By Adnan Syed
THE TWO BASIC QUESTIONS:
Throughout Pakistani history, the nation has struggled with two basic questions:
1) Pakistan was attained in the name of Islam. What does this mean?
2) Did Pakistan fulfill the objectives of Two Nation Theory within the United India? It seems that Pakistan resulted in a rather bifurcated Indian Muslim polity.
Both questions are delicately intertwined. A right wing religious leader will pounce on both statements and proclaim that the resulting Muslim Pakistan justifies a total promulgation of Islam across all spheres of the Pakistani society. The personal and civil code named Shariah and the Quranic injunctions should be the sole basis of all laws of the land. Pakistan and Islam are the same, at an individual level, as well as the state level.
However, this is the exact scenario that Quaid and Liaqat Ali Khan had explicitly mentioned what Pakistan would not be. Both of them had explicitly said on more than one occasion that Pakistan was not going to be a theocratic state, governed by a divine mission.
At the same time, we clearly see during our Independence Movement that Islam was invoked time and again. Here exists an apparent contradiction that affects Pakistan to this day.
It is important to note that two simultaneous developments were taking place in the politics of the Muslim League during 1930s and 1940s:
1) Quaid was actively uniting the Indian Muslims under one umbrella. He was invoking Islamic ideals as well as the rich Islamic history to communicate with the disparate group of Indian Muslim. Yet we never see Quaid proclaiming that Pakistan would be running on the basis of Sharia or theocratic rule. At the same time, we also never see Quaid invoking the word “secular” in public speeches. From Quaid’s various statements that we have studied before, Quaid’s message must be understood from all of his statements spread across pre and post Pakistan’s independence. Quaid looked for a democratic Muslim Majority State inspired by the Islamic ideals, where majority Muslim nation, along with its non-Muslim neighbours will coalesce into a unified Pakistani nation state.
2) Muslim League was interacting with the majority Congress Party based on the equitable power sharing formula that would be afforded to the sizeable minority Muslims. As Cripps observed in 1946 “The principle of majority rule, which the Mahasabha invoked in their Memorandum, could not be applied in an unmodified form where there was a perpetual majority and a perpetual minority”.
Jinnah’s call for Pakistan was the demand for a Muslim majority state, but Muslim League did not look for partition as the first and foremost alternative. Jinnah looked to negotiate to the hilt to preserve the Indian federation while Congress contemptuously looked upon the demand of Pakistan that was becoming the rallying cry of the rapidly uniting Indian Muslim. As late as June 06, 1946 Muslim League had accepted the Cabinet Mission that looked for Indian federation to stay federally united in the form of grouped provinces. Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan was alive even under the boundaries of a united India.
In the complex politics of the 20th century United India, we must realize that Quaid and Muslim League afforded the majority Congress Party every opportunity to keep the Indian federation alive. They fought for Pakistan as a Muslim nation either within or outside the boundaries of the Indian federation against an obstinate majority party that never afforded them the respect they deserved. As HM Seervai said “First and foremost, Jinnah’s policies must be judged as a reaction to the policies of the Congress and its leaders: Gandhi, Nehru and Patel…The Congress under Nehru (after 1937) went beyond contemptuous words and treated Muslim League’s offer of cooperation with disdain…. Nehru in effect challenged Jinnah to establish the position of the Muslim league by its inherent strength”
And lo and behold, Jinnah did rise up over the next 10 years to rightly become the sole spokesman of the Indian Muslims. As dispassionate history observers eye the partition politics with an inquisitive lens, they find to the surprise of many that the Muslim League’s stance was a direct result of an obstinate leadership of the majority party. Starting with Azad, then Seervai, Ayesha Jalal, and now Jaswant Singh, we see time and again that the term divisionary politics is a wrong label for the partition politics. It was an unfortunate result of the two parties representing two most populous blocks of votes, who were not talking effectively to each other in an environment filled with mistrust and outright contempt. Seervai dispassionately says in his pointed analysis: “That the fears of the Muslim community (that is would be permanently dominated by the Hindu Raj) were genuine is beyond dispute…It is reasonable clear that it was Congress which wanted partition. It was Jinnah who was against partition, but accepted it as the second best”.
Quaid and Muslim League fought for the safeguard of the rights of the Indian Muslim nation. Pakistan and Islam was their rallying cry to unite the disparate group of Indian Muslims. They may not have achieved Pakistan in their ideal form. Yet at the end of a tremendously volatile political environment, Muslim League ended up with Pakistan. It was a not the ideal solution for the Muslim League demands, yet Pakistan still represented a monumental achievement. History seldom turns its wheels to generate ideal solutions when it comes to nation states. Modern states are products of often cataclysmic historical events. Pakistan still represents a proud geographical product of the Muslim aspirations as they transformed their ideas of a separate nation within India towards a tangible reality.
