By Yasser Latif Hamdani
The Nation has reported in its newspaper today that that a scheme to change Pakistan’s name from Islamic Republic of Pakistan to People’s Republic of Pakistan was discussed in the parliamentary reforms committee and was ultimately withdrawn.
ISLAMABAD – Awami National Party (ANP) during the deliberations of Parliamentary Reforms Committee had proposed to change the name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan as Peoples Republic of Pakistan, while Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supported the move, the sources close to these political parties disclosed to TheNation. The idea was, however, dropped due to strong opposition from the rest of the members of the committee, the sources added. MQM Deputy Convener and Federal Minister Dr. Farooq Sattar confirmed it to the media in an informal chat on Wednesday and said that MQM along with PPP members of the committee supported the idea of renaming Islamic Republic of Pakistan as Peoples Republic of Pakistan. On the other hand, ANP member of the committee Haji Adeel denied having proposed the name of Peoples Republic of Pakistan to replace Islamic Republic of Pakistan. However, some members of the committee on condition of anonymity confirmed it to TheNation that ANP had proposed the said change in the name of the country and MQM and PPP members had supported it. During chat with media, Dr. Farooq Sattar also proposed making Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province of the country and its chief minister should also be included in the National Finance Commission (NFC). The government should take appropriate steps in this regard to remove the constitutional and international hurdles, he added. He said if the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms would finish with its deliberation on provincial autonomy by mid of December, they would be in.
My only regret is that this eminently reasonable suggestion has come from ANP and not any of the politicians and parties who don’t tire taking Jinnah’s name in vain. The historical fact which needs to be repeated again and again and again is that Jinnah did not found an Islamic Republic. The name of the state that Jinnah founded was the Dominion of Pakistan. Jinnah was a committed opponent of theocracy and an Islamic Republic- a misnomer as it is legally, morally and politically- can only be a theocracy.
Writing in his book “Facts are Sacred” – which was otherwise an extremely partisan and badly researched book- the late ANP leader Wali Khan rightly concluded that Quaid-e-Azam wanted a secular Pakistan and those who now claim to follow Mr. Jinnah are morally bound to follow Jinnah’s vision. If indeed this proposal has come from ANP, then it is morally consistent with Wali Khan’s stance and we salute the ANP for raising this demand at this juncture.
This author has been demanding this for a while on many grounds, not the least of which is Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan. However another question that must be asked is whether the term “Islamic Republic” has any real meaning? A republic by its sheer logic is for the public or the people and therefore cannot be limited to just one group or one community. And while the name Islamic Republic has no significance in Islamic law or Muslim ecclesiastical history, it is used again and again by the Mullahs (who had opposed the very creation of this country) to deny equal opportunity and equal rights to the people of Pakistan.
Therefore, we hope that ANP, MQM and PPP will not shelve this plan and undo what PPP and ANP’s forerunner NAP had done in 1973. Pakistan – to hark back to Jinnah – belongs to the people of Pakistan and people of Pakistan, regardless of religion, caste or creed, are the only arbiters of this republic. Onwards to the People’s Republic of Pakistan! Qadam barhao PPP, MQM aur ANP hum tumharay saath hai!