Pakistan came into being in August 1947 on the back of what its founders called the ‘Two Nation Theory.’
The Theory was culled from the 19th Century writings of modernist Muslim reformers in India who, after the collapse of the Muslim Empire in South Asia, began to explain the region’s Muslims as a separate political and cultural entity (especially compared to the Hindu majority of India).
This scholarly nuance, inspired by the idea of the nation-state first introduced in the region by British Colonialists, gradually evolved into becoming a pursuit to prepare a well-educated and resourceful Muslim middle-class in the region.
Eventually, with the help from sections of the Muslim landed elite in India, the emerging Muslim middle-classes turned the idea into a movement for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia comprised of those areas where the Muslims were in a majority.
This is what we today understand to be the ‘Pakistan Movement.’
However, when the country’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah - a western-educated lawyer and head of the All India Muslim League (AIML) - navigated the Movement towards finally reaching its goal of carving out a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia, he was soon faced with an awkward fact: There were almost as many Muslims (if not more) in India than there were in the newly created Muslim-majority country of Pakistan.
Jinnah was conscious of this fact when he delivered his first major address at the new country’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.
Though during the Movement some factions of his party (especially in the Punjab and the former NWFP) had tweaked the Two Nation Theory to also mean that the Muslims of India desired an ‘Islamic State’, Jinnah was quick to see the contradiction in this claim simply because millions of Muslims had either been left behind in India or had refused to migrate to Pakistan.
Islam during the Movement was largely used as a cultural and quasi-ethnic proposition to furnish and flex the Muslims’ separate nationhood claims. It was never used as a doctrinal roadmap to construct a theocratic State in South Asia.
In his August 11 speech Jinnah clearly declared that in Pakistan the state will have nothing to do with the matters of the faith and Pakistan was supposed to become a democratic Muslim-majority nation state.
Within the Muslim community in Pakistan were various Muslim sects and sub-sects with their own understanding and interpretations of the faith. Then the country also had multiple ethnicities, cultures and languages.
Keeping all this in mind, Jinnah’s speech made good sense and exhibited a remarkable understanding of the complexities that his new country had inherited.
But many of his close colleagues were still in the Movement mode. Not only because the Pakistan Movement was a fresh memory but also because when the Muslim League became the first ruling party of the country, it had to constantly evoke faith in places like the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (former NWFP) where the Pukhtun nationalists had refused to join Pakistan.
Also, another region, Kashmir, having a Muslim majority but an aristocratic Hindu regime, had controversially opted to stay out of the Pakistan federation.
So a number of League members thought that with his August 11 speech, Jinnah was a bit too hasty in discarding the relegious factor and opting to explain the new country as a multicultural Muslim-majority state – even though these leaders too had had very little idea exactly what would be the ideological make-up of the country.
Jinnah died in 1948 leaving behind a huge leadership vacuum in a country that had apparently appeared on the map a lot sooner than it was anticipated to by even those who had been striving hard for its creation.
The leadership of the founding party, the Muslim League, was mostly made up of Punjab’s landed gentry and Mohajir (Urdu-speaking) bourgeoisie elite. The bureaucracy was also dominated by these two communities, whereas the army had an overwhelming Punjabi majority.
Either the multi-cultural connotations of Jinnah’s speech were not entirely understood by his immediate colleagues or were simply sidelined by them.
These connotations somewhat threatened the League’s leadership because the Bengalis of East Pakistan were the majority ethnic group in the new country and the democratic recognition of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity of Pakistan would have automatically translated into Bengalis becoming the main ruling group.
After Jinnah had promptly watered down the religious aspects of the Pakistan Movement, the League’s leadership that followed his unfortunate death in 1948, decided to reintroduce these aspects to negate the multicultural tenor of Jinnah’s speech.
But things in this respect get even more complicated when one is reminded of how it was actually Jinnah who triggered the first serious expression of ethnic turmoil in Pakistan.
