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The question about the role of religion in public life in Pakistan has always been there. Some favored an Islamic society, some talked of a secular state and others argued for an Islamic-secular order to regulate public affairs in Pakistan.

Politicians, dictators and religious clerics have equally used and misused religion for their respective vested political interests throughout the history of the country. From the founder of the nation to the present-day PML-N government, everyone talked about Islam, Islamic teaching and about how ‘Islam in danger’.  

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The politicization of religion has polarized our society and is now greatly contributing to disorganizing and disharmonizing an already fragmented societal structure.State stems from society. But the latter determines a course of actions for the former to ensure stability and peaceful coexistence.

Pakistan needs to work on determining its basic political values. The idea of the state and society our semi-educated religious leaders possess in this globalized world is not only outdated but also seems so absurd.

There needs to be a balance between the state and society to avoid any unmanageable disruption. The role of the state in every society, however, has been substantially different and sometimes opposite from one another. The role of a state in a society depends largely upon the primary political values of that very society.

A democratic state means a state based upon the primary values of the theory of democracy: rule of law, accountability, and freedom of expression and protection of fundamental rights. It is generally argued that for the strengthening of democracy in any society there needs to be cultural secularization. 

Without cultural secularization, people will be fooled by political demagogues in the name of religion, ethnicity or nationalism.But democracy is too often confused by biased analysts with what we call a ‘mob rule’.

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This is utterly stupid and has no connection with the reality. A democratic state has certain objective values that cannot be undone even by the majority of the population for example minorities enjoying fundamental human rights without any restrictions.

Fresh thinking and genuine democratic values need to be incorporated into our sociopolitical structure, which ensures tolerance, liberty, and rule of law.  

But Pakistan is an interesting example of a confused democracy where religion, military, and politics have been interwoven in a way that the definitions of a patriotic person, a true Muslim, and a sincere civilian leader have become increasingly misleading.  Do we not know whom to obey? The state? The mullah? The military man?

Presently, a sit-in in Islamabad by a religiously motivated group is reflective of our collective thinking. It is not about society vs. the state, rather it is more about the state vs. interest groups. Interest groups do work in a democracy but their roles and duties are determined within the constitutional framework. 

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When a group starts monopolizing over everything and wants the state to surrender, it becomes more of a terrorist organization than an interest group.The politically motivated group of people on the roads of Islamabad is not demanding the resignation of a minister rather it is forcing the sitting government to surrender to them.

A government is an agency which works in the name of the state. If a government surrenders it means the state itself has surrendered. Therefore, the government is not interested to let the group claim monopoly over the state. It will not only damage the image of the government but it will also let the world know as to who controls things in Pakistan.

A democratic state means a state based upon the primary values of the theory of democracy: rule of law, accountability, and freedom of expression and protection of fundamental rights.

In Pakistan, people will continue to exploit the emotions of a considerable majority if the state does not bother to address the basic questions: what is the role of the religion in our state apparatus and what is the place of the state in our society? Does the state have the power to silence those who not only question its authority but also violate it with pride? 

How is the state going to ensure cultural secularization in order to create an ideal environment for democracy to flourish? Will the state ensure that no institution in the country uses such small religious and ethnic factions for personal or institutional supremacy?

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Pakistan needs to work on determining its basic political values. The idea of the state and society our semi-educated religious leaders possess in this globalized world is not only outdated but also seems so absurd.

A government is an agency which works in the name of the state. If a government surrenders it means the state itself has surrendered.

Fresh thinking and genuine democratic values need to be incorporated into our sociopolitical structure, which ensures tolerance, liberty, and rule of law. Democracy needs to be evolved, not imposed. 

For the evolution of democracy, the role of public intellectuals and the state are key. Let’s see how the state is going to deal with a group of people demanding an outright surrender. Though we have seen what the state has done with those who talk about the rule of law or democracy in Pakistan.  

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