rejected him.
We need to reverse this process in favour of the philosophy propagated by Ibn Rushd.
This is no easy task since much of this divine mysticism has over the centuries become a part and parcel  of religion to be taken as the very word of God and no one can stand against the word of God. 
So will this make Pakistan a Godless state?
No, for there will be no restriction on personal religion and certainly people who live in secular states of the West can practice Islam in the way they want.
So can any political party win elections on the basis of these changes?
The answer is no.
If by any miracle these changes are put in place will it change Pakistan into a land of prosperity and happiness?
These are just the starting point for getting somewhere.  There is unlikely to be any overnight change and there is no guarantee that this is a recipe for certain success. However with these steps there is a fair chance of success and without them there is no hope.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. The ideas are nice but if we really look forward to the vision or goal of a prosperous Pakistan, we need to think more and then start converting these ideas into action in our individual lives and then in the lives of people surrounding us.