Tag Archives: Muhammad Ali Jinnah

US Senators write to President Zardari about minority rights

A bipartisan group of US Senators comprising Robert Menendez (D–NJ), Roy Blunt (R–MO), Benjamin Cardin (D–MD), Mark Kirk (R–IL), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D–PA), and Mike Johanns (R–NE) wrote to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari last Friday expressing serious concerns about discrimination and violence against religious minorities in Pakistan and the application of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

In their letter, the Senators quoted Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, from his opening address to the Constitutional Assembly on August 11, 1947:

Discrimination, violence, and persecution on the basis of religion are a direct affront to the fundamental values of freedom and personal choice our nations subscribed to as signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…These violations run counter to the Pakistani constitution and the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, when he stated “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.”

A copy of the signed letter is available below:

 

 

On Pakistan’s Independence Day

August 14th is Pakistan’s Independence Day. In recognition of this holiday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the following statement.

Secretary Hillary ClintonOn behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Pakistan as you celebrate 64 years of independence this August 14.

Since your independence in 1947, you have worked to build a strong nation that honors your distinct culture and history. Day in and day out you demonstrate your unique spirit and resilience as you strengthen security, economic stability, and democratic principles that will benefit all Pakistanis.

As Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said, “If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people.” On this joyous occasion, the United States joins you in celebrating the anniversary of Pakistan’s birth, and we renew our commitment to working with the people of Pakistan to promote greater peace and prosperity for both our people.

Whether you celebrate this special day with family, friends, or loved ones, know that the United States stands with you as a committed partner and friend.

In fact, this is not the first time a US Secretary of State has congratulated Pakistan on the occasion of its independence. On August 11, 1947, Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah spoke before the nation’s first Constituent Assembly where he laid out his vision for Pakistan’s future, one defined by democracy and justice for all citizens.

Muhammad Ali JinnahYou 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…Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time 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.

 

As he concluded his remarks, he read to the gathered Pakistani leaders a statement he had received from US Secretary of State George Marshall.

I have the honour to communicate to you, in Your Excellency’s capacity as President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, the following message which I have just received from the Secretary of State of the United States:

On the occasion of of the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly for Pakistan, I extend to you and to the members of the Assembly, the best wishes of the Government and the people of the United States for the successful conclusion of the great work you are about to undertake.

On this 64th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, we in America celebrate 64 years of friendship with Pakistan, and look forward to a future of continued friendship between our two great nations.

President Zardari Calls for Review of Blasphemy Laws

President Asif Ali Zardari

Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, called for a full review of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and necessary action taken to protect the rights of religious minorities reports the English-language daily Dawn.

MPA Pitanbar Sewani, speaking at the meeting on ‘Communities vulnerable because of their beliefs’, organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said the president had responded to a point raised by him during a meeting held at the Sindh Chief Minister’s House.

He said he had raised the issue with the president that the blasphemy law was being misused and was a cause of harassment to the minorities and that it might be amended.

He said the president said: “The federal government may examine it and take necessary action.” And that action on this was to be taken by the federal law minister.

President Zardari has been a vocal supporter of women’s rights and the rights of religious minorities during his two-year tenure. Speaking on ‘Minorities Day’ in August, President Zardari reminded people of the sacrifices made by Pakistan’s minorities and their vital role in founding and building the nation.

“The Quaid’s vision is contained in his historic speech on this day in 1947 that laid down the foundations of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan in which everyone will have equal rights regardless of creed and gender.”

In his 1947 address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, stated that, “the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.” He went on to express a vision of Pakistan’s future in which “all these angularities of the majority and minority communities…will vanish,” and made clear his belief that Pakistan was founded on the principle that “there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another.”

President Zardari’s call for a review of the blasphemy laws and the protection of religious minorities demonstrates a courageous political move amidst increasingly violent threats from Pakistan’s right-wing religious lobby. That his call to action is a reflection of the vision of Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah is not lost on the world community, and we fully support President Zardari’s move to protect the rights all of Pakistan’s citizens equally under the law.

Constitutional Reforms Are A Move Towards Democratization

In January of this year, we came together to form a new organization, Americans for Democracy and Justice in Pakistan. Our mission is to educate the media, political leaders and the public about the importance of supporting democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country whose history is full of politically-motivated attacks against civilian rulers and outside influences that have destabilized the country, often resulting in takeovers by the military. We want what the Pakistan people want: the rule of law and a government chosen by the people.

Our goal is simple: Support the Pakistani people’s chosen leaders, whomever they may be, against misinformation, misrepresentation and unfounded attempts to undermine their authority. We are American citizens but we still have close ties to our ancestral country and we welcome other Americans who support democracy and justice in Pakistan to join our cause.

To this end, we were particularly pleased to see Farahnaz Ispahani’s column published on The Huffington Post yesterday. Ms. Ispahani is an esteemed Member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, and her reflections on Pakistan’s long struggle for democracy are worthy reading for anyone interested in the current political situation in Pakistan.

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisaged a modern democratic state for South Asia’s Muslims. His entire life represented respect for rule of law, justice and fairness. Starting his political career as an ardent nationalist, he earned the title of “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.” His advocacy of a separate Muslim homeland began only after he was convinced that the Muslim nation would not get fair representation and protection without the creation of Pakistan. The Quaid’s conception of Pakistan was clearly rooted in the notion of a constitutional democracy. It is unfortunate that Pakistan’s leadership was hijacked within a decade of its independence by the dark forces of dictatorship. Within two years of the adoption of the 1956 constitution, the constitutional order was overthrown and the country did not get its first general elections until 1970.

Despite these setbacks, though, there has always been a strong democratic movement in Pakistan that continues today. As we write, the government is debating a package of constitutional reforms to undo anti-democratic measures enacted by dictators, including the infamous 17th Amendment promulgated by Gen. Musharraf.

The process of restoration of democracy would not be complete without the restoration of the 1973 constitution. A nation’s constitution is by definition a living document that can be amended through the constitutionally mandated process, reflecting changes and needs of the times. But Generals Ziaul Haq and Musharraf arbitrarily amended a consensus document to reflect their twisted thinking that only usurpers of power occupying the presidency through coups d’etat could protect the national interest. When President Asif Ali Zardari sought and secured election as President, some critics wrongly and unjustifiably attributed to him the desire to wield absolute power under the dictators’ distorted constitutions. In reality, President Zardari’s election to the highest office in the land was essential to complete the country’s transition to full constitutional rule. Had the presidency remained in the hands of a dictator, instead of being held by someone who has willingly accepted suffering for the sake of the struggle for democracy, the process of recreating consensus on a constitutional package would almost definitely have run into difficulties.

When Pakistan was founded, it was intended as a free and democratic state. History has unfortunately thrown up roadblocks, but we are now at a historic moment. A democratically elected President is preparing to voluntarily undo the expansion and consolidation of power by anti-democratic governments.

We are proud of our homeland, and we have faith in the greatness that it can achieve. For too long we have witnessed dictators and zealots abusing the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Today we celebrate the return of the hope that inspired him and countless others – the birth of a free and democratic Pakistan.