Religious Leaders Supporting Democracy in Pakistan

Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has been experiencing institutional imbalance. Pakistan inherited high institutional imbalance characterized with strong and organized civil and military bureaucracies, political institutions and non-democratic political parties. As a result, it lacked strong, dynamic and sustainable political institutions which could hold regular elections. Social structure of Pakistan is by and large feudal. Feudalism is another factor that negatively affects the democratic values and social structure itself. Most of our political leaders are feudal lords and have very limited understanding of democratic ideas and values. Feudalism has been leading towards the traditions of inherited politics. Pakistan has remained at the mercy of either these feudal politicians or military generals. Poverty stricken society, illiterate masses, social injustice, deteriorated law and order situation are sowing the seeds of hatred for democracy. Citizens of Pakistan see democratically-elected leaders unable to provide the basic services, protect their rights and provide job opportunities: in their view democracy has not served its purpose and turn to Islamic parties and leaders to fill the gap.

Moreover, the relationship between Islam and democracy in the contemporary world is complex. Many prominent Islamic intellectuals and groups, however, argue that Islam and democracy are compatible. Some extend the argument to affirm that under the conditions of the contemporary world, democracy can be considered a requirement of Islam. In these discussions, Muslim scholars bring historically important concepts from within the Islamic tradition together with the basic concepts of democracy as understood in the modern world.

Title page of Islam Democracy and Constitution of PakistanClick here to read online

Religious leaders have a huge influence on the society and they can positively promote sustainable democracy in Pakistan within their communities. The influence of religious leaders in Pakistan can be noted throughout the democratic history of Pakistan. Therefore, it is crucial to engage and work with religious leaders to strengthen the democracy in the country. The middle and grass-root level of religious leadership can play a critical role by using their influence. Our objective is to train them on spirit of true democratic ideas and values so that their power is utilized to establish strong democratic infrastructure at the grass roots and community level.

Current Project: “Strengthening Support for Democracy and Democratic Values among Religious Leaders in Pakistan”

With the collaboration of National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Peace and Education Foundation (PEF) will train a next cadre of religious leaders to promote and support democratic principles at the grassroots level in 2017-2018. This project seeks to fulfill the strategic objective of fostering ethnic and religious pluralism in the context of rising extremist movements through the sub objective of supporting a platform from which national and regional Muslim educators can amplify counter narratives rooted in Muslim values and traditions. In this project, PEF will engage mosque imams and madrasah teachers throughout Pakistan, but the influence of the religious scholars engaged in the project reaches into Afghanistan and other parts of South Asia.

Objectives

  1. Selection of influential religious and academic scholars to develop a response (publication) to anti-democratic rhetoric stemming from religio-sectarian groups.
    1. The result of above effort will be a published booklet for wider distribution.
    2. Widely distribute the above publication through various mechanisms: Media, training programs and community based activities.
  2. To continue to strengthen the capacity of religious leaders to promote democratic principles and values within their communities.
  3. To develop a dialogue forum between religious section of society and University students and teachers to promote democratic principles.

Project Model

The project will commence with selection of a group of religious scholars from all sects that will conduct a research study to address the myths about anti-democracy misinformation in light of feedback we have received from the religious participants. On the basis of this research, a booklet will be published and distributed among religious community. The project will further undertake a series of four training workshops in each city, for religious leaders on issues pertaining to democracy, human rights, rule of law and basic rights and freedoms with a particular emphasis on women issues and human rights. These trained leaders will act as democratic advocates who will further conduct 20 follow up community engagement programs within their communities; which include dialogue forums, seminar, conference, workshop and media forums.

Stages Project Deliverables Objective Status Outcome
1 Booklet on Islamic Perspectives on Democracy To present Islamic perspectives supporting democracy and democratic values and respond to common misperceptions and anti-democratic rhetoric used by extremist groups. In printing 10,000 copies of booklet will be distributed among religious scholars
2 Conducting 3-day training workshops in 4 major cities of Pakistan, namely Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Karachi. To enhance the capacity of religious leaders to promote democracy and democratic values in Pakistan The workshops will be held in Jan-Feb 2018 A total of 100 religious leaders will be trained
3 Follow-up Activities To raise public awareness and support for democracy and democratic values March-June 2018 900 people will be engaged through these activities

Our Partners

Project Model

Stages Project Deliverables Objective Status Outcome
1 Developing Peace Textbook To promote peace education in Pakistan The book was launched in 2014 Madrassah teachers and Students are equipped with knowledge and skills of peace-building.
2 Developing Teacher’s guide to teach Peace book for madrassah teachers Engaging experts to design training manual that equip madrassah teachers in advance pedagogical skills, peace- building and critical thinking. The manual was finalized in October 2014
3 Engaging and training madrassah teachers To train a diverse group of madrassah teachers represent all major Muslim sect sects (Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl.e.Hadith, Shia and Jamat.e.Islami) on Peace Textbook. Peace Textbook program will continue under PEF multiple projects. Madrassah teachers (both male and female) are equipped with various peace related concepts, advance pedagogical skills, community leadership and critical thinking.
4 Teaching Peace Textbook to Madrassah students as follow-up To prepare young Pakistani students as ‘Peace Champions’ of future through education. Under multiple projects by PEF peace book is currently taught in various Pakistani madrassahs. Students are learning the set of soft skills like critical thinking and community leadership. Moreover their understanding of religious diversity, human rights, peace and conflict has improved.