The many vs the few
By Amina Jilani
Published: April 25, 2015

Well, we have had a welcome, though short, break this past week, from the pesky Yemen issues that have (as far as has been publicised but what goes on behind closed doors is another matter) somewhat disrupted the cosy relationship between the House of Saud and the House of Sharif. The fathomless oceans of honey and the hefty package of MoUs (only intent rather than avowal) was no doubt a distraction welcomed by the Mian of Raiwind who wasted no time after the departure of one beloved benefactor to ‘rush’ to pay court to another.
During the prior week, with no breaks from Yemen and its Saudi connections, one of our rare parliamentarians who actually thinks and usually makes sense when he utters, Aitzaz Ahsan, plugged away in parliament at a matter he has raised several times in the past — of course, to no avail as it goes against the grain of the national mindset. He tried again — the Yemen debate having raised the majority-minority issue. He rightly said that there is no question of equality when a nation is divided into a majority and a minority. If we preach equality in law and rights there cannot be a minority — we should shed the word and the concept. Right, this Islamic Republic cannot be a democracy until it is able to cast off the minority curse.
As it all stands, this is virtually impossible without a revolution of the national mindset and a leadership that is able and willing to undo the mischief of almost 68 years of existence. There is the matter of the national flag, clearly denoting the vast difference between the majority and the minority. For the sake of equality, democracy and human rights, there should not be a stripe on the flag — but then the maker-founder, Mr Jinnah, decreed that it should be there, a fatal mistake, a division made at birth.
Then we have his much lauded address to the Constituent Assembly, three days prior to the birth, when he invoked the majority-minority factor. A division of India had to take place, he asserted, because one community was in the majority and the other in the minority — so all could not be well. Then why, pray, did he start off his new breakaway country with the enshrinement of a majority and the minorities? Said he, “in this division it was impossible to avoid the question of minorities… ”
Despite the flag, he urged those entrusted with constitution-making to “change the past” so that every person regardless of caste, creed or colour is “first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligation…” For some reason and again despite the flag, he assured the legislators and in the course of time the “angularities of the majority and minority communities … will vanish”.
He did of course, famously state in his address that religion “is not the business of the state”. Somewhat contradictory in the light of what he termed majority-minority “angularities”, particularly when the division is made on purely religious grounds. And as we have witnessed, over the years, the wretched “angularities” have multiplied to such an extent that they now prevail over all else in a highly deadly fashion.
We move on to the 1973 Constitution, the brain-child and creation of Aitzaz’s own party. It guarantees that the minorities will remain unequal citizens, that their rights will be curtailed, that no equality will be guaranteed to them. No member of a minority community can aspire to the top two offices of the land, president and prime minister. The Constitution firmly puts them in their unequal position, and this despite the articles that specifically guarantee that every citizen of Pakistan will have equal rights.
So where does Aitzaz start in his quest to banish the word minority? With the flag, with Mr Jinnah’s stirring words, with his own Constitution?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2015.