Yet we must admit at the same time that there was a strong religious theme that underpinned the Pakistan Movement. Jinnah established Islam and the Muslim identity as the medium of communication with the disparate mass of Indian Muslims; from a deeply conservative Muslim Pathan to a sophisticated UP urbanite to a Bengali Muslim, Jinnah spoke of a Muslim nation united by its religion.
But Pakistan must look back at Quaid, Liaqat Ali Khan and the Muslim League leadership to analyze what the leadership did and did not say when it came to religion and Pakistan. Pakistan must realize that Islam was a uniting factor and was therefore invoked in the struggle for Pakistan. Yet the complete rule of Sharia or divine text was explicitly negated by our founding fathers. We must stop turning Quaid into a theocrat or an avowed humanist/ secularist. He was neither. We get strong hints for his respect for religious ideals, but at the same time we see his idea of a state where every single person living in Pakistan would be known and treated as Pakistani first and foremost in a Liberal Muslim Democratic State.
THE INEXACTNESS OF A LIBERAL MUSLIM DEMOCRATIC STATE:
Pakistan has always been aware of the founding fathers disregard for the complete theocratic rule. Yet Pakistan has never reconciled itself to a sustainable state where the concept of a democratic Muslim State is in peaceful harmony with the role of religion in the affairs of the state.
We hear the echoes of the inexactness in the first Constituent Assembly speeches by the ruling desk. We hear it in the words of Liaqat Ali Khan as he pounded his justification of introducing Sovereignty of the Almighty into the affairs of the state, while maintaining at the same time that sovereignty rests with people. All that time LAK avoided the thorny issues that were severely critiqued by the alarmed Pakistanis including its select intelligentsia, its non Muslim members and Justice Munir and Justice Kiyani in 1954. The two justices alarmingly pondered upon the insidious effects of a state unsure of the role of religion in its midst, and consistently held hostage by the religious right, that was bent upon introducing complete Islam into the state offices.
We hear the echoes of the hollow inexactness with the uneven treatment of Islam by the framers of our various Constitutions in 1956, 1962, and 1973. Pakistani legislatures looked to proclaim Islam as the official state religion, yet they failed to reconcile it satisfactorily to their idea of the liberal democratic state that Quaid had envisaged where everyone was equal first and foremost; without any basis of caste or creed.
More alarmingly, the critical Munir-Kiyani Report had established some fifty five years ago that our efforts since March 7, 1949 to incorporate religion into our constitutional framework were not simply at odd with the idea of a democratic state; these efforts had begun to destabilize the nascent nation. Our makeshift approach to incorporate religion into the affairs of the state also gave the necessary ammunition to the religious right, who have rioted on the streets first to declare Ahmedis non-Muslims, then to Islamize the nation, and more recently encouraging Pakistan to embark on a risky strategy of supporting a nebulous concept of worldwide anti-infidel Jihad.
The inexactness of the concept is embedded in the inherent dichotomy of the term Democratic Liberal Muslim state. If Muslim term is used strictly for Muslim majority living in Pakistan, we have a good concept of the state that has an overwhelming Muslim majority yet the state does not differentiate between Muslims and non Muslims.
Unfortunately, the Muslim League leaders right after partition, and our subsequent so called liberal and socialist leaning politicians looked for a democratic Muslim state where Islam has some say in the affairs of the state. The popular leaders did not endorse the religious right’s extreme stance, yet they did include a healthy dose of Islam into Pakistan without ever being convinced what was the proper level of that medicine.
We know for the last 55 years from the interviews with religious right by Munir-Kiyani panel that democracy is incompatible with an Islamic state. We also know that the sovereignty is never accorded to people since people have no powers to abrogate religious edicts in the affairs of the state. Yet, we pursue this utopian vision of an Islamic democracy, without ever taking a moment to ponder if our ideals are mutually exclusive and grounded in futility. Our 62 years history is a merciless example of this futility that we have suffered in our quest for an Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
We can mark the date of introduction of Objectives Resolution as the pivotal moment in our history when we embarked on this self destructive path. Yet do we need keep lamenting only at our continuous misfortune and we begin to do something about it?
Let us calmly accept that a liberal democratic Muslim Pakistan cannot have religion even half governing the affairs of the state. The state cannot be liberal or democratic since the will of people will always be checked against a religious arbiter. Who will decide how much part religion will play in the affairs of the state. Who will ensure that religion cannot be used to blackmail politicians or public figures? Who can ensure that a person who calls himself a Muslim, yet practices a variation of faith in his house will have the exact same rights as the majority sect follower will have? Equally importantly, what if political movements based on Islamic ideals run smack against the interests of Pakistan?
