You are free to go to your temples…

You are free; you are free to go to your temples…
It was Salman Taseer in 1967 who welcomed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto when he left the government of General Ayub and came to Lahore to form the Pakistan People’s Party. Salman Taseer, who was himself a student at the time, was there to sing the taglines for “Jeye Bhutto”. This was the beginning of Salman Taseer’s long journey with Pakistan People’s Party. And it was Salman Taseer again in 1986 who came to greet the daughter of Pakistan’s first elected Prime Minister. He was the official spokesperson for young Benazir Bhutto. His words, on her arrival still resonate in my mind:
“A new realism is dawning on these people who have no people, not even a cat or a dog behind them. I saw people running around the Grand Trunk Road for miles barefoot just to get a glimpse of Benazir Bhutto. She is their Joan of Arc, with courage, credentials and she is attractive.”
But I commend the Salman Taseer for strongly defending Asia BiBi. Salman Taseer’s brave stand exposed the hidden extremism in Pakistan. Before his murder only Taliban’s were known extremists and terrorists. As governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer visited Asia Bibi at Sheikhupura jail in 2010 who was wrongly accused of blasphemy. In a televised press conference, with Asia sitting veiled beside him, Salman Taseer had appealed to the president of Pakistan to pardon her.
A few weeks later, on 4 January, 2011, Salman Taseer was murdered in broad daylight by his own security guard. In the middle of the busy Kohsar Market in Islamabad, Mumtaz Qadri fired at the governor 27 times at close range. Overnight, Qadri emerged as a hero to millions of people. Giving himself up to the authorities, Qadri told the police that he did not regret killing Salman Taseer – it was his religious duty.
Khadim Rizvi served as a clerk in a small local mosque. He was an employee of the government and a marginal figure, but even then he was known for his controversial lectures. As a preacher, Khadim Rizvi often glorified Salman Taseer’s murder. He was ultimately dismissed from his work as a cleric over the sermons which praised Qadri as a martyr. He turned toward politics and founded the TLP.
Then, during 2018 elections, claiming to be defenders of Prophet Mohammed’s honour, this small populist party won more than two million votes. Throughout the campaign, their posters and banners carried pictures of Mumtaz Qadri, Idolising him as a martyr of the cause.
The deep rift within Pakistani society between the so-called religious and openly secular, between western liberal elites and ordinary Pakistanis threatens to further destabilise Pakistan. Pakistan remains grappling with a serious identity crisis. The Urdu interpretation of secularism is “no religion”, sometimes referred to as “anti-religion”. Supporters of a neutral religious space are thus hindered by the perceived hostility of this neutrality towards Islam.
Salman Taseer, was a rare Pakistani politician. He was an avowed liberal, a fierce opponent of extremism, and a staunch advocate for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Salman Taseer’s blood gave life to the dying words of father of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Long live Salman Taseer!

first civil war of islam and rise of extremism

In 657 AD, on the banks of the Euphrates River in Siffin, the current Syrian town of Raqqa, two Muslim armies confronted each other. One was led by Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib and the other by Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, the governor of Syria, appointed under the reign of Caliph Usman bin Affan. The conflict began when Usman ibn Affan, the third caliph, was assassinated at the end of a siege upon his house by Muslim insurgents. Ali ibn Abi Talib was chosen as the fourth caliph by the Muslim after the assassination of Usman. Muawiyah from the same tribe as Usman blamed Ali for failing to punish those involved in the killing.

The two armies encamped in Siffin for almost three months, before launching into a real war. The battle lasted three days, the number of people killed fell, and Ali’s army seemed to win, when Muawiyah played one final ploy, on the advice of, Amr ibn al-Aaṣ he ordered his soldiers to put pages of the Quran on their lances and asked Ali to allow the dispute to be resolved by reference to Quranic rules. When the army of Muawiyah raised copies of the holy Koran on their lances and demanded to go to the Quran, regardless of Ali’s opposition, most of his army asked for arbitration.

The Syrians chose Amr bin al-Aas as their leader, to speak on behalf of Muawiyah. Ali Ibn Abi Talib wanted Malik al-Ashtar or Abdullah bin Abbas to be appointed to arbitrate for the people of Kufa, but the Qurra (“Quran readers”) protested strongly. They appointed Abu Musa al-Ashari as their arbiter, who they had appointed as governor of Kufa during the Caliphate of Usman Ibn Affan after the deposition of the governor of Usman. Ali found it appropriate to accept this choice to ward off the bloody strife in his army.

