The founder of Pakistan, Muhammed Ali Jinnah made a speech to the Legislative Assembly on 11 August 1947, in which he laid out the policy on the place of religion and belief in the affairs of the state. The main gist of the speech was that religion or belief were irrelevant; what mattered was people’s merit and equality of citizens.
Until 1977, the speech was broadcast regularly on Radio Pakistan. After this the speech was made to ’disappear’.
Now the speech has been unearthed by someone and posted on Facebook. It was delivered in Urdu. I have translated the speech and the commentary into English. (If speakers of Urdu notice any errors in the translation, please let me know).
“You are all free, to go to your temples.
You are all free to go to your mosques.
Or indeed to go to any other place of worship.
In this nation which religion, caste or creed one is, it is no business of the government.
You will see that in due course Hindus will not remain Hindu nor will Muslims remain Muslim. For religion is a private matter. But in political terms they will be equal citizens, of one nation.”
It is impossible to imagine minorities playing such a prominent role in the present-day Pakistan. But at its birth the situation was very different indeed. This was obvious when one looks at the makeup of the First Cabinet of the new nation.
The Founder was well aware of the sacrifices of the minorities and their potential contribution to the nation. Therefore, in recognition of this a number of minorities were given key roles in government:
• Samuel Martin (Christian): Foreign Office
• Sir Zafar Allah (Qadiani): Foreign Office
• Joginder Naath Mandal (Hindu): Kashmir Affairs
• Frank de Souza (Christian): Minister for Railways
• Chandoo Lal (Hindu): Deputy Speaker
Interestingly, there was no emphasis on religion whatsoever. There was no cabinet position concerned with religious matters.
Maybe one day we will see a return to the good old days!