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October - November 2007
Shakh-e-Nazuk Pe Banega Aashiana Jo… (The House built on fragile foundation...)
The Red Mosque episode and subsequent struggle between the Pakistani security forces and Islamic fighters and suicide bombers has once again brought the contradictions inherent in the creation of Pakistan to the fore.
According to Simon Cameron-Moore of Reuters, last March (2007) after a spate of attacks wherein about 45 people got killed, at a dinner at the Islamabad Club, a Pakistani intelligence officer leant across to confide a nightmare haunting the country’s security agencies: “We fear that Pakistan could become like Iraq, with all these suicide bombing!” After the Red Mosque episode, on 20th July, Mr Cameron-Moore wrote: “Four months on, following a commando assault on a militant stronghold at a mosque in the capital, the security situation has become so bad that the officer’s bad dream appears all too real.”
Musharraf says “Talibanisation” and extremism are the greatest dangers to Pakistan. He has been toying with the idea of imposing an emergency in the country to fight Islamists and certainly wants a second term to defeat them. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says she is worried about the future of Pakistan as the Islamists could overrun the present government. She wants to return to fight the Islamists as a civilian leader of the people.
In essence, the so-called “moderate and secular” section of the Pakistani political leadership is worried that Pakistan may be taken over by the people who would impose the Shariah (the Islamic laws) on the country – the laws would no longer be secular and Pakistan would no longer be a modern State. The “moderate and secular” leaders include not just the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), but also the various factions of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – the political descendants of the All India Muslim League, responsible for the creation of Pakistan on the basis of a religion. Their argument has been that Pakistan was created as a homeland for the Muslims of India, but it wasn’t meant to be Islamic. To support their argument, these politicians and experts quote the speech made by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, on 11th August 1947, in which he said: “…You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of 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. ….”
Most of the Indian and Western political leaders support this section of the Pakistani leadership and wish them to succeed. However, no matter how much we may sympathise with them, the “moderate and secular” section of the Pakistani leadership would be struggling if they try to make a case for secular laws in Pakistan. The concept of “Secular Pakistan” is self-contradictory in terms.
Espousing the idea of a separate State for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent for the first time publicly, in his presidential address to the All India Muslim League conference on 29th December, 1930, the chief ideologue of Pakistan Mohammad Iqbal outlined his vision like this:
“I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated Northwest Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of Northwest India.”
The State Iqbal was envisaging was definitely based on Islamic polity. Unlike secular thinkers, he was very much against the principle of separation of Church and State.
In the very speech mentioned above, Iqbal asked: “Is religion a private affair? Would you like to see Islam as a moral and political ideal meeting the same fate in the world of Islam as Christianity has already met in Europe? Is it possible to retain Islam as an ethical ideal and to reject it as a polity, in favour of national polities in which [the] religious attitude is not permitted to play any part?”
In answer to these questions, Iqbal said: “The proposition that religion is a private individual experience is not surprising on the lips of a European. In Europe the conception of Christianity as a monastic order, renouncing the world of matter and fixing its gaze entirely on the world of spirit, led, by a logical process of thought, to the view embodied in this proposition. The nature of the Prophet’s religious experience, as disclosed in the Quran, however, is wholly different. It is not mere experience in the sense of a purely biological event, happening inside the experient and necessitating no reactions on its social environment. It is individual experience creative of a social order. Its immediate outcome is the fundamentals of a polity with implicit legal concepts whose civic significance cannot be belittled merely because their origin is revelational.”
Iqbal concluded: “The religious ideal of Islam, therefore, is organically related to the social order which it has created. The rejection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other.”
Thus, Iqbal was not just envisaging a homeland for the Muslims of India, but he was also visualising a State based on Islamic ideals and laws.
In his letter to Jinnah on 28th May 1937, Iqbal wrote: “The enforcement and development of the Shariah of Islam is impossible in this country without a free Muslim state or states.”
In a convocation address delivered at Aligarh a few months before the Partition, Liaquat Ali Khan, Jinnah’s principal lieutenant during the Pakistan Movement (who also became the first prime minister of Pakistan) stressed that their movement derived its ultimate inspiration from the Quran and that, therefore, the contemplated Islamic state should derive its authority from the Shariah alone.
Jinnah himself repeatedly said: “Pakistan not only means freedom and independence but the Muslim ideology which has to be preserved, which has come to us as a precious gift and treasure and which we hope, others will share with us.”
These statements from the founders of Pakistan clearly enunciate the vision they had for the future of the Muslims of India. For the followers of Iqbal and Jinnah, “Islam is the Destiny!”
The “moderate and secular” Pakistani politicians base their case, as stated above, solely on a few sentences uttered by Jinnah on 11th August 1947. However, that speech cannot be called representative of Jinnah’s thinking about the nature of the State of Pakistan. Because, in that speech he also said: “We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”
These utterances were contrary to the philosophy Jinnah lived almost all of his political life, and which formed the basis of his Pakistan Movement – the philosophy of making a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. The very demand for Pakistan was based on this very distinction. He rejected the thinking of Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad that whether Hindu or Muslim everyone would be an equal citizen of India. In his Presidential address at the All India Muslim League session held at Lahore from 22nd to 24th March 1940, where the Pakistan Resolution was adopted, Jinnah said: “…it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality… It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and, likewise, their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state.”
So the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims formed a core belief in Jinnah’s thinking and lies at the root of the creation of Pakistan.
And that’s where the problem lies for the “moderate and secular” politicians in Pakistan. They accept the distinction between Muslims and “Hindoos”, they justify the creation of Pakistan in the name of Muslims, and despite Bangladesh breaking away from Pakistan, they still believe in the Two-Nation Theory! They are quite happy to call Pakistan an Islamic republic, and to have anti blasphemy laws just for Islam. There is no chance of a non-Muslim becoming a President or Prime Minister in their secular Pakistan. The domination of Muslims is as much cherished by them as by the Islamists. They revel in making the statement that Pakistan is a “Muslim-majority State”. They have no remorse for the fact that this State came into being by large scale ethnic-cleansing – millions of people were chased away from their homes where their ancestors lived for thousands of years – or for the families that got divided on both sides of the border, or for the millions who lost their lives in the bloody riots. Whether PML or PPP, they also want Kashmir to join Pakistan because it is a Muslim majority area – despite the fact that the majority of the Muslims of the Sub-Continent don’t want to be a part of Pakistan. Actually, “the secularism” of the so-called moderate leaders of Pakistan is quite hollow.
These “progressive” politicians are caught in their own contradictions. Commenting on India’s last general elections held in 2004 to the Indian Express on 06th June 2004, former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, said ‘‘I really admire the beauty of Indian democracy. One prime minister is voted out and he quietly leaves without a fuss while another moves into the house. You have a Muslim President and a Sikh Prime Minister. Your democracy has grown and deepened. You should be proud of your democracy.’’ Mr Sharif realises very clearly that India is not a Hindu State, as projected by the founders of Pakistan. Yet on his party’s website, he still reverentially credits Jinnah for heralding “an era of Islamic renaissance and creativity in which the Indian Muslims were to be active participants” and for shattering “for ever the Hindu dreams of a pseudo-Indian, in fact, Hindu empire on British exit from India.” Thus Mr Sharif plans the route to secular democracy in Pakistan through Hindu/Indian bashing and Islamic renaissance! Similarly, describing its four basic principles, PPP declares “Islam is our Faith” at the top. The question can be asked – If Islam is your faith, is there any difference at all between you and the Islamists at the level of ideology?
These politicians do not realise that their basic belief in the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims, and thereby the idea of Pakistan, has been inherently flawed and self-destructive. If you say Muslims can’t live with Hindus, Christians or Sikhs, and demand a separate country for Muslims, how can you deny Shias, Ahmediyas and other communities the right to have their own countries, separate from Sunnis? These communities often consider one another infidels – Almost every “Muslim” community has issued fatwas against other “Muslim” communities, declaring them non-Muslims and infidels. Writing on the subject of Two-Nation Theory, in the Dawn on 04 November 2000, the eminent Pakistani columnist Irfan Husain quoted someone saying: “First we Muslims said we could not live with Hindus and created Pakistan; then we said we could no longer live with Bengalis, and Bangladesh was the result. Now Sunnis are saying they cannot live with Shias. Where will it all stop?” Yes, can it ever stop? Once you divide humanity on one ground – whether religion, language or race – there is no end to it. You open the way to further divisions, fragmentations and conflicts.
And, as long as you talk of Islam or Muslims, you cannot escape Islamists. How can one be a Muslim without believing and adopting Islamic ways and values in one’s life! And, so how can a State created for Muslims not adopt laws based on Islamic ways & values! Enforcement of the Shariah is imperative on such a state. Those who say otherwise are actually challenging the raison d’etre of Pakistan!
That is the crux of the matter. Those who truly want secular laws in the country do need to challenge the raison d’etre of Pakistan – openly! Not to destroy it, but to rebuild it!
To achieve a secular system, you would have to dump the whole baggage of the Pakistan Movement – the distinction between Muslims and non Muslims along with the Two-Nation Theory. The traditional ideologues of Pakistan use this discredited theory to justify the creation of Pakistan. However, acceptance of the flaws in the philosophy behind the demand for Pakistan does not mean that this territory cannot continue as an independent State anymore. Innumerable States have been formed in the history of mankind – for right and wrong reasons. As Irfan Hussain says in his above-mentioned article, “… for good or bad, right or wrong, Pakistan came into being over half a century ago, and need no longer justify its existence to India, the rest of the world or to its own citizens. Over a period of time, a state acquires legitimacy and a certain momentum just by virtue of its existence. It does not have to explain time and again why it was created.” Once a State is formed, the solution lies in thinking ahead and managing it right, not in continuing to justify its creation. Hence, there is no need for Pakistan leaders to use a defunct theory and dish out “a jaundiced perception of history that divides the world community into Muslim and non-Muslim locked in an ongoing conflict” (Dawn, 09th December 2006).
However, there is need to ditch the Agenda of Partition and look to the future. If you truly want to develop Pakistan into a modern State, you would have to join the Pakistani born British broadcaster and writer Tariq Ali in saying: “Partition was a crime against humanity”. You would have to say openly: “Not Islam, Ilmaniyya (secularism) is the solution.” In this context, the observations made by an Arab Muslim intellectual recently in his article Al-Hind wa Pakistan … al-‘Ilmaniyya’ Tantaser at the kwtanweer.com site, quoted on Islam Watch site on 04th August 2007, are quite pertinent: “…Thus, by developing its secular regime, India has succeeded in creating a new way of life, both in government and in society. An Indian, regardless of his religion or ethnicity, participates in the decision-making process. India has been free from those religious schools that have negatively impacted the Pakistani political system. In India, the role of Hindu religious teachers is restricted to the social realm; they are not allowed to interfere with legislative matters. While India is a secular state that did not keep several of its politicians from being religious people as may be observed in the press and the documentary films. However, the role of religion stops at the door of politics, economics, education, and culture; in the sense that a political decision is not subject to a specifically religious influence. This has spared India a great deal of political strife, and enabled it to achieve its prominent place on the global scene. Through education, India has created the [new] Indian man, on the foundation of the separation of religion from the state, where a religious identity has been replaced by the rise of an Indian citizenship. …As we contemplate the terrible deterioration in the life of Pakistan, notwithstanding the presence of its nuclear arsenal, the question persists: would not secularism have been the saviour of Pakistan from its unending crises?”
The century old thinking of Iqbal is not relevant today. The Western civilisation has not killed itself as he prophesied. The country needs new political philosophies, new political parties, and probably a new name for the country – like New Zealand, New Pakistan would do! This is the only way to redemption. And, if you really need a cue for that, read the whole speech that Jinnah made on 11th August 1947, where he also said: “….We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long, long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this.”
It was uncharacteristic of Jinnah. He speaks like an Indian nationalist! Probably, the moment of truth and sanity had dawned! Jinnah could see the fault line on which Pakistan stood. Through the unparallel bloodshed in the history of mankind resulting from his Pakistan Movement and Direct Action it dawned on Jinnah that if Hindus and Muslims could be made to fight like this, tomorrow someone else can make Sunnis and Shias, Punjabis and Pathans fight the same way.
Therefore, the earlier the self-professed secular parties and leaders of Pakistan get rid of the albatross of the Pakistan Movement the better. You can achieve a secular system only by being secular. Carrying the whole baggage of the Pakistan Movement, and then clutching to a few sentences in Jinnah’s speech made on 11th August 1947 will not get you secular laws. As long as you talk of “Islamic renaissance”, you would only play into the hands of Islamists. Many people in India feel that India should have been declared a Hindu State. This is a lesson to those people. As one of India’s distinguished diplomats, PC Alexander, once said, if India wanted to declare itself a Hindu State, who could have stopped us! In fact, the pressure to respond in kind to the carving out of a Muslim State out of India, accompanied with the large-scale Hindu-Muslim riots all over the country, by declaring India a Hindu State was immense. It was only the vision of India’s founding fathers that we escaped the biggest blunder India could have committed. Had India been declared a Hindu State, we would have been held hostage to the likes of Ashok Singhal who interpret a very scientific and liberal philosophy of Hinduism in the most obscurantist and reactionary way, and the sabotage activities of Bajrang Dal rowdies would have received the sanction from the State in the name of Hindu morality! Mirroring the Islamic Republic would have meant the Hindu Republic of India chasing fatwas issued against great writers and artists like Cho Ramaswamy, MF Hussain and VS Naipaul! Following a discourse that is set in stone and supposedly authorised by “God” (and therefore cannot be questioned) is a very dangerous path. Any State that is not based on a logical and rational discourse and is not open to questioning in the light of ever emerging new realities and new knowledge, carries the seeds of self-destruction in its belly.
Now, there is no need to gloat over the apocalyptic state of Pakistan. India might have avoided falling into the trap of taking up the task of “Hindu renaissance”, and did not distinguish and discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion, but sixty after independence, the new crop of blinkered, casteist politicians have adopted the inverse image of the caste system as the State model for “Social Justice” – destroying the concept of equal citizens of the State for all its people. Distinction on the basis of religion failed Pakistan. Distinction on the basis of caste could prove to be India’s folly!! Whether China or India, no country has got a divine right to remain united and progress for ever. Countries do disintegrate and regress. It all depends on the far-sightedness (or short-sightedness) of their leaders.
In Iqbal’s own words:
Shakh-e-Nazuk Pe Banega Aashiana Jo, Napayedar Hoga!
(If the foundations are fragile, the house is bound to collapse!)