Dr Younus Shaikh
Dr. M. Younus Shaikh was born in 1955. He is a medical doctor (family doctor) and a lecturer at a medical college in Islamabad. He spent several years in UK, but decided to go back to Pakistan. He is strongly committed to the idea of democracy and has deep knowledge about its history. He wishes ardently that his country may find its way to democracy and religious tolerance and that South Asia may become a region of peace and friendship.
In 1992, Dr. Shaikh made the courageous step to found The Enlightenment, an organization that is committed to rationalist and democratic principles and stands for separation of state and religion. In public meetings and newspaper articles, Dr. Shaikh raised questions about women’s rights and about religion. While only few people dared to join his group openly, many watched him with keen interest and with great hope.
Another organization founded and lead by Dr. Shaikh is the South Asian Fraternity, which wants to promote understanding, goodwill and harmony amongst the people of South Asia, religious tolerance, cultural harmony, greater interaction, people to people contact and friendship. “We are loyal nationals of Pakistan as well as patriotic citizens of the world”, Dr. Shaikh describes The South Asian Fraternity.
Dr. Shaikh was in contact with Indian Rationalist Association since 1992 and kept sending all pamphlets and publications of The Enlightenment. In January 1999 he participated in the IHEU conference at Mumbai and spoke about his experiences. He had registered himself to attend the Second International Rationalist Conference held at Trivandrum in January 2000 and agreed to give a lecture there. But he could not attend the conference. He was aware of the danger of criticizing religion in Pakistan. Till the recent arrest, he had not been directly attacked, but he had lost two times his job and his old parents had been threatened.
When General Pervez Musharaff assumed power in November 1999, he promised to bring democracy to Pakistan and declared that he was committed to the principles of Pakistan’s founder Muhammed Ali Jinnah and the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kamal Pasha. Though it was an undemocratic act that made General Musharaff the Chief Executive of Pakistan, Dr. Shaikh supported him because of his claimed commitments. Immediately after the coup Dr. Shaikh started a lecture series about the origins of democracy. Ironically, it is under this government that he is sentenced to death now. Musharaff tried, by the way, to liberalize the blasphemy law, but gave up when he met with the fury of the clerics.