Articles by Vision21, Jinnah Series
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Defining Pakistan-I

Azhar Aslam

Feb 2010

The current situation in Pakistan is chaotic rapidly descending into anarchy. Despite a democratic set up in place, the state institutions are absent. Rule of law is non-existent. Terrorism and unchecked and unabated criminal activity has become the order of the day. Sate is failing to provide even the basics: peace, security of life, food, justice and environment for economic opportunity to earn a dignified living.

Then there are internal conflicts of all hue and kind: provincial, political, social, institutional. Emotionally charged and labile we Pakistanis continue to carry so much historical baggage that we are almost being crushed under the sheer weight of it. Finally to top it all we are under external ‘pressures” from ‘friends and foe’ alike. Governed by a group who even the outsiders are reluctant to hand aid money to, for the lack of trust and transparency, this vicious combination of mainly internal deficiencies and external threats have brought the country to the edge of a precipice.

Most importantly the plight of an ordinary Pakistani (the majority – the theela wallas, drivers, masis and house maids, servants, mazdoors, junior officials in public and private enterprise, teachers, small vendors, small shopkeepers, the peasants, haris, kisaans, the dhiyeeri wallas) is extremely miserable. The sole and the whole purpose of any State is to serve its public, improve their social and economic well-being and quality of life and provide them with secure and peaceful environment to go on about their daily life. The state of Pakistan is failing on all those measures.

For those very Pakistanis, the overwhelming majority, those ordinary inhabitants of this land, it is time now that this rot stops and change is ushered in. Enough is enough. It is about time, if not already long overdue, that the state starts responding to the desires and necessities of its Public. Those very ordinary Pakistanis, who despite running from pillar to post to earn even meager living and eke out a lifeless existence remain true to the dream that was Pakistan. Pakistanis who still dream the Pakistan dream.

The dream

Pakistan’s first problem is that of identity. This is why the first of this series of the articles is to explore options for expounding the definition of Pakistan; our own identity.

We have a firm belief that every successive generation has to redefine its identity and let it evolve with both, time and space. Evolution means that central core features of the past are preserved and new features are added in the new space and time. These new features and values in their own time will become both permanent and critical to the core identity or give way to the new ones. This is, and always have been the way of history.

The identity has to be shared and acknowledged by all. This, however, can only be possible if it holistically represents the needs, hopes, emotions, values, beliefs and practices of the people who adopt and endorse it. This then requires that the identity is defined by us, the people (and not any external agents), within the larger context of a nation- state.

The current generation of Pakistanis are standing at a crucial junction of their history. Amidst the ongoing national crises, marked by conflicts, not solely due to but mainly arising out of borrowed, misconstrued and confused identities, is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to reconstruct an all-encompassing identity that would permit integration of our differences and similarities into a harmonious national, regional and eventually a global project we call the “Pakistan ”.

Hence, the need is to ‘refine and update’ Pakistani identity for our generation, that is deeply rooted in historic identity but is somehow distinct from it.

That affirmation of the dream, therefore, is the first step on the path of reform for the people of Pakistan. This is the idea of Pakistan has not died yet. In fact it cannot die. Pakistan was conceived in the name of Islam for Muslims, but not as a religious state to be ruled by priestly class or according to the dictates of redundant and archaic laws and structures.

The ideology was, and still is, to view Islam as ideology that inspires against obscurantism, subjugation and tyranny of one over another.

It was not the Islam of Ummayads, Abbasids or Ottomans. It was the Islam where Umar, ( about who Barnby Rogerson writes… ‘there is no one quite like him in all in the centuries of western history…Garibaldi, Lincoln, and Cato touch closest upon certain aspects of his character), used to address black ex-slave Bilal as ‘ Syed-Na’ ( Our Sir).

That dream then is to define Pakistan as a human state and make it exist as the rationalist Muslim state inhabited by humans of different origins, race and colour without fear or prejudice.

Human state represents our idea of a principled and competent system. A system that embodies and implements the virtues of pluralism, tolerance, liberty and equity. It is a perfect melting pot of distinct ethnic, tribal, linguistic, religious and political identities, where all these converge into a collective identity that corresponds to “The Dream”. It is a state where human diversity is not only acknowledged but also reinforced. Is not Pakistan the perfect place for it? Different languages, different races, different traditions yet bound by same culture and one ideology.

It would be appropriate at this stage to write just a few lines about Muslims in undivided India. Some Muslims, almost all in India, claim that the number of Muslims in an undivided India would have made a substantial minority and would have had more say. That may be true. But would that have given Indian Muslims a state of their own to ‘ experiment’ their understanding of Islam ( ref Jinnah) and try to move forward in time and not be stuck in 1200 year old Sharia.

Would Muslims in that state have been able to present a third way in competition with capitalism and communism? Would there have been an opportunity for institutional development to present a modern or postmodern face of Islam? Not that such has happened in Pakistan at present but we are talking about an opportunity? Would we be speaking Urdu a language of Mir, Ghalib and Iqbal or a heavily sanskitrised Hindi in the name of false secularism? Would we be able to say that we have a piece of land ( state in the modern parlance) where we can develop ideology of Islam as an answer to the existential crisis, both material and spiritual, facing the planet and human race? We can go on and on with these arguments but this is not the place for it.

Hence, it is a dream that will fulfill in the form of Pakistan as a progressive, post-modern nation state, that spearheads the development of Muslim and Human commonwealth. And in the process helps make Humanity ready for the existential challenges that face human beings in the 21st century.

It is a state, whose intellectuals lead the new beginnings of Islam, to restore it back to its original human outlook, by taking it out of the clutches of Sufis, Ulemas, and Western influenced Liberals.

A state, where women are not tied to their stereotypical roles but instead are seen and treated as a human in thier own right with dreams, desires and ambitions. Where they have no boundaries to explore and redefine limits to both, their personal, social and national experience.

A state, whose young are educated, motivated, innovative and hard working. Hence, ready to take responsibility for their individual as well as collective future.

A state, where wisdom of the older generation is not left to relinquish and eventually fade out amidst the isolation of our own homes.

And finally it is a state where being human is a way of life, underpinned by the idea that all humans have been created equal by Allah and are such in the eyes of law; and where people of all beliefs can live together in a way that fosters appreciation of religious differences and recognition of human diversity.

The Dream, therefore, is to see Pakistan as a Nation that becomes a beacon of light and hope for the world. A nation that can create, symbolise and emerge as the human paradigm for the world to follow.

Failure of Intellectuals

Every identity has a history and so does that of Pakistan. Our history is neither short nor entirely peaceful. It has been shaped by British colonization and the awakening of national consciousness in the minds of all Indians, that would eventually lead the struggle for a separate homeland for Muslims of subcontinent half a century later.

Important to note here is the role Muslim intellectuals of India played in evolution of Muslim consciousness that transformed them from being Pathans, Mughals, Punjabis, Sheikhs, Bengalis etc ( term quam was used for all these), to a Muslim nation living in Hindustan.

The most important of all Muslim intellectuals, in terms of influence on this history without any doubt is Iqbal. It was his ingenious geo-political approach based on his ideas of humanity and universalism that enabled him to construct a certain Muslim nationality out of a purely abstract idea of Islam.

Iqbal was able to incorporate Islam with the idea of modern nation sate in most modern sense possible. For Iqbal the territorial borders were essentially temporary devices destined over time to wither away by enlarging into a commonwealth of Muslims (first and then of whole world into a global Ummah of Humanity). Religion for him was neither national, nor racial nor personal but purely human. Similar ideas in Christianity has been described a ‘agape’. We have called it Allah’s Paradigm at another place.

It was Jinnah who made Iqbal’s dream possible in form of Pakistan. Jinnah gave these ideas and ideals practical shape, by appealing to Islamic universalism. He believed ardently in an indivisible Pakistani nationhood that was based on an absolute conviction in intrinsic excellence of the Islamic principles of equality, justice and human brotherhood.

Jinnah and Iqbal clearly both saw an Islam that was free from the bounds of theocracy and tradition, influence of Arabian Islamic Imperialism and thus compatible with modernity and change. Jinnah’s Islamic state stood for religious and cultural pluralism and peaceful coexistence. We have discussed these ideas at length in Quaid’s Islam.

Hence, formation of Pakistan was a joint venture and a shared dream of the political leaders and Muslim intellectuals of pre-partition India, led by Jinnah. The idea of Pakistan was also a source of inspiration for Muslims intellectuals all over the world who were attracted to the potential of Muslim led state and Islamic renaissance. This was because there was certainly an undeniable singularity of purpose, intent and action, the likeness of which has been seldom seen in human history.

So why has Pakistan failed to build the dream?

We believe this is mainly, because we have lacked the intellectuals with this clear vision to provide underpinnings for materialization of this dream. A few with the vision have displayed the lack of the courage to stand up for it or took a social route for reform instead of political one and in this process have become voices in wilderness. Some such as Fazal ur rehman, suffered from the inaptitude of the politician and rulers who instead of aspiring to protect the ideals, simply took the easy route of succumbing to the political expediencies to protect their short-lived rules. Majority have simply been complicit with the rulers and served their interests.

Therefore, Pakistan’s history is a history of failed intellectuals. The signs were clear from the very beginning. With formation of Pakistan in 1947 followed by immediate death of Jinnah in 1948, leaders of the newborn state found themselves at a crossroads. The utopian discourses propagated during Pakistan Movement had to be now given a definite political form.

While Islam was still recognized as the most essential coordinate for Pakistani identity, it was discord on the nature of Islam that eventually revealed the extent of disarray among Muslim leadership and intellectuals. From then on began the ambivalent relationship of Islam and state. The future of Pakistan, from then onwards, would see Islam reduced to a mere device in hands of politicians, so-called nationalists, ulema and intellectuals for furthering their personal agendas.

Hence the early years of Pakistan saw the failure of intellectuals in the foremost task at hand; development of a nation around defined Islamic ideals. While Deobandis, jamaatis, Ulemas and Pirs built on the readily available interpretation of Islam which suited their purposes and served their narrow interests, the legacy of Iqbal and Jinnah was not developed and nourished the way it should have been.

A slight overview of different political eras will help us understand the argument much better. So strong was the influence of Islamic rhetoric in the political language that by 1970’s Islam and state, developed a direct liaison under the Islamic socialism of Zulfiqar Ali. His regime engaged Islam and politics but failed. But he too neglected the most fundamental of the requirements. Intellectual basis was neither encouraged nor supported.

However, it were eleven years of Ziaism and his Nizam-e-Mustafa that finally put an end to Quaid’s Islam and established a state based on imperialistic and antiquated religious ideas of Ulema that generated and fueled sectarianism in the country. Not as much by the force of argument but through the brute force of raw power and crude and unsophisticated tactics.

Musharraf’s enlightened moderation should have provided progressive and free thinking intellectuals freedom to develop their Islamic ideas in context of Pakistani nationhood and with respect to modern times. Unfortunately however, Musharraf’s Islam, a graceless mish mash of western and distorted Islamic ideals, coupled with the space provided to the obscurantist and rigid ideas championed by ulema, delivered a final blow to the ideals of Iqbal and Jinnah and further dented the already misshapen national identity of Pakistan.

This further division of nation has provided the vacuous spaces into which terrorists roam freely now. Regrettably, today’s generation of Pakistanis find it difficult to identify hardly with any of the available labels that define Pakistan. As a result, our nation finds itself stumblingly blindly into a black alley of identity.

So has the dream gone sour forever? Can a nation divided against itself, withstand the pressures of an ever changing world of global politics and religion? Most importantly, are we going to let it be? We have gone against everything Jinnah stood for. Iqbal and Jinnah’s Pakistan, a Muslim State, was modern yet not western. It was Islamic yet not fundamentalist. They envisioned Islam in its true spirit; open to change and ever-evolving. The day we can understand and develop such an Islam we will find our identity too.

We hear about the extremists / extremism taking over Pakistan day and night. The only reason any extremist may take over Pakistan or there may be danger of a disintegration of the dream that Pakistan is, is because, the rest of us sit silently and have let loose the likes of zardaris, sharifs, fazul rehmans, Gilanis etc to run our affairs

There is no intellectual framework that can provide bulwark against the tyranny of both Taliban Islam and failed Westminster style parliamentary system which is not very conducive to democracy in its structure and provides an easy conduit for dictatorship in a country that has powerless masses, broken institutions and is without robust and transparent systems of accountability and governance.

The call of the time is for the Pakistani and Muslim intellectuals to wrest back their ‘virasat of jamhorriyaat’ and stand up for their ideals of Equality, Justice and Liberty; not only for Muslims but for all humans.

The Fundamentals

To achieve this, we need as the first to define and develop a competent and principled system to run the state. And second we need to have clear, well thought out strategy and properly laid out plan of action, for the successful implementation of such a system.

How will such a plan of action be implemented and by who? We believe to achieve these aims one does not need mass revolution or dream for an overnight change through a messiah. We need a group of sincere, dedicated and selfless people, who believe in this dream, are willing to live and work to achieve this dream and if need be ready to die for it. They will become the true and honest role models.

We need both Power and Principle together as one. As Tony Blair once said ‘Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile‘.

This first generation of ours which has to bring this change faces the most difficult task. That is to achieve power, start the reforms and then hand it over to the next generation. That is to pass on both the principles and power. To let go, of power after acquiring it. .

To bequeath to the people of Pakistan a nation and a state, that continues to progress in a relentless pursuit of the dream – the dream of leading the human commonwealth and facing the challenges of the 21st century.

The plan that we need to achieve this goal, must as a first, provide a framework of social, political and economic reforms,that can convince not only the People of Pakistan, about the comprehensive strategy created for their own welfare. But in addition, when this strategy is implemented it can once and for all lay the solid foundations for continuing social and economic progress and provide constant ability to adapt and evolve with each new generation.

This we believe is the only rational way that will fulfill the dream of Pakistan and lead this nation to progress and prosperity.

The Strategy of Reform

We shall now propose, in broad outline, the salient features of this strategy of reform as we have thought it out. This is being presented as a starting point for discussion and is neither set in stone nor a panacea. This must be taken as an open forum for discussion. We shall discuss the proposed reforms first. This will be followed by outlining an action plan for implementing the reform strategy. Lastly we shall discuss the execution of this action plan and how should we go on about its implementation.

The fundamental reforms can be classed into two categories. First set of reforms are those that fundamentally effect the federating structure of the State and such political and socio-economic basis on which the premise of the nation of Pakistan rests. Second set of reforms are those that create, define and establish the fundamental institutions that provide the basis for execution of the will of people of Pakistan and define and establish the inter-institutional relationship. These reforms should result in strong institutions, systems, procedures and policies that run independent of any individual. People may come and go but institutions stay on and grow in strength and wisdom.

Governance and Democracy

The structure and method of Governance and Legislation is the first and the most fundamental issue that needs to be addressed. There is no doubt that in the long run democracy leads to equality, justice and liberty. But it comes at a cost. Development may be seriously delayed in corrupt democracies, where as, in well developed states, executive democracies take full advantage of public apathy to run the state in the service of rentier class and corporate interests. However dictatorships, even if benevolent, are risky in that every succeeding generation may not be as true to the cause as the first generation. History of rule by Military Juntas different parts of the world, post Second World War, serves as the clearest example in this regard.

It must be borne in mind that democracy is not an electioneering method and its presence does not automatically either guarantee development and its absence does not mean lack of development. That, whether we need democracy at all, is another argument altogether, and not for this space. But our own brief history at least serves as an example to say that we do need people to have power. You may call it democracy or whatever name you want to feel appropriate. But power to the people of Pakistan is essential if we are to survive as a nation.