In March 1948 Jinnah delivered two speeches in Dhaka (the largest city of the Bengali-dominated East Pakistan). The speeches were delivered in English and were made at the height of a raging debate within the ruling Muslim League on the question of the country’s national language.
Bengali leadership in the League had purposed the Bengali language on the basis that Bengalis were the largest ethnic group in Pakistan.
However, the party’s Mohajir members led by one of Jinnah’s closest colleagues, Liaquat Ali Khan (who was also Pakistan’s first Prime Minister), disagreed by claiming that Pakistan was made on the demands of a hundred million Muslims (of India) and that the language of these Muslims was Urdu.
Of course, it was conveniently forgotten that quite a large section of these millions of Urdu-speaking Muslims had been left behind in India and that at the time of Pakistan’s inception, Urdu was spoken by less than 10 percent Pakistanis.
Faced with this dilemma and aggressively pushed by the arguments of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to declare Urdu as the national language, Jinnah arrived in Dhaka and in his two speeches there insisted that indeed Urdu was to become the country’s national lingua franca.
Bengalis went on strike and held widespread demonstrations, but Urdu did become the national language.
The Bengalis’ resentment found immediate sympathisers within other non-Punjabi and non-Mohajir ethnic communities.
Sindhi, Pukhtun (and eventually, Baloch) intelligentsia were alarmed by the way the state and government had treated the Bengalis’ demands, and foresaw the same happening to their own languages and cultures.
The government, instead of anticipating future fissures in the country on ethnic lines, became even more myopic and wallowed in its self-serving naivety about using faith as a slogan that was supposed to dissolve ethnic nationalism among the Muslim majority of the country.
Slogans underlined by faith might have worked to haphazardly pull together the Muslim minority of various ethnicities of India during the Pakistan Movement; there was no guarantee that it would be able to do the same in a country where the same Muslims had become an overwhelming majority.
Ideally a system and constitution advocating democracy should have been worked out to facilitate and streamline the political and cultural participation of all ethnicities in the nation-building process.
But this wasn’t done. After Jinnah’s demise, political and cultural expressions of ethnicity were immediately treated as being threats to the unity of the nation.
Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, though steeped in the modernist Muslim tradition of Sir Syed’s ‘Aligarh School of Thought,’ was, however, willing to continue to use religion selectively to maintain the cherished unity of the Muslim majority of Pakistan.
He wasn’t the ‘son of the soil.’ Meaning, unlike most Sindhis, Pukhtuns, Punjabis, Baloch and Bengalis, Liaquat was born outside of what eventually became Pakistan and didn’t have a large constituency based on language and ethnicity in the new country.
So it is understandable why the notion of Islam being a unifying factor was important to him, as well as to most other Mohajirs of the country.
But the question was what kind of Islam?
This question hadn’t really mattered during the Pakistan Movement in which the Muslims of South Asia were agitating as a minority. But then, when a large part of this minority became a majority in Pakistan, the historical, political and theological divisions and crevices between this majority’s many sects and sub-sects began to seem starker than before.
The Muslim League, bred on the theories of Muslim nationalism that evolved from the scholarly works of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and philosopher and poet, Muhammad Iqbal, had understood all the Muslim sects and sub-sects of South Asia to be a community united by various doctrinal and political commonalities and a rich history of conquest, and scientific and cultural achievements.
After lamenting the decadent state the Muslim community had slipped into after the fall of the Muslim Empire in India, these men pointed towards a renewed and updated look at Islam. Such an exercise to them would help revive the political, social and economic vitality of the community.
To men like Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan was to be explained as the organic culmination and natural result of what Sir Syed and (especially) Iqbal had been contemplating and advocating.
It was to make all ethnicities and sectarian differences secondary compared to the precepts of Pakistani nationhood.
But what exactly was this nationhood about?
A good part of the answer first came from a man, who during the Pakistan Movement had actually denounced Jinnah.
Islamic scholar and founder of the Jamat-e-Islami (JI), Abul Ala Maududi, was not an Islamic cleric.
