Tuesday, 23 July 2013

'Failed State' Pakistan must become secular

The politicians promised a 'New Pakistan' but have done nothing to end the religious violence plaguing the nation.

2013 Failed State Index world map

Last month, Foreign Policy published its annual failed state index. Like every new list that gets released ranking countries on one criteria or another, I immediately searched to see where my native Pakistan stood and lo and behold there it was, at number 13 and painted in dark red on the map, indicating it to be one of the most critical states in the world, along with places like Somalia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Also last month, an incident was reported from the city of Narowal, where a mob tried to snatch an alleged blasphemer from the police and in the process injured several people, including a policeman. The policeman, DSP Sardar Ahmed Anjum later lost his life in the hospital due to a heart attack suffered during the mob attack. 

The people who before this year's elections chanted slogans such as 'New Pakistan' mostly shy away from naming and shaming the monster of religious extremism which is becoming mainstream and affecting the mindsets of previously tolerant people. As a result, other problems such as the inefficiency of the state, demographic pressures or uneven development are becoming exacerbated; Pakistan cannot begin to address other issues amidst the everyday bomb blasts and vigilante justices carried out in the name of religion.

When the leader of one of the most popular political parties goes around declaring  the minority Ahmadiyya sect to be non-Muslims while talking about justice for the downtrodden and equality of law for all, then that is not a 'New Pakistan'. It is not even the Old Pakistan where western guests such as Neil Armstrong and Jackie Kennedy were welcomed by the people and foreigners roamed freely on the streets. 

When Pakistan's leaders let the people who incite hatred and division take centre stage in a country that is being torn apart precisely for these reasons, how can they not expect Pakistan to be coloured in a 'critical' red? When people who are supposed to lead and present solutions to the current problems are actually part of the problem, what hope is there, except that maybe next year Pakistan will break into the top 10 of the Foreign Policy index of failed states? Religious discrimination is not a phenomenon confined to one leader or one party. People from across various parties, ethnicities and social classes harbour these sentiments, due to which it is becoming harder and harder for Pakistan to challenge those who use religion to legitimise themselves and in the process, delegitimise others.

Hence the real change that Pakistan needs is the removal of religion from the area of politics. It is not because religion is bad, but because politics is. It is dirty, mischievous, competitive, disgusting, corrupt and outright bloody. People will do anything for power and as long as religion is present, it will be abused by those who use it. Removing religion from politics and defying religious extremism is not going to solve all of Pakistan’s problems, but it will certainly make the management and solutions of the said problems a heck of a lot easier. @aden1990

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