The conclusion therefore is that ‘the system of democracy’ i.e. its methods and executions, should constantly evolve. Otherwise we end up in a situation where British government went to an illegal war against the will of its people ( executive democracy), or where the country with the greatest pace of economic progress in history ( china 1990 to date) is heaving for liberty and choice but cannot find an acceptable solution ( benevolent dictatorship) or a country becomes Putin’s Russia, where Putin has to stay on in some form or shape to make sure his pro-people agenda is carried through, with no clear sign of what will happen when he is no more ( unipotent democracy).

May be by developing a truly people-responsive system of democracy, we can teach the world a lesson or two in this regard.

An Indigenous system of Democracy

Pakistan needs to develop an indigenous jamhoori system. This system must be such that it delivers the power, its execution, and ‘ikhtiar’ or authority of who should use this power, and how, to the people of Pakistan. Such a system must define the relationship of

the different social groups that exist in Pakistani society. We have pre-existing systems at family, extended family, mohalla, village levels for consultations. This trend of consultation and conferencing is crafted in our culture. So it must be put into practice even at the political and administrative levels.

We don’t get tired of quoting Abu Bakr, when he said ‘follow me only if I do the right and stop me if I am wrong’ (accountability), or about Umar when he was questioned about his shirt by an ordinary person (transparency). Standing against injustice and Zulm runs deep in our blood through Ali and Hussain.

So there is no reason that we cannot have tolerance, pluralism, consultation, accountability and transparency in our own indigenously developed democratic system. It is not as if these are concepts are alien to us.

Such a system will have the capacity to express and reflect the will of people.

The power to the people and by the people should be the most fundamental and constant principle. The methods of how to achieve this will follow.

We are also fond of quoting Iqbal (when criticizing democracy) ‘Jamhorriate is a system in which ‘bandoon k gina karle hein tula nahin karte’. If this is really the case, then we should strive to make sure that our democratic system is constantly evolving to reach the point when ‘ginti’ becomes equivalent of ‘tulana’. The best way of doing it is of course to increase the level of knowledge and wisdom of people by educating them. So that, their opinion becomes wiser. And they are not at all or less liable to suffer from the evils of narrow-mindedness, parochialism, archaism, prejudice and bigotry.

However since in practice this may be too much of idealism even for this scribe, perhaps the best way is to devise and incorporate such methods in our democratic system, that these prevent the undesirable consequences of western democracy that we mentioned above in cases of Britain, or Russia. There are several ways of achieving this and since none is 100 % fool proof, perhaps the best method is to mix and match.

Making sure power stays with the people

The merits and demerits of first past the poll system, proportional representation, any combination of these, or other ways of producing legislature and governors must be discussed and a suitable method chosen and developed. Limiting tenures is another idea that can be incorporated and makes sure fresh blood keeps being injected.

In brief any method that prevents the concentration of power in one hand or even few individuals, and curtails the use of such power, must be incorporated in our system. This should be even before transparency and accountability. We must not leave this power­abuse-prevention to anything or anyone.

As we stated before ‘The power to the people and by the people should be the most fundamental and constant principle.’

However one of the fundamental inalienable rights that must be guaranteed under all circumstances should be the right to recall by the voters. That is that the decision to take away the ‘ikthtiar’ of exercising executive power through either legislature or governance, that decision must be firmly in the hands of the people of Pakistan. And they should have an appropriate method available to them to exercise such a right and decide when and where to terminate the terms for anyone.

A certain percentage of voters should be able to petition to launch a recall elections. The voters can then vote on whether or not to recall the incumbent representative and the same ballot, be able to vote a potential replacement. This rule should apply to all representative levels and all public offices without exception.

The precise methods to ensure that correct and accurate representation can take many forms. I shall not debate those here. Suffice is if I repeat my mantra of ‘The power to the people and by the people should be the most fundamental and constant principle.’

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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