He was a well-read and prolific journalist and author. Though his commentaries in this respect were highly conservative, his was a radical conservatism because not only did he challenge the Muslim nationalism of the likes of Jinnah (claiming nationalism had no place in Islam); he even managed to offend many scholars belonging to Sunni sub-sects by accusing them of being wedged in ancient clerical traditions, and distorting the true message of Islam through unsavoury innovations.
To him the Muslims’ renewal as a political and cultural force depended not on Muslim nationalism but on an evolutionary process across all Muslim societies in which the people were to be ‘Islamised’ from below so that they could be prepared for Islamic laws (Shariah) imposed from above (the state).
So it was ironic when Liaquat and his aides, after being confronted by the grumblings of ethnic nationalists, agreed to adopt a portion of Maududi’s thesis on Political Islam while passing the 1949 Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly.
The Resolution was supposed to be an outline of what the final constitution of the country should look and sound like and also what Pakistani nationhood should be about.
Just a year and a half after Jinnah had described Pakistan to be a pluralistic Muslim-majority state, the Resolution declared Pakistan to be ‘an Islamic entity’.
Maududi’s JI decided to end its boycott of conducting politics in Pakistan after the Resolution, despite the fact that the Resolution did not translate into meaning that the government would begin to legislate Shariah laws immediately (or was even willing to).
The government might have thought that it had successfully defined the finer points of Pakistani nationhood through the Resolution, but things in this context got even more complex.
In 1951, Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated and in 1954 vicious riots erupted in Punjab against the Ahmadiyya community when JI and another party, the Majlis-e-Ahrar, demanded that the community be declared non-Muslim (for holding ‘heretical’ views).
The military had to be called in and it crushed the riots with an iron hand. It arrested a number of JI and Ahrar leaders and Maududi was sentenced to hang for inciting the riots. The judgement was later reversed.
In 1956, the Constituent Assembly (made up of indirectly elected members of the Muslim League and the Republican Party), got down to finally author the country’s first constitution.
In the constitution, the non-Punjabi and non-Mohajir ethnic nationalists were appeased with the promise of direct elections based on adult franchise, while the religious parties were given the space to define Pakistan as an ‘Islamic Republic’.
Whereas most activists and politicians on the left and ethnic nationalists weren’t entirely happy with the contents of the Constitution, Maududi readily exhibited his satisfaction by declaring it to be ‘sufficiently Islamic’.
In 1957 most of the detractors came together in the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP) and were confident that the party was in a good position to win the most seats in the promised direct elections (that were to be held in 1958).
But in late 1958, President Iskandar Mirza, who wasn’t happy with the Constitution nor with the potential of parties like NAP to win the election, colluded 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 the ‘selling of Islam for political ends.’
But soon after the imposition of Martial Law, Mirza was dismissed by Ayub and forced to leave the country. Ayub, as Chief Martial Law Administrator, became the sole centre of power in the country.
Ayub 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 scrapping whatever that 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
Ayub Khan was a practicing Muslim but almost entirely secular in his political and social outlook. He claimed that he wanted to ‘liberate the spirit of religion from superstition and move forward under the forces of modern sciences and knowledge.’
Understanding that a nation-state requires powerful myths to base its justification on, 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 Pakistani Kamal Ataturk and a Muslim de Gaulle, Ayub posed to express Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan. To him, this vision 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.
Incensed by his policies and the fact that he was getting most of these sectioned by the ACII, the religious parties finally moved in to directly challenge him.
Political parties had been banned by Ayub but he lifted the ban in 1962. The parties on the left such as the National Awami Party (NAP) opposed him for his overt capitalist manoeuvres, his regime’s more-than-close relationship with the United States, and his insistence on refusing to entertain the demands of the Sindhi, Baloch, Bengali and Pusktun nationalists for decentralisation, democracy and provincial autonomy.
The religious parties, especially the Jamat-i-Islami (JI), largely focused their opposition on Ayub’s ‘modernisation’ policies.
Rather uncannily, by attempting to mould a national ideology, Ayub gave JI the idea to take the concept and turn it on its head.
