It’s always been clear to the average, forward-thinking Pakistani that the pervasive narrow-mindedness caused by ideology is the biggest tragedy of modern Pakistan. This ideology, a relic of a bygone era has always been an obstacle in the path of Pakistan’s growth and development.
Manipulation by the media, religious sensationalism, an outdated and misconstrued history taught in the public education system combined with a general lack of awareness has limited and even eliminated independent thought from Pakistani society at large. And this has contributed to direct hostility against modern laws and systems.
Religious overzealousness, social conservatism and Hindu-enmity are some attributes of narrow-mindedness most commonly exhibited. However, strict adherence to these attributes is exactly what qualifies a person as a “patriot.” Very few will question this stance for fear of being labeled as an infidel.
The land of Pakistan, including today’s India and Bangladesh, has had to deal with an identity crisis since its tumultuous birth in 1947. Though Pakistan was created on the basis of the Two-Nation theory (Muslims and Hindus are two different Nations), Jinnah declared unequivocally that religion was a personal matter of the people, and that state had nothing to do with this. No one is Hindu, Muslim, or Christian but Pakistani. But the secular type of state was against the interests of the establishment, so the successors of Jinnah remodeled Pakistan into a religious state far removed from that of a secular one.
73 years have passed since Pakistan was created, but the identity crisis still prevails. And throughout this storied history we have seen that whenever a wave of enthusiasm for change is seen among the masses, ideology, often religious, gets in the way.
No one can deny the Pakistani society’s conservatism. In the midst of coronavirus, conservative beliefs have agitated the Government. If people are asked to stay in their homes, their answer is “This is a satanic conspiracy against Islam to stop preachers from the true path.”
Pakistan has seldom made any internal or foreign decisions considering the interests of the country. We let our policies be dictated by religious scholars instead. We dragged Pakistan into the Afghan War, accepted the drug-culture and millions of immigrants just because of Ideology.
Emphasis is given to a citizen’s Muslim identity rather than their Pakistani identity. Consequently, the majority of Pakistanis don’t think of being Pakistani but rather they think of being Muslim. And every major decision taken is weighed against the scales of religious acceptance rather than the scale for the common progress of Pakistani society. An example being the reluctance of sections of society to stay at home for their daily prayers. The spike in Coronavirus can be directly attributed to this among other reasons.
Arab nations have had better bilateral relations with non-Muslim states than Pakistan. They maintain these relations in accordance with the interests of the state. However, in Pakistan, it seems that even uttering “Israel” is enough to invite scorn from the Mullahs. Why?
Controlling conservatives and restricting public prayers are not difficult tasks. It looks like there is a sinister political power in play here. Bringing about development and prosperous living is the foremost responsibility of any state and the basic characteristic of the social contract that exists between the state and its citizens. The state should first point out the hurdles in its development and carry out actions to root the problem out, for the betterment of the people.
Meanwhile, we should also realize and admit that narrow-mindedness is one of the biggest deterrents to Pakistan’s development. Social institutions such as schools and madrasas can effectively help to overcome the problem, whereas the media should play an even more significant role to spread awareness. Pakistan already has paid a big price due to religious ideology. If we do not gradually withdraw from the dogmatic thinking plaguing our minds, we might lose what is left.
About the author:
Ahsan Aslam is student of BS Political Science at Quaid I Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan