Tag Archives: Ishtiaq Ahmed

Daily Times: Nationalism: inclusive versus exclusive — III

Cross Post from Daily Times

Published July 13, 2010

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

Rather than hate India, we should learn from India. It has five times a greater population, far greater ethnic and linguistic variation and myriads of religious faiths and cults. It is not a democracy in the social sense but it is a sophisticated democracy in the political sense

I have presented, mainly, the exclusive model of nationalism and state-nationalism that I have argued emerged in Pakistan, notwithstanding the very bold attempt of Jinnah to supplant it with inclusive nationalism. Exclusive nationalism — whether based on race or religion or some other cultural factor — discriminates, constitutionally, people who do not qualify as members of the community because they do not share the specific cultural ties that have been chosen to define the nation, even if they live in the same territory. Israel is a case in point. Jews from anywhere in the world can come and settle in its territories but not Palestinians who may have lived there in 1948 or in 1967 or in 1973. Only Jews have a timeless law-of-return privileging them over the Palestinians.

The question arises: are states and nations fixed and frozen forever or can things change for the better? In other words, can an exclusive type of nationalism be transcended by an inclusive type of nationalism? The answer is, yes. After all, the nations of Western Europe were originally founded on membership in the State Church. Before World War II, most states in Western Europe required membership in the State Church in order to hold public office. Thus, for example, Sweden, where and my family and I are now settled, required even schoolteachers to be members of the Lutheran State Church.

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Filed under Democracy, Identity, India, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, minorities, Pakistan, Religion, secular Pakistan

Daily Times: Nationalism: inclusive versus exclusive — II —

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

When the Hindu members of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly expressed their worries about ‘sovereignty over the entire universe belonging to God’, Liaquat Ali Khan assured them that a Muslim state should have no problem in having a non-Muslim as prime minister. However, this was not true

Jinnah wanted to establish a Muslim-majority state, but not a Muslim-majoritarian state that would privilege Muslims over non-Muslims in their status and rights as citizens; hence he spoke of Pakistani nationalism and not Muslim nationalism when on August 11, 1947 he addressed the Pakistan Constituent Assembly:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state…We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state…Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

Stanley Wolpert, who is considered a sympathetic biographer of Jinnah, has noted that when Jinnah was delivering his address even his immediate disciples were visibly confused and shaken. What Jinnah was doing was repudiating the basis of nationhood on which he had demanded Pakistan: that Muslims were a separate nation from other communities of India. Now, he seemed to champion inclusive nationalism. Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur mentioned (‘Whose progeny? — I’, Daily Times, June 20, 2010) the 1928 Nehru Report as having made the same pledge. In fact, this was explicitly stated in the Nehru Report: “There shall be no state religion; men and women shall have equal rights as citizens.”

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Daily Times – Nationalism: inclusive versus exclusive — I

At PTH, we have argued for the partition as a nuanced set of events that were characterized by extreme mistrust between the two major political forces of that time. These major parties harboured deep distrust against each other. The Muslim League politics increasingly focused on the idea of Pakistan as a bargaining chip to win the rights for the sizeable Muslim majority within the United India. The British hurry to leave the United India, emergence of Muslim League as the sole spokesman for the Muslims, and Congress unwillingness to recognize the Muslim nation demands within the United India resulted in a bloody and messy partition. We still live with the scars of the partition that resulted in one of the largest uprooting and human migration of modern times. Continue reading

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Secularists And Jinnah’s 11th August Covenant

There is no more a sacred covenant than this speech by the founding father, statesman, law-giver and philosopher in chief ,  Mr. Jinnah,  for this country and it spoke clearly, undeniably, incontrovertibly, clearly not vaguely that religion would be separate from the state and that religion would be the personal faith of an individual. I’d like to add that there are 30 odd other speeches of Jinnah which also speak of an inclusive democratic polity unfettered by priests with a divine mission but 11th August is the most important speech because it is spoken to the constituent assembly which was about to start framing the constitution of Pakistan.    This is a solemn promise and should have the status of a sanctified compact between the state of Pakistan and all its people.   It is this compact that the honorable justices of our Supreme Court should have considered when they chose to spray the judgment against NRO with Islamic injunctionsYLH

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

No ideological tendency in Pakistan identifies itself with the August 11 speech of Jinnah with greater enthusiasm than the secularists. Among them are included the marginalised leftists, oppressed minorities, retired senior bureaucrats and radical intellectuals. Both Marxist and liberal versions of secularism inform their thinking. The secularists are divided on many things, but agree that the secular nature of the Quaid’s message is unequivocal and incontrovertible. Their lament is that his unworthy successors broke a sacred covenant of equal rights bequeathed by the Founder of Pakistan. Continue reading

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Feudalism

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

In a debate article in the Dawn of April 30, 2008, Haider Nizamani seeks to dispel the widely held view that feudalism exists in Pakistan. He asserts that feudalism never existed in South Asia. To consider honour killings and exploitation of peasants by mighty landlords as indicative of feudalism he finds untenable because according to him, by 1999, 88 percent of cultivated land in Pakistan was in farm sizes below 12.5 acres. Just over half the total farms were less than five acres in size. “This would hardly be the hallmark of a feudal society,” he asserts.

This economistic argument is a legitimate one, but too narrow, mechanical and formalistic, because it presupposes that if the economic base changes cultural and ideological changes follow suit. In reality there is never a perfect fit between a mode of production and cultural and ideological forms, otherwise the thoroughly capitalised economies of the Middle East would have no place for tribal norms and behaviour patterns. Marx was acutely aware of the far more complex relationship between the economic base and the superstructure. He famously observed that Christian theology remained the reigning ideology much after classical feudalism had disintegrated and dissolved.

Classical feudalism emerged in Western Europe when the old city-based high cultures of the Greeks and the Romans disintegrated and the locus of social activity moved into local units headed by tiered nobility, which controlled their serfs through a range of economic and extra-economic coercions. The feudal vassals, in turn, rendered services to the superior lords, and that chain of services finally connected to the king, who was named as the “first among the lords.” He claimed a tribute or levy from the lesser nobles, who also provided him with soldiers.

The above description is, of course, an ideal one in the tradition of Max Weber. In reality no two feudalisms anywhere in Europe were the same, except in the essential sense of an agrarian economy providing much of the surplus, as well as the soldiers upon which the ruling classes built their leisured lifestyle.

Christian theology justified social hierarchy, and people knew their place in society – the rule was that the superiors were chosen by God and obeying them was a duty and obligation. Continue reading

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