The term Pakistan Ideology was nowhere in the founders’ speeches during the creation of Pakistan in 1947. And nor was the Urdu expression, Nazriya-e-Pakistan (Pakistan Ideology).
When Ayub’s 1962 Constitution highlighted his regime’s understanding of Pakistani nationhood to mean being a Muslim-majority state where a modern and reformist spirit of Islam would guide the country’s politics and society, the JI opposed it.
It was at this point that the term Nazriah-e-Pakistan emerged. It is largely believed that it was first used by the JI that suggested that the Pakistan Ideology should be squarely based on policies constructed through the dictates of Muslim holy scriptures and should strive to turn Pakistan into becoming an Islamic State because it was on the basis of religion that the country had separated from the rest of India.
Of course, very little was mentioned in this context by the JI about the fact that the party had opposed the creation of Pakistan, and had described the Muslim League as a westernised and pseudo-Muslim party.
The debate as to exactly what kind of a vision drove Jinnah to demand a separate Muslim country in South Asia and what should constitute Pakistani culture and nationhood hit a peak in the late 1960s.
In 1967, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto formed the socialist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and the Sindhi, Baloch, Pusktun and Bengali nationalists accelerated their agitation for provincial autonomy.
To the JI the story of Pakistan began not during the Pakistan Movement, but with the invasion of Sindh by Arab commander, Muhammad bin Qasim, in the 8th Century CE who defeated the region’s Hindu ruler, Raja Dahir.
On the other hand, incensed by Ayub’s version of Pakistani nationhood and as well as by JI’s Nazriah-e-Pakistan, Sindhi scholar and nationalist leader, GM Syed, went to the extent of declaring Sindhi culture squarely at odds with the Pakistani state’s understanding of Islam and nationhood. He also insisted that to the Sindhis, Muhammad bin Qasim was the usurper and Raja Dahir the hero.
The PPP saw itself being pulled into the debate when, after witnessing the ascendency of leftist parties in Pakistan in the late 1960s, the JI declared that socialism was an anti-Islam ideology akin to atheism.
Prominent intellectuals in the PPP and those sympathetic to its cause, specially Hanif Ramay, Safdar Mir and poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, retaliated (though pro-PPP magazines) by first emphasising the JI’s pre-1947 anti-Jinnah rhetoric, and then suggesting that Pakistani nationhood and culture were multi-ethnic and multicultural and best served by democracy and socialism.
The JI’s founder and Islamic scholar, Abul Ala Maududi, saw the leftist and liberal Pakistani political organisations and cultural outfits as Trojan Horses through which they had infiltrated the Pakistani society, government and polity to erode Pakistan’s ‘Islamic character.’
Interestingly, as the movement by leftist political parties, trade unions and student groups against the Ayub regime gained momentum in the late 1960s, Ayub’s Information Ministry had already begun to mend fences with the JI.
By the time Ayub resigned in 1969 and handed over power to General Yahya Khan, the JI rebounded to become an ally of the regime.
General Yaya’s Information Ministry tried to use the JI to blunt the leftists’ unprecedented push against the military regime.
As Ayub’s idea of Pakistani nationhood dwindled, the JI made its concept of Nazriah-e-Pakistan one of the main planks of its election manifesto for the 1970 General Election (the first in Pakistan based on adult franchise).
During the 1970 election campaign the JI appealed to the voters to defeat the left and ethnic-nationalist parties because they were a threat to the ideology of Pakistan.
But in the election, the JI and most other conservative parties were routed by the PPP and NAP (in West Pakistan) and by the Bengali nationalist party, the Awami League (in East Pakistan).
Yet again the project of moulding an ideology of Pakistan acceptable to all Pakistanis had hit a dead-end. However, after the 1970 election, it seemed that the idea of Pakistani nationhood being advocated by left parties was to prevail.
It may as well have had Pakistan not gone to war with India in 1971 and then lose its Eastern Wing.
Shiekh Mujeebur Rheman’s Awami League had won the highest number of seats in the 1970 election (albeit all in East Pakistan).