Amr bin al-Aas convinced Abu Musa al-Ashari to consider it necessary to deprive Ali and Muawiya of the caliphate and give the Muslims the right to elect the caliph. As the time for announcing the verdict approached, the people belonging to both parties assembled. Amr bin al-Aas asked Abu Musa to take the initiative to announce the decision he was promoting. Thus Abu Musa al-Ashari announced the removal of Imam Ali from power, but when it came to Amr bin al-Aas, instead of announcing the removal of Mu’awiya from power, he confirmed the dismissal of Ali by Abu Musa, and appointed Mu’awiya as the Caliph.

Ali refused to accept the verdict of him stepping down and for an election to be held. Most vociferous opponents of Ali in his camp were the very same people who had forced Ali to appoint their arbitrator, the Qurra. It is generally believed that the emergence of Kharijites can be traced back to the arbitration event. They declared Ali and Muawiyah to be infidels and vowed to fight against both. Later, in 661, Ali Ibn Abi Talib was stabbed on 19 Ramadan while praying in the Kufa Grand Mosque. The Kharijite, Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljim, attacked him during the Fajr prayer, inflicting death upon him with a poisoned sword. Muawiyah then gained recognition as a caliph through his Syrian supporters and his ally Amr bin al-Aas, who conquered Egypt from the governor of Ali Ibn Abi Talib in 658.

The Kharijite movement was known for its members’ fanaticism and staunch opposition to the Muslim ruling establishment, which later developed into an anarchist movement that plagued successive governments as late as that of Harun al-Rashid who died fighting them. Kharijites considered the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab to be legitimate and had a high regard for them, but believed that Usman had deviated from the path of justice and truth in the latter half of his caliphate and hence was liable to be killed or displaced. They also believed that Ali Ibn Abi Talib committed a grave sin when he agreed to the arbitration with Mu’awiyah, although he too was legitimate caliph before the arbitration.

Kharijites also asserted that faith without accompanying deeds is useless and anyone who goes against injunctions of religion is an apostate and a polytheist and must repent to re-enter the religion else he would be subject to death. They thus deemed Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Mu’awiya and all those who agreed to the arbitration as disbelievers, as they had breached the rules of the Quran. Many Kharijites groups believed that the act of sinning is analogous to kufr and that every grave sinner was regarded as a kafir unless they repent.

The Kharijites uprising against the Abbasid Caliphate between 866 and 896, centred in the districts of Mosul and in the province of al-Jazira, the rebellion lasted for approximately thirty years. They were eventually defeated in 896 after the caliph al-Mu’tadid undertook several campaigns to re-establish Caliphate authority in the area.

After almost 1400 years city of Raqqa and Mosul faced the similar situation. In the course of the Syrian civil war, the city of Raqqa was captured by the Syrian opposition and later by the Islamic State in 2013.Islamic State took complete control of Raqqa by 13 January 2014 and declared it its capital. Islamic State proceeded to execute Alawites and suspected supporters of Bashar al-Assad in the city and destroyed the city’s Shia mosques and Christian churches such as the Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs, which was then converted into an Islamic State police headquarters and an Islamic centre. Most non-Sunni religious structures in the city were destroyed, most notably the Shia Uwais al-Qarni Mosque. The Christian population of Raqqa, estimated at 10% of the total population prior to the outbreak of the civil war, largely fled the city.

At the start of the 21st century, Mosul and its surroundings had an ethnically and religiously diverse population; the majority of Mosul’s population were Arabs, with Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Kurds, Yazidis, in addition to other, smaller ethnic minorities. From a religious standpoint, the dominant Sunni Islam was the largest religion.

On June 10, 2014, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant took control of Mosul, following the escape of Iraqi troops. Once the home of at least 70,000 Assyrian Christians, perhaps none remained in Mosul after the takeover of Islamic State; all those who remained had to pay a tax to remain Christians and lived under the constant threat of violence. The indigenous Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamian ancestry, who have a history in the region dating back over 5,000 years, suffered their Christian churches and monasteries being vandalized and burned down, their ancient Assyrian heritage sites dating back to the Iron Age destroyed, and their homes and possessions seized by Islamic State.

