Posts Tagged ‘Imran Khan’

Pakistan – improvement in the rights of religious minorities under Imran Khan’s government, 2018-2020

June 3, 2021
There are 2-3 million Pakistani Christians, about 1.3% of the country’s population.

Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers

Webinar: Protecting the Rights of Religious Minorities in the Age of COVID-19

with Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine,

Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs in Punjab, Pakistan.

28th May, 2020 – notes by Usama Hasan

Minister: 

  1. We have been in power for 2 years.  In Punjab [Pakistan’s most populous province, with over half of Pakistan’s population of approximately 220 million people], we have achieved gains for minorities that had not happened in the previous 70 years. [In 2019, Pakistan celebrated 72 years since Independence.]

  2. The new Government of Punjab introduced a Minority Empowerment Package within its first 100 days. This has now been passed.  It addresses the following:

    • Education – access to universities, where there is a 2% quota for minorities.

    • Prisons – reprieve for inmates if they turn to religion & reading scripture, on a par with Muslims.

    • Hate speech – control of.  This is prevalent in Pakistan: incitement of religious hatred.

    • Previously, religious subjects were Islamic Studies only.  Now, 60% is ethics & 40% according to one’s own religion, eg Bible for Christians, Gita for Hindus, Granth for Sikhs.

    • Religious tourism: our religious heritage was neglected for 70 years, including religious tourism & pilgrimage.  Eg St. Thomas, disciple of Jesus, settled in Taxila for a while.  Some 200-year-old churches had fallen into disrepair. These are now being repaired and maintained.

    • Jobs for minorities – we have a 5% government jobs quota for minorities, secured by the previous minister Shahbaz Shareef, but this was not being fulfilled.  But minorities are not achieving university degrees (cf. 1 above).

  3. Punjab, most populous province in Pakistan, is the first to achieve this milestone of 2% quota for religious minorities in HE & 5% in government jobs.  Other provinces are following example set by Punjab.

  4. In Punjab, we set up a board to remove religious hate speech from our educational textbooks.  The hate speech was leading to many blasphemy cases also being brought against people from religious minorities.

  5. Punjab was the first province to set up a high-level commission on forced conversion to Islam, especially of girls for marriage. The Federal government followed us to set up a national mechanism.  The commission assesses whether a person is mature enough to change religions, especially for marriage, and whether the conversion is forced or of a free will.

  6. Many forced conversions happened in underdeveloped, underprivileged, slum-like areas.  We set up a ‘modern village’ in Christian-dominated Yuhannabad, population 300,000.  This will eventually become a modern city. Funds have been earmarked for roads, water, sanitation, etc.

  7. The funds for this development were doubled by Imran Khan’s government from Rs. 500 million [£2.5 million] to Rs. 1 billion [£5 million].

  8. After Imran Khan’s government released Asia Bibi, we have reduced the current blasphemy cases from hundreds to 20-25 only.  This is by introducing safeguards against frivolous blasphemy cases that were increasing before in number.

  9. With help from the EU, we have improved our human rights record.  We have district-level human rights committees now, including minority representation, to assess local human rights issues.  This was part of the agreement for GSP+, a trade agreement between the EU and Pakistan.

  10. When we have cases of religious discrimination reported, I visit the place personally.

  11. Pakistan has about 40 24/7 Christian TV channels, unregistered with the regulator PEMRA.  But the government has never taken any action against them.

  12. These are some of our achievements & humble contributions in Punjab.  This government has another 3 years, so we hope to achieve more by the grace of God:  reduce discrimination & hate-speech, improve tolerance and create a more harmonious society.

  13. We think the Marrakesh Declaration is a great resource.  We wish to have a major interfaith conference in Pakistan.  We proposed an interfaith forum in Punjab, which is in the process of being legally registered, & to have a major interfaith dialogue conference in Lahore.  Our interfaith policy is being developed, influenced by the Marrakesh Declaration, with the input of religious minorities.

  14. The Imran Khan government announced that all nationalised religious schools would be returned to the respective religious minorities. This includes the Ahmadis.

  15. There is a current blasphemy case involving Ahmadis – we are dealing with it sensitively.

  16. Covid-19 & religious minorities: there was some scapegoating of the Tablighi Jamaat early in the crisis – they were accused of having brought covid-19 to Pakistan and spread it here.  But this scapegoating was quickly eliminated – we have no concept of majority/minority with regard to covid, since we are all in this together.

  17. With covid, our curve in Pakistan is still rising and has not flattened yet. We are keen that structural discrimination against minorities is not increased or enhanced because of the covid crisis.

  18. Regarding women’s and youth empowerment, our work on higher education covers some of that.

  19. We have also offered 5,000 people (60% youth, 40% women) via 177 training centres in Punjab, free skills development & professional/technical training programme, with a sufficient monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 [£10].  We then provide them with Rs. 500,000 [£2,500] grant each for business start-up, entrepreneurship & development.

  20. Sadly, no Christian organisation or country has contacted us about St. Thomas’ heritage in Pakistan, eg Taxila & for the last 72 years: there has been no major contact from the Vatican or Church of England.  In contrast, embassies of Buddhist-majority countries have helped to fund the preservation of Buddhist sites.
Pakistan’s flag: the green represents the country’s Muslims, whilst the white strip on one edge represents religious minorities.