In theory his party should have been invited by Yahya to form Pakistan’s first popularly elected government.
But the military regime and Bhutto’s PPP pointed at Mujeeb’s ‘anti-Pakistan rhetoric’ and suggested that he would use the Parliament to separate East Pakistan from the rest of the country on the basis of Bengali nationalism.
A delay in the handing over of power to Awami League saw the eruption of a full-scale civil war in East Pakistan.
Thousands of Bengalis lost their lives in the conflict as the Yahya regime employed brutal tactics to stem the Bengalis’ march towards independence.
Acts of brutality were also committed by the militant wings of the Bengali nationalists, as well as against military personnel, non-Bengali residents of East Pakistan and those Bengalis who were accused of collaborating with the Pakistan Army.
Thousands of Bengalis crossed over into Indian Bengal as refugees. Though India was by now backing the militant Bengali nationalists, it was in December 1971 that it fully entered the battlefield.
East Pakistan became the independent republic of Bangladesh. In late December 1971 a group of military officers forced Yahya Khan to resign and hand over power to Z A. Bhutto.
An uneasy consensus
Bhutto’s party, the PPP, that had swept the 1970 election in former West Pakistan’s two largest provinces, Punjab and Sindh, on a socialist manifesto, and formed the government at the centre and in the mentioned provinces.
Another left-wing party, the National Awami Party (NAP) that had won a number of seats in the former NWFP and Balochistan was able to form coalition governments in these provinces.
The first phase of the Bhutto regime (1972-74) was dominated by the radical left-wing of the PPP. However, since Pakistan found itself reeling from an expensive war, a demoralised army, and fears that India may go on to fan separatist movements in the NWFP and Balochistan, his government sanctioned a project to mould an ideological narrative that would help the state redeem the floundering belief in a united Pakistan.
It is believed that the narrative was first and foremost devised to uplift the morale of the army. But by late 1972 it began to make its way into school text books as well.
In a nutshell, the narrative went something like this: West Pakistan was always the real Pakistan because it’s a cohesive and seamless region that runs from north to south along the mighty Indus River. This region’s population had predominately been Muslim (ever since the 12th Century), and though it may have a number of ethnicities, its population has largely remained aloof from the happenings in India’s ancient seat of power in Delhi, and had similar views on Islam.
This conveniently meant that the Bengali-majority East Pakistan that lay thousands of miles away from West Pakistan was an unnatural part of what had appeared on the map as Pakistan in 1947.
In 1972 the study of Pakistan Studies, a subject that exclusively dealt with the history and culture of the country, was introduced and then made compulsory for school and college students.
But in the early 1970s it was still very much a work-in-progress.
In 1973, the PPP government organised a large conference in which some of the country’s leading intellectuals, historians and scholars were invited. They were requested to debate and thrash out a nationalist narrative that could then be turned into a state ideology and imposed through legislative means and school text books.
Though the Bhutto regime was populist and posing to be socialist, in 1973 it managed to get a consensus from all the parties to unveil a new constitution that reintroduced Pakistan as an Islamic Republic.
The JI and other religious parties had explained the breakup of Pakistan in 1971 as a consequence of its rulers failing to turn the country into an Islamic state and thus giving leftists and ethnic nationalists enough reason and space to dictate terms and harm the unity of the country.
The second half of the Bhutto regime (1974-77) saw the slowing down of its socialist projects and the declining influence of PPP’s socialist and Marxist ideologues in the policy-making process.
The regime’s capitulation in the event of the agitation and the demands of the religious parties to declare the Ahamadiyya community as a non-Muslim minority was at least one symptom of Bhutto’s rightward shift.
By the 1977 election, the PPP had all but eliminated the word socialism from its manifesto. Its regime, elected on a relatively radical socialist program in 1970, had (within a matter of five years), become a somewhat odd mixture of nationalist populism and an equally populist expression of Political Islam.