The Islamic State is not a new movement or sect; it dates back to the first civil war of Islam. The Kharijites were the first cult in Islamic history which seceded from the Muslim community and were known for their practice of ex-communication and attacking other Muslims who did not accept their interpretation of the Quran. Since that time, the Kharijis have become synonymous with extremism.


Freedom to sin

Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [Prophet] compel people to believe?

Al Yunus, the Quran

Why, then most Muslim societies have a strong tendency towards, coercion in religion? Sin and crime are two different things. Sin is defined by God. Crime is defined by civil codes. Crime is defined as an action that constitutes an offence that may be prosecuted by the state and is punishable by law. All crimes are sin but all sins are not crime. Crime is a legal concept, it is something that is set by social codes of a country, sin is a moral concept, it’s a subjective term and has no parameters, believed by religious people and ignored by others. It’s been that way since the dawn of time because human beings are, at their core, tainted by the fall in the Garden of Eden. A sin may not necessarily be a crime and a crime may not necessarily be a sin. There is no forgiveness in the law, but God can forgive a sin if you repent. To repent means turn away from sin. Sin and crime are all around us and always with us. Thinking about which sins should be crimes and which should not is an interesting moral exercise.

Most crimes, such as murder, rape, theft, and fraud, are also sins according to most religions. Islamic scholars have made a distinction by separating the rights of God from the rights of men. The Quran forbids gambling, usury, and eating pork and animals sacrificed to idols. It is also obligatory to perform certain duties, such as praying five times a day, fasting during the month of Ramzan, paying zakat, and a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime (if one has enough means). Violating these bans and not performing the above duties without a good punishment in this world. Punishments are only for specific sins, such as theft, slanderous accusation of adultery, and adultery.

The Quran teaches that, in the afterlife, God will judge the life led by every individual in this world. It is the responsibility of the believer to obey God’s commandments.

The means to commit sin should be available, so the world can remain as a Trial Abode, where people are tested by God. For example, in a country where alcohol is prohibited, it is not possible for a Muslim to prove that he or she is free to choose to abstain. Or in most Muslim countries, during the month of Ramzan all places of sale of food and beverages are closed during the hours of fasting, eating in public is punishable. Whereas in the West all restaurants are open, alcohol is available everywhere, but I have observed that the majority of Muslims fast and abstain from alcohol, although they have the option of not fasting or consuming alcohol freely.

“They are those who, if established in the land by Us, would perform prayer, pay alms-tax, encourage what is good, and forbid what is evil. And with Allah rests the outcome of all affairs.”

Al Hajj, the Quran

The above verse which specifies commanding rights, merely called people to Islam, and prohibited the worship of idols and demons. But after a few centuries, some religious scholars have argued that “the right of control” refers to all that God and His Prophet commanded, and “forbidding evil” to all that they forbade. It is the interpreters’ preference to reproach other Muslims for activities such as drinking, and making music, though making or listening to music is not declared illegal in the Quran.

If they deny you O Prophet, so did the people of Noah before them, as well as the tribes of’Ad and Thamud, the people of Abraham, the people of Lot, and the residents of Midian. And Moses was denied too. But I delayed the fate of the disbelievers until their appointed time then seized them. And how severe was My response!

Many are the societies We have destroyed for persisting in wrongdoing, leaving them in total ruin. Many are also the abandoned wells and lofty palaces!

Have they not travelled throughout the land so their hearts may reason, and their ears may listen? Indeed, it is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts in the chests that grow blind. They challenge you O Prophet to hasten the torment. And Allah will never fail in His promise. But a day with your Lord is indeed like a thousand years by your counting. Many are the societies whose end We delayed while they did wrong, then seized them. And to Me is the final return. Say, O Prophet, O humanity! I am only sent to you with a clear warning. So those who believe and do good will have forgiveness and an honourable provision.

All authority on that Day is for Allah alone. He will judge between them. So those who believe and do good will be in the Gardens of Bliss. But those who disbelieve and deny Our revelations, it is they who will suffer a humiliating punishment.

Al Hajj, the Quran

The Quran praises those, believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.

