In any prosperous and peaceful state, the legislative, the executive and judiciary must be permanent pillars, holding the edifice of the state. They do so by enacting laws, working through a constitution, service delivery in civic amenities and providing security of life and property. Last but not the least, to dispense justice and ensure that the fundamental rights of the citizens are protected. The goal of all this is to create and maintain a society within the state where individuals can enjoy fundamental rights and live freely without suffering coercion of the majority or the powerful. But this is only visible in democratic states. The closer a state is to be a truly pluralistic democracy, the more visibly we can see this goal being pursued. Going by the spirit of the 1940 resolution, Pakistan was proposed to be an arrangement whereby the constituting units, meaning the provinces — which existed long before Pakistan — were to form independent ‘states’. Although originally this was supposed to be within British India, yet shortly after, it formed the basis of a demand for a completely independent Pakistan. Obviously, each of the constituting units represented a separate ethnic entity. But the people in these provinces, which were physically contiguous except for Bengal, made a political choice to form a modern democratic state where Muslims, in view of their apprehensions about the Hindu majority, could fulfil their socio-political aspirations. The Muslim population of these provinces never imagined that they would have to discard their ethnic and cultural identities when the new state was being formed, or that their patriotic credentials would be considered to have fallen short if they would ever ask for their due rights. This is where our state building project has been insensitive to the fundamental rights of the citizens. While the citizens on the margins the state have cried out for a decent life, peace and prosperity over the last 70 years; the state narrative exhorted them to be satisfied with the pursuit of a set elusive and abstract goals. These include protecting national security, protecting Islam and leading the Ummah. Those who run — and perhaps own — the state didn’t even learn from their mistakes after the cessation of East Pakistan. It’s for this flawed imagination of nation building project that the state is so unabashedly hand in glove with sectarian clerics and their numerous outfits; it pampers them with direct and indirect political, budgetary and spatial support but treats suffering ethnic groups, civil liberties activists, and secular parties as dissidents. Not that this is something new, but just in recent times we have seen is state institutions appeasing, if not encouraging, the likes of Maulana Khadim Rizvi as well as the Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa. But the same institutions are least interested in allowing a grass roots movement like the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement to raise its voice for an ethnic group’s straightforward constitutional rights. Instead, they counter such movements with their traditional proxies or come up with an outfit by name of the ‘Pakistan Tahaffuz Movement’ overnight just to label those asking for their constitutional rights as traitors. When the legislature, military, and judiciary beat war drums to fan hatred around the blasphemy issue it emboldens sectarian forces, who make further demands of regressive changes in the constitution, adding curbs on civil liberties, and letting mob vigilantism go unchecked Besides, it is disheartening to see institutions like the legislature, military, and judiciary beating war drums to fan hatred around the blasphemy issue. What all this does is that emboldens the sectarian forces, who make further demands of regressive changes in the constitution, adding curbs on civil liberties, and letting mob vigilantism go unchecked. This approach has done irreparable damage to the country internally and externally. Internally, it has promoted undemocratic forces and attitudes, and radicalised our society in favour of sectarian intolerance. Externally, no matter how much we deny or whine about the fact that we ourselves are a victim of terrorism, the whole world sees Pakistan as a state deserving of suspicion. We fail to understand that long before the creation of Pakistan, the current provinces and the region therein have existed without making religion as the raison d’être of their entity. Ironically, they have existed after the creation of Pakistan too. Isn’t Bangladesh, the erstwhile East Pakistan, currently doing better than Pakistan without making a reference to religion for their existence? It is high time that we realise that Pakistan has existential risks in store for it if the state continued to deny people their due rights. Only by siding with and giving rights to the people, can we have a hope for a stronger, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan. An imagined sense of being besieged with enemies or an ambition to serve as the fortress of Islam at the expense of people’s rights and welfare will only keep us in a perpetual state of political instability and jingoism. The writer is a sociologist with interest in history and politics. He tweets @ZulfiRao1 Published in Daily Times, April 26th 2018.