Bhutto it seems had sensed the Islamic revival taking place across the Muslim world after the 1973 Arab-Israel War. Though the war had ended in a stalemate, oil-rich Arab monarchies enjoyed a sudden rise in profits after they slowed down oil production and greatly jacked-up petroleum prices.
The profits gave the oil-producing Arab countries power to influence Muslim regimes that did not have the fortune of owning vast oil fields.
Saudi Arabia hardly played a role in the matters of Pakistan before 1973. But after 1973, Bhutto’s Pakistan began to court the oil-rich Saudi monarchy, hoping to fatten Pakistan’s struggling economy with hearty hand-outs from its wealthy Muslim brethren (‘Petro Dollars’).
But, the money came with a condition.
The Saudi monarchy was a passionate proponent of a rather puritanical strand of Islam. It had alarmingly seen the rise of socialist regimes in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan.
After 1973 when Saudi Arabia began to pump in huge amounts of money into Muslim countries, with the money also came allusions and nudges to undermine leftist ideologies and kick-start an intellectual and political exercise to ‘Islamise’ governments and societies according to the Saudis’ interpretation of the faith.
Arab monarchies had struggled to stay afloat against the onslaught and rise of progressive Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s. And in spite of the fact that most of them were allies of Western powers, these monarchies were also conscious of Western political ideas trickling into the minds of their citizens, especially the younger lot.
From 1973 onwards a huge amount of Petro Dollars began to be disbursed and distributed among Muslim academics, intellectuals, governments and religious leaders.
What began to emerge from this exercise was a Political Islam that was anti-socialism/communism and anti-Zionism, but (curiously) pro-West, pro-monarchy and with a healthy bank balance!
Bhutto, apart from trying to appease the religionist lobby by reintroducing certain clauses in the 1973 Constitution, and then giving revisionist narratives a run across Pakistan Studies books, then moved in to appease his new-found Saudi friends and donors.
Since by now the Pakistan Ideology had begun to place Pakistan’s historical roots in lands from where Arab horsemen had invaded India in the 8th Century, it was decided that the Arabic language too, should be adopted and taught in schools.
Bhutto felt secure in the belief that he was successfully keeping his left and liberal constituencies satisfied along with the conservative religious sections of the society and also Pakistan’s new Arab donors.
So it must have come as a rude shock to him when in December 1976 a nine-party alliance of religious and other anti-Bhutto parties united under the umbrella of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).
The alliance geared up to face Bhutto’s PPP in the 1977 election. And it was only when the PNA used the words ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (The Prophet’s System) as its main slogan, that it became apparent that the Bhutto regime’s experiments in the still elusive territory of the Pakistan Ideology had actually ended up providing his opponents the space and idea to use religion as an effective electoral tool.
Another factor that Bhutto might have undermined was that Saudi Arabia was not only cultivating relations with the Bhutto regime, it was also on very good terms with religious parties, such as the JI.
The PPP went on the defensive because according to Bhutto’s analysis it was the Islamic revival factor that now needed to be fought for and grabbed.
The word Islam outnumbered the word socialism in the party’s new manifesto and for the first time religion became the focal point of debate and discussion during an election in Pakistan.
The PPP trounced the PNA in the National Assembly election. The PNA cried foul and accused the Bhutto regime of rigging the polls. The truth was that the regime had rigged only a handful of seats (in the Punjab) and would have won the election anyway.
But Bhutto wanted to change the country’s parliamentary system into a Presidential one and for that he desired a big majority in the National Assembly.
The PNA refused to contest the Provincial Assembly elections and instead began a protest movement that soon turned violent.
PNA supporters - mostly made up of urban middle-class youth and supported by the industrialist and trader classes that were greatly stung by the Bhutto regime’s wayward socialist manoeuvres - poured out onto the streets.
Surprised by the tenacity of the protesters, Bhutto began emergency talks with the PNA leadership.
The ironic aspect of the movement was that when the PNA and the protesters began to use religious symbolism and slogans, these were culled from what the Bhutto regime had inducted into school text books.