Enjoining is no imposition. Religious righteousness must be sought only under the aegis of freedom. The existence of the means to sin, within your reach, ought to be the means of trial, not force. Coercion breeds hypocrisy, not godliness, and the Qur’an regards hypocrisy as worse than unbelief. What ought to count the most is what people have in their hearts. All we must reconsider is that we are accountable to God in the afterlife or to those in charge in this world? This world is the Abode of Trial in which God tests men, they should be free to make their own religious choices, as mentioned in the Koran, that “there is no coercion in religion”.

“Indeed, the believers, Jews, Sabians, Christians, Magi, and the polytheists—Allah will judge between them ˹all˺ on Judgment Day. Surely Allah is a Witness over all things.”

Ahrar, Mawdudi and Ahmedis


Ik kafira key waste Islam ko chhora

yeh Quaid e Azam, hai keh hai kafir-i-azam

Above lines are attributed to Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, a leading personality in the Majlis e Ahrar ul Islam organisation. The demand for declaring the Ahmadis as a non-Muslim minority was first publicly made at an Ahrar meeting held at Pind Dadan Khan on 1st May 1949. The movement launched countrywide campaigns and protests resulting in a ban on Majlis-e-Ahrar in 1954. Ahmadis were the sole subject of speeches made at public meetings organised by the Ahrar. Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam had three demands:

Removal of Muhammad Zafarullah Khan from the foreign ministry;

Removal of Ahmadis from top government offices;

Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

In February 1953, the demonstrations escalate into citywide incidents, including murder, looting, and arson targeting the Ahmadi community. The attacks were incited by the Jamaat e Islami political party led by Abul Ala Mawdudi. The anti-Ahmedi protestors billed their struggle as a jihad against infidels. The agitation brought the sectarian pot in Pakistan to a dangerous boil. Some Barelvis demanded that Deobandis be declared a separate minority.

Looking to establish his Islamic credentials in a country whose creation he had opposed, two issues remain central in Mawdudi’s political guile; the dispute with India over Kashmir and the controversy over the status of the Ahmedi community in Islam. In 1948 he challenged Pakistan’s endorsement of Jihad declared by local religious leaders in Kashmir during a ceasefire with India. So long as Pakistan maintained diplomatic relations with India, its covert assistance to the Kashmiri mujahideen was contrary to Sharia. Thus believing that Kashmir’s rightful place was in Pakistan, he advocated breaking off relations with India.

Maulana Mawdudi’s role in the 1953 agitation to exclude Ahmedis from the Muslim community was linked to his composition of Jihad in Kashmir. The Pakistani state, having been created in the name of Islam, had an obligation to define what it meant to be a Muslim. Ahmedis were apostates, and Islamic law demanded waging a jihad against them.

Charging the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed with offending faith, Mawdudi argued that declaring them a non-Muslim minority was a natural and reasonable result of the course they had chosen. Most unacceptable were the political irritants that Ahmedis had imposed on Muslims. It was wrong to say that the setting such a dangerous and misguided group outside the bounds of Islam would open the floodgates to the exclusion of other sects. No sect posed a bigger threat than the Ahmedis, who “hide behind Islam” and sow disunity among Muslims. By their cunning method of pretending Islam[sic], they had grabbed more administrative positions and employments. This subterfuge was harmful to the community, which could not tolerate a minority that was persecuting the majority. Apostasy in an Islamic State is punishable with death. According to this doctrine, Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan, if he has not inherited his present religious beliefs but has voluntarily elected to be an Ahmadi, must be put to death. (Partisans of Allah by Ayesha Jalal)

Unable to contain the increasingly widespread civil disorder, Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad handed over the administration of the city to the army under Lieutenant General Azam Khan, imposing martial lawand a curfew in Lahore on 6, March, 1953. Soldiers opened fire on bearded mob. Within two days the disturbances had been quelled. Mawdudi and his colleague Maulana Kausar Niazi were arrested and charged with treason. Both were found guilty, but Mawdudi was sentenced to death, later commuted to some years in prison.  Mawdudi’s offence was his book. Kauser Niazi had indulged in violent and obscene rhetoric at a public rally, and stoked the crowd to such a fury that a mob surrounded and lynched an on duty policeman. According to the official inquiry conducted by the Punjab Government the actual number killed in these riots were around 20 people. Chief Minister MumtazDaultana was forced to resign. Kausar Niazi subsequesntly broke with the Jamaat e Islami and joined Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s People’s party in 1972; He became minister of religious affairs and advisor to the prime minister. It was his advice that led to the Bhutto regime that the Ahmedis were non-Muslims. (The Clash of Fundamentalisms)

Justice Munir Report on 1953 riots:

A public court inquiry was appointed, with Justice Munir and Justice M.R, Kayani, to investigate the cause of the Anti-Ahmedi disturbances. The 387 page report was published in 1954. Justice Munir and Justice Kayani were fearless in their recommendations; they mocked the confusions of the mullahs, and warned the country that an Islamic state would be a disaster.

