Secularism is not against religion as propagated by the Islamists, it simply means that religion should be kept separate from the affairs of the state and governance. This was the essence of the press conference, held at the Karachi Press Club on April 18, 2012, to launch the Pakistan Chapter of ‘Secular Humanists of the World Unite’; a civil society movement that has been initiated by the ‘International Forum of Secular Bangladesh & Trial of War Criminals of 1971’.
The president of the forum, Senator (R) Sayed Iqbal Haider, former Attorney General & Federal Minister, said: “The debacle of Dhaka is always regarded a national tragedy in the history of Pakistan…. 40 years have passed by, but our feudal vanity has restrained us from learning any lesson from the catastrophe of Dhaka or to mend our policies or priorities in any sector…. Soon after its creation, the people of Bangladesh had carried out fundamental reforms in their Constitution and system of governance. Like vast majority of the Muslim countries, the prefix of ‘Islamic’ was omitted from the name of Bangladesh. This was the case of Pakistan as well for some years after its creation. Neither Quaid-e-Azam nor the Independence Act of 1947 called ‘Pakistan as an Islamic Republic’, instead it was called ‘Dominion of Pakistan’ or simply ‘Republic of Pakistan’. There was logic in this decision, as religions are meant for the people and not for the States. In their Constitution, the people of Bangladesh very wisely decided to specify four cardinal principles of the State namely: Secularism, Socialism, Nationalism and Democracy. Such decisions have created religious harmony and saved all sects of Muslims from being branded as ‘Kaafir’.”
The Executive President of the Central Committee Shahriar Kabir, celebrated writer and documentary filmmaker of Bangladesh said: “No government can fight terrorism, sectarianism and fundamentalism without the active support of the civil society. The initiative, taken by the civil society leaders of Pakistan, to resist militancy in the name of Islam will help to promote better understanding between the people of our two countries as well as create a positive image of Pakistan abroad. Secular humanists of the world should come forward and unite to resist terrorism in the name of religion in order to ensure peace, justice and humane values.”
At the beginning of the press conference, general secretary of the forum, senior journalist Munazza Siddiqui, said: “Militant and Islamic extremist forces around the world are connected to each other, while secular, positive & constructive forces remain unaware of each other’s presence and activities, hence standing alone in small, powerless clusters. So, to create links with the secular humanist movement in Bangladesh as well as with those across the world an initiative has been taken by the civil society leaders of Pakistan to set up the ‘Secular Humanists of the World Unite’ movement. This movement aims to become a part of the network of secular forces around the globe; forces that stand for humanity, peace and social justice. The Pakistan Chapter of this movement wants to support the government in: creating awareness & social tolerance, improving the global image of Pakistan, and fighting militancy through the revival of our traditional Sufi culture.”
Other prominent speakers at the occasion included: Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Adv. Javed Qazi, social rights activist Sheema Kirmani, and human rights activist B.M. Kutty. The press conference was followed by the screening of Shahriar Kabir’s documentary: ‘Portrait of Jihad’. A 31-member ad hoc executive committee was also announced during the press conference.
President: Senator (R) Barrister Sayed Iqbal Haider, former Attorney General & Federal Minister
Vice Presidents: Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo (Balochistan), Senator Afrasiab Khattak (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Adv. Javed Qazi (Sindh), Sheema Kirmani (Karachi) and Adv. Zafar Malik (Punjab)
General Secretary: Journalist Munazza Siddiqui
International Secretary: Babar Zafar Malik
Executive Committee: Prof. Sarfraz Khan, human rights activist Tahira Abdullah, poet Ahmed Saleem, journalist Saeed Ahmed, writer Juma Khan Sufi, human rights activist Mohd Aslam Baloch, social activist Fida Hussain Dashti, social activist Sharafat Ali, Dr Ishaque Baloch, civil society activist Muneer Memon, Cartoonist & Journalist Feica, civil society activist Nasir Araeen, civil society activist Adam Malik, economist Kaiser Bengali, journalist Ali Kamran Chishti.
Advisory Committee: I.A. Rehman, human rights defender Tahira Mazhar Ali, Prof. Tariq Rehman, human rights activist B.M. Kutty, human rights activist Naseem Akhtar and social activist Karamat Ali.
The event was supported by the Karachi Press Club Literary Committee, and Powered by E-SouthAsia Web TV.