 Muslim Modernism – A Case For A New Pakistan

August 8, 2019

Muslim Modernism: A Case For A New Pakistan

Review & Discussion of the book by Nadeem Farooq Paracha
(Vanguard Books, 2019)

Review & Discussion by Imam Dr Usama Hasan

Bismillah. I recommend this concise and readable book, “Muslim Modernism – A Case for Naya [New] Pakistan” by the leading Karachi-based Pakistani journalist, Nadeem Farooq Paracha, for those interested in the field, as it highlights key issues for debate. Paracha’s main points are that the Islam/state relationship was understood by different Pakistani political leaders, roughly as follows:

 

(i) 1900-1950s: “Muslim Modernism” – Iqbal and Jinnah; continued by General Ayyub Khan and others. “Muslim Modernism” is a 19th-century idea, whose evolution I also traced, discussing similar concepts in my essay, From Dhimmitude to Democracy (Quilliam, 2016). In a nutshell, “Muslim Modernism” could be described as embracing all the positive aspects of modernity, including beneficial science and technology, democracy and national self-determination, whilst remaining faithful to the positive principles and practices of Islam.

For illustration, both Paracha and I feature this famous quote from Jinnah, founding father of Pakistan, at the inception of the state in 1947:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State … We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State … Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

(ii) 1960s-70s: “Islamic socialism” – Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir. The cleric Mawdudi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, critiqued this idea by saying that Islam was inherently committed to social justice, so that the “socialism” part was redundant.  However, many islamist leaders were inconsistent, not applying the same critique to terms such as “Islamic democracy,” that they used themselves.  Their defence was that Bhutto’s “socialism” was a cover for godless, atheist communism, and therefore could not be Islamised.  The “Islamic socialists” argued that “Muslim communism,” rooted in some of the strictly-egalitarian, social and economic teachings of the Prophet, was important, as discussed in this 2016 New York Times article. (I have a 90-year-old relative in Karachi, who is basically a “Wahhabi communist,” and committed to strict egalitarianism in religion, society, economics and politics.)

(iii) 1980s-90s: Islamism – General Zia-ul-Haq, influenced by Mawdudi, Dr Israr Ahmad and others. [Paracha says that Zia, as a young army officer, used to distribute Mawdudi’s booklets within the barracks.  However, this was disputed by a senior JI leader to whom I spoke.  It is certainly true that Dr Israr was a major TV preacher during the Zia era.] This was a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that especially emphasised its political aspects: Zia justified his support of the Afghan military jihad against the Soviet invasion on its basis.  Zia’s Islamisation policies also included educational aspects, such as the Pakistan Hijra Council’s translations into English of medieval Islamic texts about mathematics, science and technology.  Zia’s cultural “Islamisation” led to many restrictions on the once-thriving Pakistani arts scene.

(iv) 1990s-2000s: “Enlightened moderation” – General Pervez Musharraf, who attempted to reverse some of Zia’s influence but was largely pre-occupied by the US-led “War on Terror”, in which Pakistan has been a willing and unwilling ally, after 9/11.  Just as the medic-turned-preacher, Dr Israr Ahmad, had arguably been one of Zia’s most influential clerics, Musharraf brought in Javed Ghamidi, a traditional scholar with a strong rationalist outlook who was forced into self-imposed exile since 2010, firstly in Malaysia and now in the USA, by security threats from Taliban-style militias in Pakistan.

(v) 2000s-10s: a return to “Muslim Modernism” – General Raheel Sharif and possibly Imran Khan.  It may be that the current rulers of Pakistan are once again trying to recapture the spirit of Jinnah, according to Paracha.  However, since the book was written, General Sharif has resigned as Pakistan’s military leader to head up the Saudi-led international Muslim military effort against ISIL.

Imran Khan, being a powerful blend of Eastern and Western influences, much like Iqbal, Jinnah and Benazir before him, and having fathered two children with the English socialite and activist Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith) is a complex leader placed in an extraordinarily-complex situation as current PM of Pakistan. (Just a few years ago in 2016, Imran Khan helped Jemima’s brother Zac Goldsmith’s campaign as Mayor of London candidate against the eventual winner, Sadiq Khan, also of Pakistani origin. These examples illustrate Pakistani influence around the world, e.g. via the million-strong Britons of Pakistani origin.)

Seemingly-trivial details often mask huge controversies.  For example, the word “Islamic” in the official name, “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” was dropped for some years, but later restored after a tense debate about the implications of these terms for religion/state relationships.

For another example, despite his otherwise-brilliant analysis, Paracha makes a basic error when he refers to zakat (an alms-tax regarded as one of the five, basic pillars of Islam) as a “voluntary” tax.  This is perhaps on the opposite extreme to the fundamentalist position espoused by the influential Muslim jurist Qaradawi, who describes zakat, in his Fiqh al-Zakat or Jurisprudence of Zakat, as a unique, divinely-revealed system that is perfect in every way, as though the Bible and other scriptures have nothing similar and as though Muslim jurists have never differed about the voluminous details of zakat. The simple truth is that, similarly to other basic practices in Islam and other religions, zakat has individual as well as communal and political aspects, some voluntary and others enforceable by political authority, all of which have been hotly debated and disputed by jurists and politicians throughout the history of Islam, and these aspects and differences should be acknowledged.  The clearest example of this is the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr’s war on the newly-Islamised Arabian tribes who refused to continue paying the zakat for political and economic reasons after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The relationship(s) between Islam and the modern nation-state is one of the key issues of our time. There are about 50 Muslim-majority states in the world, each grappling with these issues in different ways. Pakistan’s experience in this regard is instructive in many ways, and on various levels.  Paracha’s brief and accessible book is a good start for interested readers, and his basic thesis, that Pakistan (and presumably, other Islamic republics and Muslim-majority countries) must adopt an appropriate form of “Muslim Modernism”, deserves to be taken seriously.

 

Usama Hasan

London, UK

6th Zul Hijja 1440 / 7th August 2019

(minor modifications: 7.12.1440 / 8.8.2019)