How do you define Muslim? Keeping in view the several definitions given by the Ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental? If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by anyone of the Ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that Alim but kafirs according to the definition of everyone else. The Justice Munir report denounced religious sectarianism as ‘perfidious’ and virtually argued that Islam was the stranger in the house: its intervention was unwarranted, its recourse to violence had created a political crises and it could only impede the development of the new state. Therefore it should be excluded from Pakistan’s politics and institutions. A separation between religion and the state was crucial if the country was to move forward.

The net result of all this is that neither Shias nor Sunnis nor Deobandis nor Ahl-i-Hadith nor Barelvis are Muslims and any change from one view to the other must be accompanied in an Islamic State with the penalty of death if the Government of the State is in the hands of the party which considers the other party to be kafirs. And it does not require much imagination to judge of the consequences of this doctrine when it is remembered that no two Ulama have agreed before us as to the definition of a Muslim. The violence against the Ahmadis has seen no decline, in fact it has actually increased, yet, they are no longer a sect of Islam. The hatred model of the Majlis e Ahrar has now been adopted by many and has gone mainstream.



My soul is entangled with the indifferent one

Lord of all things visible and invisible.

Madhu Laal Husain

The Lahore I love is so beautifully expressed by Bapsi Sidhwa; the city conjures up gardens and fragrances, the gardens in thousands of Lahori homes with their riot of spring flowers. The trees bloom in a carnival of jewel colours, the defiant brilliance of kachnar, bougainvillea and gulmohr silhouetted against an azure sky. And the winter and spring air are heady, they make the blood hum. On summer evenings the scent from the water sprinkled on the parched earth signals respite from the furnace of the day, for the summers are as hellish as the winters are divine. The city’s ambience has moulded my sensibility and emotional responses. To belong to Lahore is to be steeped in its romance, to inhale with each breath an intensity of feeling that demands expressions.

Lahore; the ancient whore, the handmaiden of dimly remembered Hindu Kings, the courtesan of Mughal Emperors, bedecked and bejewelled, savaged by marauding hordes, healed by the caressing hands of successive lovers. A little shoddy, as Qasim saw her; like an attractive but ageing concubine, ready to bestow surprising delights on those who cared to court her, profoundly displaying Royal gifts.

According to popular traditions Lahore was founded by Loh, one of the twin sons of Lord Rama, the epic hero of Ramayana. The other son Kush is said to have founded Kusawar or Kasu. The city was called Loh in the beginning; it acquired its present name when “awar” was attached to it, which means fort in Sanskrit. When Sultan Mahmud Ghazni seized Lahore his general, Malik Ayaz built the citadel, later to be replaced by Emperor Akbar’s brick construction.

Punjab is referred Panchal in Mahabharata, and Draupati wife of Arjun was called Panchali, the daughter of the Punjab. Lahore Fort has a vacant temple dedicated to Loh. Western historians believe the personages in the Ramayana existed between the sixth and seventh century BC, which proves that Lahore is one of the oldest cities in the world.

The name of Lahore is also celebrated in the legends and quasi-historical traditions of other Hindu states associated with the age of chivalry of the Hindus and their ancient civilisation. The first historical reference to the city is found in the journals of the Chinese pilgrim, written in 630 AD. At the time of Bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh, Lahore was in the possession of a Chauhan prince. In 1008 the last Rajput king who was defeated by Mahmud Ghazni fled to Ajmer. In 1022 Mahmud Ghazni seized Lahore without any opposition. The Mongols invaded and conquered the Khwarazmian dynasty. The Mongol army advanced and in 1241 and defeated the Lahore governor Malik Ikhtyaruddin Qaraqash, massacred the population and the city was leveled to the ground. There are no buildings or monuments in Lahore that predates the Mongol destruction.