THE UNSUSTAINABLE EQUILIBRIUM:
All of the above questions have troubled Pakistan and kept it in a state of an unsustainable equilibrium throughout its history. With the passing of Objectives Resolution, we see a logical pattern developing: Within 4 years, Punjab was on fire in the movement against Ahmedis. Despite his reformist credentials, Ayub Khan shamelessly tried to use religious right against his opponent Miss Fatimah Jinnah to proclaim that a woman cannot rule the country. The 1971 tragedy was abetted by the rightist parties actively supporting ethnic cleansing of Bengalis, while exhorting Islam in their efforts to keep Pakistan united. Bhutto invoked Islam to de-Muslim the Ahmedi sect, yet the tactic used by his very opposition in 1977 was the restoration of The Order of the Prophet (Nizam-Musafa), as Bhutto was termed anything but Islamic. Zia-ul-Haq took his use of Islam to new heights and unleashed one of the worst decades that Pakistan witnessed in terms of human right abuses. We saw Nawaz Sharif scaling new heights for invoking Islam during his second term, and introducing much feared constitutional amendment to give himself almost absolute powers.
Through Pakistani history, the state fought three major wars with India. However, the term “Jihad” increasingly entered the Pakistani vocabulary with the Islamization of the state. Over time, Pakistan indulged in one of the most lethal self destructive strategies ever adapted by one of the ten most populous countries in the world. A whole collection of private religious inspired militia was allowed to mushroom on Pakistan’s Western borders to fight on Pakistan’s behalf in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
Remarkably, among all this turmoil, Pakistanis kept defeating the attempts to completely Islamize the country. Yet little by little, a lot of ground has been lost to the right. Result: Pakistan is a quasi-Islamic Muslim state, where penal code is a bizarre mix of Islamic and secular penalties. The constitution calls Pakistan an Islamic Republic, and explicitly demands its citizens to prove their Islamic credentials, or be termed non-Muslims.
Pakistan’s biggest failure has often been termed its “intellectual failure”. The policy of the state stayed vested in select political parties with their agendas and failed governance. All that time, except a few lonely voices in the political wilderness, or scattered left wing intelligentsia, the popular opinion makers never once questioned the wisdom of mixing the religion with Pakistani governance. The country was at best run on ad-hoc platform for its 62 years, where the failures of the previous government were more often the reason for the existence of the new one, rather than anything else. The common theme among the opposition slogans against the existing governments has remained Islam; that Islam is being pushed to sidelines, or the government is not Islamic enough. All that time, not a single person can quantify how much Islam is appropriate or inappropriate for Pakistan.
The most damning evidence of the uncertainty regarding the extent of religion in our country’s affairs was laid bare by the rise of Taliban. For almost two decades, Pakistani state encouraged the deadly militia steeped in an extremist ideology to foster in the madrassahs spread across the country. For years, Pakistani policy makers used them to install strategic depth in the West, and excursions in the Eastern border, without any serious thought to the consequences of an army of fanatics co-religionists ready to take on the world.
It has taken 15 years after the creation of Taliban for Pakistan to realize that the religious Frankenstein is not going to tolerate Pakistan itself if Pakistan comes in path of the divine way. And that the hundreds of thousands of Madrassah graduates have their hatred channelled towards their own country now, in the name of Islam.
Tehrik Taliban Pakistan and Al-Qaeda never cease to invoke the Nazaria Pakistan to appeal to Pakistani conscience. Aymen Al-Zawahiri invoked the Nazaria Pakistan at least six times in his August 2008 address to the Pakistani people. TTP leaders Baitullah Mehsud frequently mentioned that since Pakistan was attained in the name of Islam, and since Mehsud was a soldier of Islam, he was fighting a battle on Pakistan’s behalf. The Jihadists are committed to die for their cause. They cite verses from Quran to prove their causes. And they want to use Pakistani soil for their cause; because in their eyes Pakistan and Islam are synonymous.
As convoluted as the whole picture seems, we further find that these anarchist groups are openly supported (financially and morally) by mainstream religious parties in Pakistan who pray for Mujahedeen (who are in a state of active war against Pakistan) and our religious leaders call Baitullah Mehsud an Islamic martyr.
We can all condemn the religious right and say that they never represent true Islam. Which begs the next very simple question: who represents true Islam by the way? You, me, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, A Shia Imam in Pakistan, an honest policeman making 8,000 rupees a month to support his five person family and getting killed by the bomber, an otherwise pious and devout 18 year old who will become a suicide bomber, or an army jawan trying to stop that suicide bomber from exploding and killing everyone around them.
