But his remark can strengthen moderate elements in the neighbouring country and help check anti-India elements there
A few days ago, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation requested All India Radio for a copy of the historic speech made by the Muslim nation's founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in which he sought to give a secular vision to a state he had created on communal lines.
In the August 11, 1947, speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi after his election as its first President, Jinnah is reported to have exhorted his countrymen, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of 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.”
He added, “We are starting the state with no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, between caste or creed. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. We should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as the citizens of the nation.”
Addressing the minorities in particular, Jinnah said, “If you work in a spirit of cooperation, forgetting the past and burying the hatchet, I will say that every one of you, no matter to what community you belong, no matter what colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations.” The recovery of the audio recording of the speech is of great significance to strife-torn Pakistan as it struggles to reclaim the nation that Jinnah had envisioned.
Hardliners censored the speech because Jinnah's change of heart post-Partition caused great discomfort within the Muslim League and the bureaucracy. A serious attempt was made to censor the speech before it was published in newspapers. After Jinnah's death, the direction given in that speech was re-placed with the Objectives Resolution that laid the foundations of an Islamic state.
Subsequently also, Taliban-style efforts were made to erase the speech from public memory. Former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had claimed that atte-mpts were made to burn the speech and a concerted effort was made by the Zia ul-Haq-led junta to remove all reference to that historic address from textbooks.
The request from PBC reminds one of the BJP leader's visit to Jinnah's mausoleum in Karachi.
In what was interpreted back home as a 'secular' chit given to Pakistan's founder, viewed as the architect of India's partition, Mr Advani only reminded his hosts about Jinnah's this very address, which he described as “a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to practise his own religion, but the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on the grounds of faith.”
Jinnah's words and deeds in the run-up to the creation of Pakistan, including 'direct action', was in no way reflective of a secular mindset, but the question is whether having realised his dream of creating an independent state, this once irreligious leader decided to revive his original beliefs or there was a genuine turnaround after witnessing the horrors of Partition, much like Emperor Ashoka's change of heart. His speech certainly mirrors such a state of mind.
Though not reported widely, just two days before the Jinnah episode, Mr Advani also sought to disassociate himself from the Jan Sangh's pet Akhand Bharat (indivisible India) theory by dec-laring the emergence of India and Pakistan as an “unalterable reality of history”.
That, in the process, Mr Advani wanted to shed his image as “some devil with two horns”, as he told accompanying journalists at the Delhi airport before leaving for Pakistan, is an altogether different issue, but the fact also remains that the veteran leader felt that the moderate elements in the neighbouring country needed to be strengthened if the fanatics are to be prevented from taking over the reins of power there, which is in India's long term interests.
It is in this context that the recent pilgrimage of Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari to Ajmer should be seen. With his ziyarat at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Mr Zardari sent a categorical message to hardline Wahabi elements back home, stressing Islamabad's commitment to the indigenous and moderate Sufi brand of Islam as against the Saudi-sponsored Wahabism, which is wreaking havoc in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even India.
Sufism is being practised in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan for centuries now. The scenario dramatically changed in the 1980s when, during the Afghan resistance against the Soviet invasion, elements in Saudi Arabia pumped in money, arms and extremist ideology into AfPak. Through a network of madarsas, Wahabis indoctrinated young Muslims with fundamentalist puritanism, denouncing Sufi shrines, mystics, music and poetry as 'decadent and immoral'. Over the years, the tolerant Sufi-minded Barelvi form of Islam has been replaced by the Wahabi creed.
Of late, there has been a rise in the attacks on Sufi shrines across Pakistan, prompting the country's intelligentsia to openly confront Wahabism, which they describe as 'Arab colonialism'. The increasing attacks on the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadiyas and Shias and vandalising of their places of worship has outraged the moderate elements in the country, who are resisting Pakistan's Talibanisation.
Pakistan's Deputy Attorney General Muhammed Khurshid Khan is one such voice. The devout Muslim has travelled to Sikh shrines in Pakistan and India, volunteering to polish shoes, clean bathrooms, cook meals and do other chores, to atone for the killing of Sikhs by Islamist militants.
“I have a desire to serve the Sikh community because my community has done them serious harm, and that hurts me. My message is love and peace. My message is a soft image of my religion Islam, a soft image of my country Pakistan. We are not terrorists,” says Khan, who also visits Hindu temples and Christian churches to reinforce that religious minorities should be protected.
The Advani Doctrine must encourage the moderate elements in neighbouring countries and neutralise the rabid anti-India sentiments.