The discourse on Pakistan’s political ideal has taken a new turn. Those calling for the establishment of Jinnah’s Pakistan are being challenged with a demand for creating a ‘new Pakistan.’ Essentially, this is a new form of the tussle between secular democrats and advocates of a theocratic dispensation that is as old as the state itself.
The secularists’ demand for Jinnah’s Pakistan stems from their repudiation of the state’s drift towards a religious one. They argue that the increasing role of religion in politics, law-making, judicial policies, educational curricula and discrimination against minority religious communities, and now campaigns to exterminate smaller Muslim sects, are in total violation of the Quaid-i-Azam’s vision of Pakistan. According to them he wanted the state to be a democratic polity.
The main features of this state were as follows: religion was a matter of citizens’ personal belief, it had nothing to do with the business of the state; all people living within the state’s boundaries were equal members of a new nation formed on the basis of common citizenship; they were to live under a constitution framed by their own representatives (that is, a man-made code); the form of government was to be a people’s democracy; the foremost duty of the state was going to be protection of the lives and property of all citizens and promotion of their welfare; and in the area of external policy Pakistan was to abide by the principle of goodwill for all and malice towards none. The Quaid’s declaration that Pakistan would not be a theocracy was unequivocal and free from any ambiguities.
These outlines of Pakistan’s political structure and its orientation were derived in the main from Jinnah’s foundation-laying address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 when he was speaking about a state whose birth way only three days away and not in the context of his campaign for Pakistan. Other points had been taken from the Quaid’s policy speeches during the Muslim League movement, statements made on the eve of independence and his messages to international audiences afterward.
Jinnah’s successors in power paid scant attention to his political testament. The reasons could be diverse. Some of them might not have shared their leader’s ideal of a secular democracy – and this could have been one of the reasons for the attempt to suppress/censor his August 11 address. They might have considered it unsafe to stir the hornet’s nest by provoking the religious lobby. Or the factional conflicts within the ruling party that emerged while the Quaid was still alive became so intense after his death that the ideals of Pakistan were cast aside. The failure of the leadership to start building Pakistan along the lines suggested by Jinnah created’ space for the religious lobby to lay siege to the state.
This lobby was spearheaded by Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, who had broken away from the pro-Congress Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind and had backed the demand for Pakistan, and some prominent leaders of the Barelvi school of thought. They argued that as the demand for Pakistan was made on the basis of the religious identity of the Muslims of India – or more correctly the Muslims who were in majority in some provinces of India — Pakistan had to be an Islamic state. They also quoted in support of their demand passages from the statements of the Muslim League leaders, including the Quaid-i-Azam, to the effect that Pakistan’s polity would be Islamic in substance and character. A surprise entry into this lobby was the founder of Jamaat Islami who had paid little respect to the Islamic protestations of the League leaders and had resolutely opposed the demand for Pakistan on the ground that it could not be an Islamic state.
The ruling elite chose to yield to the challengers without a fight and came out with the Objectives Resolution as a bulwark to protect their power base that had become vulnerable for lack of democratic sanction. The resolution made the religious lobby stronger and the colonial-model state weaker by a wider margin. The signal of the state’s surrender to the advocates of theocracy led to the emergence of modern looking middle class theorists who helped the religious lobby by digging up passages from Jinnah’s speeches in which he had referred to an Islamic polity as the ideal of Pakistan, or democracy’s being present in the blood of Muslims. They claimed that Jinnah had made these statements both before and after independence and that his August 11 address had been superseded by his speeches at a Karachi reception and his talk before a lawyers gathering. One of these middle class scholars of history went so far trying to prove that Jinnah’s August 11 speech did not represent Pakistan’s ideal as to suggest that the old and sick speaker had become senile.
All these analysts who laboured to show that Jinnah used more words in favour of an Islamic system than for a modern democracy chose to ignore two important facts. First, that the Quaid-i-Azam rejected theocracy directly and explicitly, and we do not find a similar rejection of elective democracy in any of his speeches and writings. Secondly, the Indian Muslims’ thinking during the colonial period admitted of no conflict between Islam and democracy. A common theme was that democracy was Islam’s gift to humankind. A number of Muslim political leaders of the 20th century, who were also firm believers in Islam – Abul Kalam Azad, Obaidullah Sindhi, Hasrat Mohani, Hakim Ajmal Khan et al – believed in a pluralist democracy that could only be secular. Iqbal also supported the idea of a sovereign parliament which was qualified to perform ijma, the community’s right to interpret Islamic law when Quran, Hadith and Qias were silent on a point. (Later on a strong group, including Jamal Abdul Nasir and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, argued that socialism was in accord with Islam.)