Azhar Aslam & Shaista Kazmi
On all the national holidays of Pakistan, different events and programs are held for reflection about these special days. The issue of the nature of the state in Pakistan and the vision of Jinnah about its nature, remains contentious. People on different sides of the ideology divide in Pakistan, have different views about what Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be. The main field for battle is whether he wanted an ‘Islamic’ state (mostly meant in Ziaist terms) or a Secular one.
Many people first claim that Islam makes the basis of the creation of Pakistan; and they then present their own version of Islam which they ‘demand’ to be imposed on all and sundry. On the opposite side are those who claim that Pakistan was never meant to be a ‘theocracy’ and since being Islamic means theocratic, they suggest secularism as an alternative to it, with strict separation of state and religion. Since the start of so-called war on terrorism, this battle has become even more heated and intense and sometimes it seems that it may break into an all out war.
This debate is further complicated by differing perceptions and interpretations of Jinnah’s legacy, by various ideological factions in Pakistan, who can quote enough statements given by Jinnah to support their respective positions. Theocracy, Islamic state, secular state, Islamic democratic state or a modern secular democratic state are different terminologies that are used in this incessant quarrel.
The reason this discussion continues is because we have singularly failed, as a nation to formulate , define and achieve the ‘Identity of Pakistan’. Perhaps the most important and fundamental reason this debate continues is neither social nor political but economic. Nevertheless we are where we are and there does not seem to be any resolution to this debate.
Secularism or Theocracy
The crux of the problem lies in the fact that the two main concepts of State, competing in this conflict, ie Islamic and secular, are so narrowly defined and interpreted that both of them are devoid of their true meaning in the broad sense. Secularism is loosely translated to mean ‘irreligiousity’ (la-deeniyyat) by the religious class, which sees in it cloaked forms of neocolonio-capitalist materialism ( or Westoxification ( We prefer it to mere westernization)), devoid of spirituality and running amok against so called ‘Islamic and eastern’ values. While there is a germ of truth in this perception, it is certainly not the whole truth.
Similarly on the other hand, there lies another extreme which, knowing it not to be the whole truth, quite dishonestly insists equating Islam with theocracy. This group truly can have much broader support for its cause, but due to its intellectual extremism, it insists on taking ultra-non‑ compromising positions. It is led by a coterie of English speaking class, a motley crew of bloggers and writers, who revel in martyrdom complex ( where one instead of working hard to achieve his/her object through hard graft, one would rather take a self righteous non-pragmatic positions and claim for themselves the title of un-understood ideologues).
They would rather not face the arduous task of accepting and taking pride in their identity as a Muslim, in a dominant civilizational paradigm of West, and try to work for creating a new paradigm for their co-coloured and co-faith brethren. Instead they would rather change their skin colour, forget their origins and, being ashamed of who they are, disown everything about their Muslim background. In this struggle about the identity of Pakistan they would rather cede the opposite camp to the ‘ maulvi’ or so called ‘ aalim’. They are, along with the selfish, greedy and narrow minded mulla, guilty of creating a priestly class in Islam where there is none, and anointing it with the guardianship of Islam and Pakistan’s Islamic identity.
We have an issue with both these camps. Because they rather conveniently forget and ignore the real issue that lies at the core of Pakistan’s problems- the issue of Governance. However the intellectual discourse of ‘Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan’, is indeed at the heart of our search for a modern identity. Therefore it ought to be resolved in as much as possible. The conflict over this issue has long driven a wedge between various sections of this society and has been one of the major hurdles in the way of synthesizing an identity of Pakistan. We have argued this before, that therefore, Pakistan is a failure of intellectuals.
In this series of articles we will articulate our thesis that the identity of Pakistan is truly linked to Islam, but both in Secular (which we shall call Dunya-viyaat) as well as Islamic religious (not judeo-christian religious) sense. In fact this identity is inextricably linked to renaissance and revival of Islam (which we prefer to see as Ibtadaa min al Asaal – A beginning from the Original). We have not fully developed a new terminology for some of these concepts, so we are forced to borrow from the traditional language (and hence we are at the risk of sounding cliché-ridden).
We also believe and in the course of these articles we intend to demonstrate that Jinnah’s Pakistan was neither Secular nor theocratic, but simply Islamic. Jinnah talked of Islam along with the modern notion of the state, constitutionalism, civil and political rights and equal citizenship irrespective of religion or any other consideration. He truly believed these ideals to represent Islam. Jinnah viewed Pakistan as a modern, democratic state underpinned by universal ethical principles of Islam.
In this series we will contend that the interpretation of both groups, who dominate the intellectual discourse about Pakistan, Islam and identity, is completely wrong. This whole dispute is based on the complete and utter misunderstanding of what Jinnah, Iqbal and other Muslims leaders meant by when they used the word ‘Islam’. In other words we contend that the meaning of word ‘Islam’ in present day Pakistan is not the same as it was for the Indian Muslims in 1930s and 1940s. In fact the meaning of Islam seems to have undergone a transmutation which can be clearly divided into three phases. Phase one start at 1924 when ottoman caliphate was abolished and ends in 1948. Second phase ends in 1970s and third phase begins from then till present.
We will approach this issue with an open mind. But we are not historians, so we cannot claim to the truth of the history as one hundred percent correct. The truth of the statements pronounced decades ago cannot be rejected, but the interpretation can be changed and therein lies the distortion of the true sense. Since historians also are generally not present in the living moments, so it is not possible that their understanding is completely the same as that what was meant, at the time when a particular event took place or statement was made. We therefore must build our picture from various little pieces scattered over decades and must not rely on one or two fragments, as is wont when one is trying to clinch an argument (as do the secularists and islamist mullahs).
We also do not claim originality to this thesis. But we do claim that we are trying to take the dust of the truth. We will endeavor to present the picture of Islam that we have come to understand form the founding fathers themselves. This includes Jinnah as the first and foremost, but also Iqbal, Liaqat Ali, Nishtar, Muhammad Ali and scores of others who worked with Jinnah. After all they lived in the history and their evidence and understanding of Islam must closely reflect Jinnah’s understanding of Islam. And that is how Pakistan was envisioned. So we will finish this first article with a reference to this speech of Quaid.
[Broadcast talk to the people of the United States of America on Pakistan recorded February, 1948.]
‘I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principle of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago.
Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy.
It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody.
We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan.
In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission.
We have many non-Muslims –Hindus, Christians, and Parsis –but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.’