But since both the PNA and the PPP were going on and on about Islam without ever bothering to explain exactly how they were planning to turn a religion based on moral and social codes into a functioning political and economic system, this eyewash was addressed by another eyewash.
In April 1977 the Bhutto regime met with the main religious leaders of the PNA belonging to the JI, Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP) and agreed to make Friday the weekly holiday instead of Sunday (as was the case in Saudi Arabia). He also agreed to ban the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages (to Muslims) and close down all nightclubs and bars.
But this did not save him from receiving another shock. In July 1977, his own General toppled his regime in a reactionary military coup and promptly arrested him.
General Ziaul Haq was handpicked by Bhutto, in spite of having a history of being highly conservative. Bhutto was assured by the outgoing Army Chief, General Tikka Khan, that Zia was completely apolitical and subservient.
When he imposed the country’s third Martial Law, Zia took the PNA’s Nizam-e-Mustafa rhetoric and turned it into a draconian and then a legislative ideological project, giving the whole concept of the Pakistan Ideology its starkest religious aspect thus far.
Bhutto was hanged in April 1979 through a sham trial, political parties were banned, and perhaps for the first time, the Pakistan Ideology was consolidated into becoming official state policy.
The grand concoction
The initial model for Zia’s so-called ‘Islamisation’ project was based on Maulana Maududi’s theories on the subject.
Zia began a project to enforce Nizam-e-Mustafa, marking a major shift from Pakistan's predominantly Anglo-Saxon laws.
Religion was the perfect kind of excuse for a dictator to flex his muscles at the time, especially in a country where the middle-classes and upstarts who had travelled to oil-rich Arab countries had confused the power of the Petro-Dollar with the power of the strands of the faith that they came into contact with there.
Maududi’s concept of the Pakistan Ideology that had been battered by the voters in 1970 and then mutated into meaning something closer to Bhutto’s equally convoluted ‘Islamic Socialism,’ fell into the hands of Zia who gave it his own twist.
But, he not only made it a part of school text books, he also began to express it through draconian laws that he described as being ‘Islamic.’
Law after law based on a particular understanding of the faith was rolled out, so much so that by the time of his death in 1988, the 1973 Constitution, that had originally been a product of pluralistic intent, became the enshrinement of certain laws and clauses that till this day give a constitutional cover to what are indeed acts of bigotry.
After toppling the Z. A. Bhutto government in July 1977, Zia almost immediately got down to the business of radically transforming the ideological complexion of Pakistan, changing it from being a ‘democratic Muslim majority state’ (as envisioned by its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah), into peddling it as a state that was supposedly conceived as a theocratic entity.
In 1979, Zia and his ideological partners hit a brick wall when they couldn’t endorse their revisionist narrative with any of the sayings and speeches of Jinnah.
As a first step, Zia banned the mention (in the media and school text books) of Jinnah’s famous speech that he made to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.
Zia’s information ministry spent days on end studying Jinnah’s speeches and sayings to dig out anything that could be used to endorse Zia’s version of Pakistan’s emergence.
They came up with nothing, until one fine day Zia (in 1983) enthusiastically announced the discovery of Jinnah’s personal diary.
While talking to his ministers, Zia claimed that in the newly discovered ‘personal diary of the founder’, Jinnah had spoken about having a ‘powerful Head of State (read: dictator),’ and ‘the dangers of parliamentary democracy.’ He conveniently concluded that Jinnah’s views were ‘very close to having an ‘Islamic system of government’.
The right-wing section of the Urdu press and state-owned TV and radio gave lavish coverage to the event, even publishing a page from the supposed diary.
But, alas, the euphoria around the farce was short-lived. Two of Jinnah’s close associates and direct participants of the Pakistan Movement, Mumtaz Daultana and K H. Khurshid, rubbished Zia’s claims by saying there never was such a diary.
After this, a group of senior intellectuals from the Quaid-e-Azam Academy also denied that such a diary ever existed in the Academy’s archives.
What’s even curious is the fact that once his claims were trashed, not only did Zia never mention anything about the supposed diary ever again, a number of Urdu newspapers that had splashed the dramatic discovery went completely quiet.
