This was the last day. Aasia was sitting in a cell, waiting for this crazy saga to end with her life. She was being punished for the most heinous crime, for being born as a Christian woman in an Islamic Republic. She was being punished for blasphemy. She had blocked her mind to any thought of pain, which she would endure in those last few seconds of her life. She will be hanged to death by tying a rope around her neck. This is what the Courts have ordered for her. She hoped that Jesus would be kind to her and her death would arrive faster and painlessly. Jesus was very kind to her when she met him the last time before he was murdered again.

 

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That day, two years ago, everyone in her family and friends were petrified on the news of a Muslim mob setting ablaze sixty houses of Christian folks in Korian Village. Unlike others, she did not feel that fear. She felt outraged and frustrated. She wanted to live an honourable life, free of fear and discrimination. Aasia was a rebellion, different from rest of folks in her Christian community. She would not accept her status as a second class citizen, like others around her have. She would fight and so she did. She drank water from the cup of a Muslim boy in the neighbourhood.

Aasia Noreen was born in a small village in District Sheikhupura. She was aware of the discrimination that member of her minority community face in Pakistan, due to wide spread Islamic chauvinism in the country. She knew that no one in her community would complain or challenge this bitter reality, as it would bring more discrimination and horrors to them. From her childhood, she knew that Muslims don’t feast with Christians; they do not let Christian enter their kitchens or touch the crockery which they use. Her mother could not find a job as domestic servant, since all the affluent folks in her village were Muslims and they would not hire a Christian woman for their kitchens. Most of the community members would settle for odd jobs in nearby factories or become sewerage workers, for it was the stigma that is attached with the Christian folks in Pakistan.

 

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She remembers the day when Jesus visited her in the jail cell. It was few days after the Court handed her death sentence. Jesus told her that she would be pardoned, that she could live a free life and would have her honour restored. If it was not for the love and kindness of this man, she could not have recognized him. He did not look like the images painted in her Church for Jesus. He was a clean shaven Asian man, in his sixties, gracefully dressed in a white shalwar Kameez and dark blue coat. He was accompanied by many men with cameras and lights. They asked him sharp questions as he sat next to her. He was calm and kind in responding to every question.

Few days later, she was told that Jesus was killed again, as thousands of years ago, crucified in Jerusalem by religious bigot. A bodyguard shot him twenty five times in a broad day light, in the city of Islamabad. As a child, she was told that Jesus had to be sacrificed by being crucified by wicked men. So it was foretold. When he still lived, he knew that he had fulfilled his sacrifice in mortality. His physical injuries were severe to brutally end the life of any person. When blood came from every pore, it was clear evidence that his heart had broken under the pressure of unbelievable emotional suffering. But Jesus would not die until he was done, when the remains of the cup was drunk, when there was no more pain to suffer for mankind.

Aasia would die today. She will spend last few seconds of her life hanging to gallow. She know that Jesus will come back again.

Pakistan has 97% Muslim population and yet people here feel insecure of their Muslim identity. Punjab government has constituted a committee to see if Hindu Mythology cartoons can be banned in Pakistan. Their stated reason was: “cartoons which glorified mythology characters such as Hanuman had a bad impact on the minds of the young children”. It is ironical since a larger number of Muslim children live in India than in Pakistan. Muslims in India see Hindu cartoons and celebrate Hindu festivals and yet are never intimidated by them.

Some supporters will argue that Pakistan is different as we are a Muslim country, an Islamic Republic and hence things should be different here than elsewhere. They would say that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam and hence showing Hindu Cartoons are against the spirit of Pakistan’s Islamic identity. This is probably the reason why buildings, parks, streets and cities in Pakistan were renamed to sound Islamic from their original Christian and Hindu names. As if buildings have faith and that they were converted to Islam by renaming.

Any discussions on having a secular Pakistan has always received an opposition. The word ‘secular’ is somehow translated as anti-Islamic here. Recently, Chief Justice of Pakistan remarked, “if parliament amended the constitution and declared Pakistan a secular state, should the court remain silent and not take notice of this unlimited power of parliament?” In other words Chief Justice has given concept of having an Islamic State precedence over democracy, disregarding the fact that it was the parliament that gave Pakistan its current Islamic identity in 1971 constitution and not other way around.

Pakistan was not an Islamic Republic at the time of partition. It was few years after the death of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah that it was first named as Islamic Republic. Jinnah wanted a secular Pakistan, as it was indicated in his August 11, 1947 speech, where he favoured  separation of state and religion. Jinnah said: “in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”. It was only under General Zia ul Haq dictatorship when many of our existing draconian laws were introduce in the name of Islam. From the get go, Islamic scholars had disagreements on interpretation of Islamic laws endorsed by Zia.

The civil society by large has opposed the implantation of religious laws and have advocated for the separation of religion and state. Those who support secular law for Pakistan argues that it is impossible to run a modern state in the 21st century on 1400 years old rules. These rules are inadequate for the challenges that a modern state face. The situation here in Pakistan today is far different and much complexed from what it was in Prophet’s Arabia. They argue that  religious laws are fixed and dogmatic, while secular laws are easily evolved to cater societal changes.

Moreover, they also bank their case on the fact that Islam does not have a uniform interpretation. The discrepancies in interpretation of Islamic laws among various sects are highlighted to demonstrate that adoption of religious law will only isolate the sects and the followers of minority religions. Those favouring secular law argue that introduction of Islamic laws has only polarized the society resulting in the high sectoral violence in the country.