From getting an ID card to a passport, a final job form to a college application, entering into the armed forces or the government sector, one question that closely follows Name, Address and Telephone number is the religion one adheres to.
One wonders what part religion plays in order to ensure that one would be a better bureaucrat or an army officer, or perhaps a better corporate worker or a doctor. In a short span of time, I have encountered the question of religion not once but dozens of times but I still haven’t been able to decipher the rationale behind its inclusion. It all started the first time I went to get my passport at the passport office, where I was not only asked what my religion was but also to prove it by signing an additional document that declares another group of Pakistani citizens as infidels. The same question was repeated when I came of legal age and had to get my CNIC issued. Around the same time, I was applying for undergraduate studies and was surprised to find that the final enrolment form of an institution as well renowned as the Aga Khan University not only had the question of religion but also required one to elaborate on their sect. One wonders what correlation the sect of a person has with him becoming a successful doctor.
However, this question became more relevant than ever before as I tried to enter into the professional field. Corporate giants such as Engro, Bank Alfalah and Sapphire too had the same question on their appointment letters. Unfortunately, I got no other acceptances, and thankfully I had no other forms to worry about, but only God knows how many other employers have the same question on their appointment letters for their employees. I think all of them do. The question of religion crops up yet again when one tries to enter into the bureaucracy by sitting in the CSS examinations or get recruited by the powerful armed forces of the country. The politicians who get elected to the national assembly, and the senators who are part of the upper house, all have to declare their religion.
Should something as personal as the relationship between Man and his creator, or none at all if one chooses to be irreligious, be given so much weightage in the daily lives of the citizens. Why should a country like Pakistan which has a 97 percent Muslim population feels the need to emphasise so much on the religious beliefs of its subjects? One can hardly say with rational proof that religion is a benchmark for proving that one would be a better citizen, traveller, student, doctor, employee, soldier or a leader. The only explanation for repeating this question, again and again, seems to be for the purpose of persecuting or differentiating those, who chose to be the other three percent.
For a society to progress, merit and not religion should be used as a yardstick for deciding an individual’s worth. It makes no sense whatsoever to use religion as a litmus test for assessing the worth of someone in our worldly affairs. At the end of the day, you would want a doctor saving your life, an employee increasing your profits, and an army general successfully executing an operation, rather than them failing at what they are supposed to do, but subscribing to a certain brand of religion.
The writer is a LUMS graduate currently working in the marketing team of Sapphire. He tweets @MAliIlahi