Lahore had welcomed visitors and settlers throughout its history. It has changed hands from Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Mughal, Afghan, Mongol, Sikh and the British, thereby becoming the cultural capital and the heart of modern day Pakistan. Invaded and conquered many times, but apart from invasions, Sufis from different parts of the world settelled in Lahore too, the existence of shrines of great saints like Data Ganj Bakhsh, Mian Mir and Baba Shah Jamal are the living examples. Sufi thinking became popular among the people, because of their message of brotherhood, tolerance, unity and respect for other religions, besides promoting Islamic values.

It was during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Ghazni that Abul Hassan Ali Hajveri came to Lahore. Ali Hajveri had travelled widely like many Sufi saints, visiting Baghdad, Basra, Bukhara, Damascus, and Khorasan before settling in Lahore. Ali Hajveri was one of the most notable Sufi preachers on the subcontinent. He is said to have lived on the site in the 11th Century. The Shrine of Ali Hajveri is located west of Bhatti Gate. Data Darbar is one of the oldest Muslim shrines on the subcontinent. It was originally built by the Ghaznavi king Sultan Zakiruddin Ibrahim and has been expanded several times since.

Baba Sain Mir Mohammed Sahib, popularly known as Mian Mir was another famous Sufi saint who resided in Lahore, specifically in the town of Dharampura. He is famous for being a spiritual instructor of Dara Shikoh. According to Sikh tradition, the Sikh guru Guru Arjun Dev met Mian Mir during their stay in Lahore. Mian Mir’s Mausoleum still attracts hundreds of devotees.

Baba Shah Jamal who belonged to a famous Kashmiri family came to Lahore in 1617 CE. He lived in Ichra at the time of Mughal emperor Akbar. Shah Jamal fought against Akbar’s Deen e Ilahi. He died in 1671 CE and was buried near Ichra in Tomb of Shah Jamal. The area has been named Shah Jamal in his honour.

And lastly we have another famous shrine of Shah Husain in Baghbanpura,  a pair of two graves next to each other, one of Shah Hussain and one of Madhu Laal. Both marked with a single emblem reading, SAKHI SARKAR MADHU LAAL HUSAIN.

Shah Husain, who neither belonged to a direct lineage of the Prophet Muhammad nor a wealthy merchant household.

Says Husain the worthless fakir, I am the dust on your doorstep.

After spending years learning the teachings of the Holy Quran and what his teacher would refer to as the true path towards salvation. Shah Hussain’s life took a turn when he came across a Brahmin Hindu boy, Madhu Laal. He was overwhelmed by the feeling of love and enchantment. Everyone questioned their attachment and called them with different names. Shah Hussain believed in the value of self-blame, that piety should be a private matter and that being held in good esteem will lead to worldly attachment. The bond between the two went so deep that Shah Hussain put his name after his beloved’s, becoming Madhu Laal Hussain.

The Urs of Madhu Laal Hussain is celebrated at his shrine, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens. The Urs and the Mela were two separate events, one carried out at the shrine and the other in the Shalimar Gardens, until they were both combined into one, Mela Chiraghan which still is regarded as the biggest festival of Punjab, and has been a symbol of love, devotion, harmony and defiance of social customs.

Shah Husain says:

O God, do not mind my faults; full of failing,

I am without virtue.

O God, from within, show compassion,

 and enlighten me.

To the men of the world, the pride of the world,

to the recluse, renunciation

all masks, masks, masks!

Neither the man of the worlds, nor a recluse am I,

And they laugh at me, at me,

Who has befriended the terrible one

Annihilation of Minorities

On March 24, 2019, the then Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said:

“The minorities in Pakistan make up the white of our flag and all of our flag’s colours are precious to us. Protection of our flag is our duty.”

Addressing a function to celebrate Holi with Hindus in 2017, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif insisted that it was not anyone’s job to decide who will go to hell or heaven, but to make Pakistan a heaven on earth. He said that forcible conversion and destruction of worship places of other religions is a crime in Islam and in Pakistan as he greeted the Hindu community on the occasion of Holi. In his inclusive message to minorities in Pakistan, he stated

“No one can force others to adopt a certain religion,”

“Islam gives importance to every human being regardless of his caste, creed or religion and I say it clearly that forcing anyone to convert his religion is a crime and it is our duty to protect the worship places of the minorities in Pakistan.” 

