But in late 1958, President Iskandar Mirza, who wasn’t happy with the Constitution nor with parties like NAP, conspired with the military chief, Ayub Khan, and dismissed the assembly and imposed the country’s first Martial Law.
Mirza had described the 1956 Constitution as ‘a prostitution of Islam for political ends.’
Just 20 days after the imposition of Martial Law, Mirza was in turn dismissed by Ayub and forced to leave the country. Ayub, as Chief Martial Law Administrator, became the sole centre of power in the country.
He wasted no time in exhibiting his disgust at what had transpired in the county’s politics after Jinnah’s death, and got down to completely scrap whatever had emerged as Pakistani nationhood in the preceding decade and took it upon himself to once and for all give a definitive shape to Pakistani nationalism.
The great debate
Today, one often comes across ageing liberals and former leftists who fondly remember the decade-long Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-69) as being perhaps the most liberal and secular era in the country’s history.
The irony is that most of them had opposed and actually agitated against the regime as student activists and young journalists.
They often speak about how the people of Pakistan rejoiced when Ayub took power because they were sick of the power games between the politicians and the bureaucrats.
However, there are also those who accuse Ayub of setting the precedence for military intervention in politics in Pakistan, and giving the institution a taste of direct political power that led to three more military dictatorships in the next four decades.
Ayub was a practicing Muslim but almost entirely secular in his political and social outlook and (in one of his first speeches) promised to ‘liberate the spirit of religion from superstition and move forward under the forces of modern sciences and knowledge.’
But understanding that a nation-state requires powerful myths to base its justification upon, Ayub became the first Pakistani head of state to overtly use the state to devise a more holistic national ideology.
He formed the Advisory Council on Islamic Ideology (ACII) and the Islamic Research Institute and populated both with liberal Islamic scholars.
Imagining himself to be a latter day Ataturk and a Muslim de Gaulle, Ayub claimed to express Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan which, to him, was about a modern Muslim-majority state with a strong economy (based on heavy industry) and a sturdy military that would not only protect the country’s borders but its ideology as well.
The religious parties, incensed by Ayub’s secular policies and the fact that he was getting most of these sectioned by the ACII, finally moved in to directly challenge him.
Political parties had been banned by Ayub in 1959 but he lifted the ban in 1962.
The parties on the left like the National Awami Party (NAP) opposed him for his overt capitalist manoeuvres, his regime’s close relationship with the United States, and his refusal to entertain the demands of the Sindhi, Baloch, Bengali and Pushtun nationalists for decentralisation, democracy and provincial autonomy.
Religious parties, especially the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami (JI), largely focused their opposition on Ayub’s secular policies. And rather uncannily, by attempting to mould a national ideology, Ayub gave the JI the idea to take the concept and turn it on its head.
The term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ (Nazriah-e-Pakistan’) was nowhere in the founders’ speeches during the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
When Ayub’s 1962 Constitution highlighted his regime’s understanding of Pakistani nationalism to mean a Muslim (as opposed to an Islamic) state where a modern and reformist spirit of Islam, culture and science would guide the country’s politics and society, the JI opposed it.
It was at this point that the nation for the first time heard the term Nazriah-e-Pakistan.
It was first used by JI’s Professor Khurshid Ahmed who suggested that the Pakistan Ideology should be squarely based on policies constructed on the teachings of the Qu’ran and Sunnah and should strive to turn Pakistan into an Islamic State because it was on the basis of Islam that the country had separated from the rest of India.