Over years, we had looked to introduce the religion as a final arbiter in the affairs of the state. Yet no single major religion remained a single body and a unifying force in political terms in our known recorded history. Now as Taliban fight us in the name of Islam, we struggle to find our reasons to fight them. We know we don’t want the version of Islam that Taliban want to bring to us by sword; yet we don’t know what version of Islam we ourselves would like to have. For the last 60 years, we have failed to find our very raison-d’être. The crisis facing Pakistan today will reappear in the future in some different form in coming decades, if we continue our confused ways. Problem is not just that Pakistan has not defined its enemy very well; problem is that Pakistan has not defined itself fully well.
Taliban represent an extremely toxic version of the religiosity that increasingly polarizes the Pakistani society. The society does not tolerate a minority sect openly practicing its faith. This is a state that has come down to singling out non-Muslims by official policies; where Christians and Hindus live in fear of their increasingly fanatical Muslim neighbours. And where almost a thousand Hindu families migrate to India annually; their future seemingly bleak in Pakistan.
THE FUTURE IS WHAT WE WILL MAKE OF IT:
The dangerous equilibrium that Pakistan has experienced in its last six decades is untenable, and Pakistan cannot continue forward like this. Yet there are some rays of hope here:
1) Pakistan has shown a remarkable penchant for returning to democracy. The one constant clamour (in addition to Islam) we hear in Pakistani history is for the return of democracy. For a country to face as much turmoil as Pakistan has, it is remarkable that the Pakistani society has never allowed undemocratic rule to flourish for too long
2) It is also clear that Pakistanis have never embraced the idea of religion fully governing their state. The right wing parties have never gained more than 10% of the popular vote in the elections
3) Importantly, Pakistan now boasts one of the freest print and electronic media among the Third World as well as Muslim countries. A free media can only help initiate the discussions of topics considered taboo before. That intelligentsia can finally openly question the paradox that has plagued Pakistan since its birth, and continues to trouble her to this day
The religious right has constantly portrayed separating Islam from politics as something completely Unislamic. This successful portrayal of secularism as a Godless entity that will condemn Islam to obscure corners has been a defining theme of the religious parties in Pakistan. The belief permeates so deeply that no single popular leader has ever come out openly and said that Islam is our religion, yet treating it as our raison d’être and state policy has served neither Pakistan nor Islam. No one has yet shown courage and point out the massive gorilla that lurks in our conscience; that our affinity for our religion is expressed wrongly when practiced in the name of our country. Muslim Nationalism does not equate to an Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
We have to put a stop to mixing religion with politics. We need to stop invoking Islam, period. Pakistan is a Muslim country, inhabited by more than 95% of the population that claims to be Muslims. They have every right to practice their faith, irrespective of their sect, their revered religious leaders, or their ways of practicing their religion. Every man and woman has the same rights, honour and protection whether they are Salafi Sunni, Ahle-Hadith, Deobandis, Barelvis, Shias, Ismailis, Ahmedis, Hindus, Sikhs, or Zoroastrians. All of their prayer halls are equal in the eyes of law. Law is the same for every single person, irrespective of his caste and creed. Pakistan was made to safeguard Muslim interests in the Indian Sub-Continent, but the safeguard need not to come at the price that people from other creeds have to pay.
The worst liberals can do is to believe that the 62 years of baggage will disappear sometime soon. Even worse would be the use of anything but the popular vote or democratic process to bring about the change. The fight for the secular and humanist principles would have to be fought in the minds of the Pakistani population. We have to make Pakistanis understand that the freedom of religion does not encompass single religion or sect. Or that free practice of religion in our private lives can only be ensured by removing it from the affairs of the state. Secularism is not the absence of religion in the society; it is the equality and protection of every single creed within the society.
Equally important is the realization that secularism is not the panacea of all of Pakistan’s ills. Pakistan has suffered from bad governance and incomplete rule of law. Yet, our failure to stand behind a singular inclusive vision of Pakistan has surely contributed towards our political instability and our haphazard approach in national politics and foreign policies.
What we make of the state is how the state will be defined in the decades to come. Our quest for extrapolating Muslim identity to an Islamic identity was a mistake. But nations learn from their mistakes, and move on to become stronger nations. There is no reason Pakistan cannot do that. The last thing we would need is to revisit the same questions decades from now, as we face another catastrophe in the future. You and I may be long gone by that time. For our future generations and for Pakistan however, I suspect by that time it will be probably be too little, too late.
The search for Pakistan’s progressive identity has to be employed by the liberal pen, some of that is employed here at the Pak Tea House. The change has to be strictly constitutional. This is a slow and painstaking process and may take decades, but it will be well worth it; for the founding leader who wanted to see a progressive Pakistan, and for the future generations yet to come, who we hope will not see the turmoil that our past and present generations have painfully experienced.
 Partition of India: Legend and Reality by HM Seervai