In desperation, the regime’s information ministry simply ended up advising PTV and Radio Pakistan to only use those quotes of Jinnah that had the word Islam in them.
The practice only stopped with Zia’s controversial demise in August 1988 and Jinnah was finally spared the false beard Zia kept pining on the founder’s otherwise shaven chin.
Nevertheless, no civilian government has dared alter or expunge the so-called ‘piety laws’ planted in the Constitution by the Zia regime. The fear of being declared ‘anti-Pakistan Ideology’ overrides the will to neutralise these laws.
Thus, in the last two decades, whole generations of educated, middle-class, young Pakistanis have grown up believing that a theocratic state was Jinnah’s main aim, and that the so-called Pakistan Ideology emerged from the days of the Pakistan Movement.
Of course, many have also continued to oppose these views and moves.
The idea that ate itself
During his 11-year rule, Zia furthered the project of the Pakistan Ideology and turned it into a dogma that explained Pakistan as a unique emergence in the Muslim world that was conceived to become a bastion of faith driven entirely by ‘divine laws.’
What made it a dogma (that was aggressively proliferated through school textbooks and propaganda), was that it refused to recognise the multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian make-up of the country and, instead, offered a rather convoluted, rigid and artificial understanding of the faith.
This ended up promoting inelastic and entirely myopic strands of the faith, pushing them from the fringes of society into the mainstream and in the process, retarding the natural evolution of Pakistan’s multicultural ethos and polity.
It also ended up offending various Muslim sects and sub-sects, creating serious sectarian tensions. It also alienated the ‘minorities’.
But Zia’s manoeuvres in this context were a culmination of what began as an ambitious project in the 1950s. The project reached its limits during the Zia regime.
The shape that it finally took was so inflexible that it could not adapt to the rapid political changes that followed after the end of the Cold War (in 1989) and during the emergence of the severe forms of religious extremism and terrorism that engulfed the country after 9/11.
It can thus be suggested that the project is now facing a serious crises. It cannot be stretched any further. It ate itself after devouring everything that could have halted the political and social retardation that it triggered over the decades.
That’s why today, Pakistan’s ruling and military establishments and intelligentsia are now trying to replace it with a thinking that would directly challenge the doctrinal rigidity and the political and cultural isolation the so-called ideology ended up promoting and encouraging.
Pakistan’s existentialist status is in dire need of a fresh new narrative — a narrative that should have begun where Jinnah’s first speech to the Constituent Assembly had left off.
Society & Politics 1989-2015
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• Stephen Alter, Amritsar to Lahore: a journey across the India-Pakistan border (Penn Sylvania Press, 2002 ) p.22
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• KK Aziz, The Murder of History (Renaissance Publishing House, 1998) p.111
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• A Zubair, The Silent and the Lost (Pacific Breeze Publishers, 2010) p.321
• Strategic Digest Vol: 3 (Institute of Defence Studies & Analyses, 1973) p.16
• Aitzaz Ahsan, The Indus Saga (Roli, 2005).
• Dr. Mubarek Ali, Interviews & Comments (Fiction House, 2004) p.66
• Zaid Haider, The Ideological Struggle For Pakistan (Hoover Institution Press, 2010) p.16
• Thomas Borstelmann, 1970s: A New Global History From Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2011) p.267
• Rubina Saigol, Radicalisation of State & Society in Pakistan (Heinrich Boll Stiftung) p.10 • Walid Phares, The War of Ideas (Macmillan, 2007).
• Vali Reza Nasr, Islamic Leviathan (Oxford University Press, 2001) p.80
• Mubashir Hassan, The Miraj of Power: An Inquiry into the Bhutto Years - 1971-77 (Oxford University Press, 2000) pp.299-300
• Khaled Ahmed, Pakistan Behind The Ideological Mask (Vanguard, 2001).
• The Political Economy of Pakistan: 1947-85 (Taylor & Frances, 1988) p.180
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