Despite approving $2 million for the defence of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the government has been continuously criticised for failing to do enough to defend her rights. But some other Pakistanis have found themselves with less support from the media. A Foreign Office statement saying it would be “premature and wrong to draw any conclusion” about a Police raid on a business office in London in connection with MQM leader Imran Farooq’s murder was attacked in the media for describing MQM as a “secular” party.
Many eyebrows are being raised and some are questioning whether the Foreign Ministry has been hijacked by some secular elements. The Foreign Office press release, if not removed, is available on ministry’s website on following link http://www.mofa.gov.pk/mfa/pages/article.aspx?id=1411&type=1 and is used by international media, including the BBC.
There is one view that the FO comment could also be unconstitutional as the Constitution clearly declares ‘Islam’ as religion of the State and no party could be officially declared as secular, as has been done by the Foreign Ministry at a controversial and sensitive time and manner.
This was written by The News reporter Ahmad Noorani who has a habit of injecting opinion and politics into his articles.
Actually, the Constitution contains no provision that a party can not be official declared as secular. The Constitution does say that “Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan”, but it also says:
“Subject to law, public order and morality:-
(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and
(b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.”
The definition of “secular” is not being exclusively allied to any particular religion. MQM can be considered as a secular party because the MQM manifesto says:
MQM is struggling to abolish this obsolete system in order to establish a truly democratic, progressive and egalitarian society in the country where all citizens have equal rights irrespective of their colour, creed, language, ethnicity, gender, belief and religion.
This should not be a problem even during “a controversial and sensitive time and manner” since Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah famously said in his 1947 address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan that,
“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.”
Noorani’s confusion seems to stem from his not knowing the definition of secular since he also misrepresented the term in his piece again when he wrote that “The MQM portrays itself as a liberal democratic force but never claimed to be secular force and the party very often hosts big gatherings of religious scholars from all school of thoughts.” If MQM has hosted gatherings of religious scholars from all school of thought, as Noorani claims, they can still be secular. Noorani’s mistake probably comes from the common misunderstanding that the term “secular” means “laa diniyat”. As we have shown, it doesn’t.
But there are other questions that his piece raises also.
Who was so offended by this Foreign Office statement? Whose eyebrows were raised? Whose view is that the FO comment was unconstitutional? Noorani does not name these names, but observant readers might find a clue in the similar statements made by another man at almost the exact same time. An almost identical complaint was made the same day by Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Syed Munawar Hasan who posted on Twitter:
Its tragic and deplorable that Foreign office forgot Islamic values and identity of the country while defending secular MQM
— Syed Munawar Hasan (@SMunawarHasan)
Is it a coincidence that Ahmad Noorani and Munawar Hasan both shared the same concerns about a Foreign Office using the term ‘secular’, and in the same way? It’s possible. We have no evidence that Noorani was acting as a Jamaati operative or that his report is planted. But it does raise the question whether his report is journalism…or just politics.