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Wonderful job Mr Anees Jillani...

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    Wonderful job Mr Anees Jillani...

    Time to cultivate a culture of tolerance
    Anees Jillani
    I had planned to write this week's column on something totally different but cannot help writing about the sectarian violence in the Islamic Republic after seeing pictures in the papers of so many bloody bodies lying in various mosques all over the country. I am in a peculiar situation when it comes to the sectarian divide. My mother is a Shia and my father is a Sunni. And I have never seen them arguing over this issue. What to talk of my parents, this issue has never cropped up in their respective in-laws houses. Both families are respectful towards the other sect and there have been several subsequent inter-sect marriages since the time my parents got married.
    Those religious bigots who feel that members of a rival sect should be wiped out from the face of this earth need to be reminded that the founder of this country, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a Shiite. And lest we forget, his wife was a Parsi. We may try to ignore it all our lives but the Quaid also had a daughter who, what to talk of living in Pakistan, even refuses to visit this country and is living in New York. And Quaid-i-Azam's grandson, Wadia, is among the top 50 billionaires of India. Why is Quaid-i-Azam's family refusing to live in the country of his creation? It is mainly because they are opposed to a theocratic system of government.
    I was literally speechless when an ambassador from a friendly country asked me where would the Quaid like to live in South Asia if he were alive? The Quaid in no event could ever be visualised as struggling to make Pakistan "Talibanised". He was always against communalism and was always against making Pakistan a theocratic state. It is indeed a tragedy that he died within the first year of Pakistan's creation and the country started sliding down towards theocracy. Ayub Khan's martial law in 1958 arrested the process but General Ziaul Haq's martial law in 1977 destroyed the very foundations of this country and we all are reaping the harvest of his misadventures.
    We all fail to understand a very basic fact about religion: it is an extremely personal matter for every human being in this world. We all have our own interpretations of religions based on what we are most interested in and what our mothers have taught us about it.
    Although Karl Marx (1818-1883) thought that religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature and it is the opium of the people, there are millions of others who believe that man is born to believe. But there is one thing for sure, religion offers consolation to the slaves which earth does not provide. Regardless of its nature, however, no person should have the right to impose his or her own explanation on others. And this is exactly what is happening in Pakistan and in many other countries.
    The mistake that Pakistan is making since General Zia's martial law is that we have hyped up the religious fervor of the whole country. Once this enthusiasm reaches a certain stage, intolerance of others' points of view is natural to set in. And this fanaticism eventually results in what we are experiencing in Pakistan and what we are seeing in India to a limited extent since the Ayodhya Ekta Yatra led by LK Advani and MM Joshi in 1991. Such fanaticism cannot survive in a heterogeneous country like Pakistan or India and can literally lead to the disintegration of the country in a short time.
    It may be possible to make countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Israel, theocratic because they are homogenous to a great extent. However, what do you do in a state of 140 million people where even the sectarian minorities number millions? It is not possible to physically remove them from the face of this earth or expel them or even convert them. Firing at each others' mosques will also not resolve the dilemma.
    If Pakistan is to survive as a nation, then the federal and the provincial governments, the political parties, the newspapers and everyone else concerned will have to take urgent deliberate steps to lower the religious temperature in the country. This is not done by imposition of curfew, stationing of police at religious places of worship, by banning religious parties, and by giving religious leaders guards at taxpayers' cost. It is only feasible by separating state and religion. Everyone should be free to practice his or her own religion and the state should not interfere in it. But the state should stay away from propagating the interpretations of any sect. Why should a Shiite pay to the state through taxes for propagating the Sunni views, and vice versa; or for that matter, why should a Christian or a Hindu or a Parsi businessman pay for views ridiculing his religion?
    A majority of the world's states are successfully practicing this concept and are thus progressing. Wherever religion is brought about in the forefront, whether it is in Ayodhya in India, or East Timor in Indonesia, or Bosnia or Kosovo in Europe, or Karachi or Jhang in Pakistan, you end up facing an explosive situation which eventually results in a bombshell. And the latter explosion is potentially more lethal than a nuclear one because it breaks up the country.
    General Zia had a one-item agenda during his 11-year rule which was to perpetuate his regime. Religion was simply used for this sustenance. "The maker of idols is never an idolater", and nowhere can this Chinese proverb be substantiated with facts more potently than in Pakistan. Religious leaders threaten westerners in Pakistan but regularly spend the summer in Europe and the United States; their children do business in the West. The latest gadgetry around these religious scholars is invented, designed and manufactured by the infidels. The youth of this country is urged to wage a jihad against the Indians in Kashmir but we do not know of a single leader whose son drank the nectar of martyrdom in Kashmir: all the mujahideen are sons of poor masses. The religious leaders have no income but they all travel in the latest Pajeros which cost six million rupees a piece. Where is the money coming from?
    It is about time that the people of Pakistan see through this farce and refuse to become pawns in this useless sectarian strife. It is obviously everyone's duty to fight against this fanaticism but the greatest obligation lies on the shoulders of the state not to accentuate this rising intolerance by perpetuating unnecessary religious fervor; it is a different matter if this is deliberately done to divert people's attention and to offer it as an alternative comfort to the distressed masses so that they do not question the state's inability to offer them any comforts.

    Hi friends,
    This is Mr Anees Jillani's article which published in The News on Wednesday. I appreciate Mr Jillani's work and at the same time sorry for putting it straight on the GupShup forum. It was so impressive I just can't hold myself to show it to my those friends who couldn't read it.

    Thank you. The article was very well written and descriptive.