On March 24, 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan had put a probe into reports of abduction, forced conversion and underage marriages of two teenage Hindu girls in Sindh province and to take immediate steps for their recovery. He also told the Sindh and Punjab governments to devise a joint action plan in light of the incident, and to take concrete steps to prevent such incidents from happening again.

In mid-September this year the Parliamentary Committee on Minorities headed by Senator Anwar ul Haq Kakar had decided to travel to various areas of Sindh to meet the victims of forced conversion. The committee determined to visit all provinces and hold meetings with the provincial, district governments, civil administration and police officials so as to create an integrated system of detection, reporting, vigilance and response concerning forced conversions

On October 19, 2020 Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar spoke to the press alongside committee member MNA Lal Chand Malhi and civil society activist from Tharparkar Krishan Sharma, following a recent visit by the committee to parts of Sindh where forced conversions of young Hindu girls have been described. . Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar, said the issue was sensitive, serious and complicated, the most complicated part of the situation is that what is considered as forced conversion by the aggrieved community is considered wilful conversion by religious groups, which includes Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, people like Mian Mithu of Sindh and even Tablighi Jamaat, but at the same time all conversions are not under duress and threats. The finding of the committee adds an interesting facet to the discourse around the forced conversion issue. Although conversion to seek a better lifestyle is also considered forced conversion, economic reasons can be considered exploitation and not force, as eventually it is after consent. Most instances have some degree of willingness. He added that there was a tenuous line between consent and exploitation, the conversion of Hindu girls in Sindh could not be considered forced. The committee did not see any trace of kidnapping and illegal confinement of Hindu girls who later came to give statements in court.

During the visit, members of the committee held public meetings in Sukkur and Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki district, as comfortably as a meeting with senior officials in the Sindh government in Karachi. Meetings were held with the households of victims of forced conversions, officials and accused groups. Approximately 200 members of the Hindu community participated in a public meeting in Sukkur while around 800 people attended the meeting in Mirpur Mathelo. The most vulnerable districts for forced conversions are Sanghar, Ghotki, Sukkur, Khairpur and Mirpurkhas. There have been negligible reported cases from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while a few cases involving Christians have been reported in Punjab.

The committee have done a relatively thorough job of stretching out the layers of how and why forced conversions take place. Mr Malhi said that people such as Mian Mithu and Pir Sarhandi house girls and manage the system to prevent the girl away from her family. He stated there was no evidence that they were backed by an authority, political power or state organ. Mr Krishan Sharma said there are two kinds of forced conversions, the first involving kidnapping and illegal confinement. The second is rampant in Sindh and that has to be taken care of by the state, this is procedural forced conversions, [in which] the whole organization of the country, from the police, the courts, etc. are violating the laws and facilitating such conversions. Senator Kakar said that people who encourage young ladies from the Hindu community to move out and marry according to their own wishes are not as liberal about their own daughters.

The committee identified social and economic marginalisation as the reason why some girls willingly convert; to assign all incidents of forced conversions under this category is unfair and insensitive. Although the committee categorically said that the government had neglected in its responsibility to shield minority communities from forced conversion. They denounced all manner of religious conversion under social or economic duress. Identified it as exploitation, calling them, conversion as an effect of the social, administrative and economic marginalisation of the Hindu community in Sindh.

I am in entire disagreement with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani who said: Times are changing and we should take advantage of this era, as all those who used to encourage kidnapping of minor girls, marry them and announce that they have converted to Islam are on the back foot now. Even today the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi cancelled a seminar of noted economist Dr Atif Mian, who goes to the minority Ahmadiyya community, due to the threats the university administration was facing from extremists.

“Sorry to report that my zoom economics seminar at IBA Karachi has been cancelled due to threats that the university administration was facing from extremists,” tweeted Dr Atif Mian.

Prime minister Imran Khan mentions Riyasat Medina in his every speech; I would like to remind him that providing security to the minorities is the basic principle of such form of governance. If the economic conditions are not improved and the minorities are passed on to the influential religious groups, I am afraid we will be left with religious groups only in the land of Sufis. Federal and provincial governments must improve the economic conditions to stop conversions due to the economic pressure, or accept it that, the annihilation of the minorities is a planned practice.

Emancipate the minorities from economic and religious pressures.