The threshold for religious intolerance has become dangerously low in Pakistan. A slight provocation involving religious sentiments can quickly turn into violence. The boundaries of hate and bigotry have expanded as the state seems to be on the retreat. The never-ending appeasement policy of the state has emboldened extremist groups to such an extent that they are now openly challenging and defying decisions of the superior judiciary, and also challenging the writ of the state.
As per definition of the state, the most important characteristic of any nation-state is to have monopoly on the use of violence. State is formed on the social contract whereby state has to function as arbitrator to resolve the conflicts or issues of the people – this role is played by the executive as well as the courts. In case a person is aggrieved by a decision of the state, he may file an appeal in the courts and get justice as per law of the land. No person is allowed to use violence, on his own, and decide matters in streets. Yes, people are allowed to protest on decisions of the government but violence is not allowed at all.
In Pakistan, the case has been much different. The state of Pakistan has, since its inception, failed to assert its monopoly over the use of violence mainly due to the prevalent kinship culture, patron-client relationship between the elected (MPs) and the electors (voters). The state has remained merely a cat’s paw of the elites who had pilfered and plundered state resources. They also ensured that rule of law does not take its true place in the society. When people in a democratic state will remain divided on the lines of ‘my voters’ and ‘my opponent’s voters’ in day-to-day working of the state institutions and their functionaries, how on earth will it be possible to ensure “law and order” in the country? In this environment, the state becomes weak while, on the other hand, only some segments of the society become strong and emboldened.
Nowadays, this notion has been grabbed by some religious segments of society; they manipulate the conditions, use people’s sentiments against the government and disturb an already precarious law and order situation in the country. It is also pertinent to understand that these religious segments, if history is any guide, are considered strategic assets and are used by state institutions for pursuing their vested interests.
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Religion is always a sensitive issue in a country like Pakistan. And, if we use it for political interests, it will definitely result in segmentation and chaos in the society. Time has come that state policies are redesigned on the basis of true democratic norms of all-inclusiveness. Moreover, use of religion as an instrument of violence and getting political interests must also be stopped at all costs.