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Smokers’ Corner: Past tense

April 14, 2013

Recently, a shocking display of self-righteous tactics employed by the Returning Officers (ROs) while whetting the moral standing of candidates for the May 11 election triggered a series of heated debates in the media.

The controversy revolved around Articles 62 and 63 in the Constitution which were introduced by a reactionary military dictator in the 1980s.

Yet, even after the demise of the dictator, about 15 years of civilian rule couldn’t put the controversial articles up for any worthwhile democratic scrutiny or debate.

The mentioned articles are based on almost entirely abstract allusions about Pakistan’s founding ideology. No matter how much the term Pakistan Ideology is mentioned in the country’s school textbooks and by the mainly right-wing intelligentsia, the truth is that the term has never been fully defined and/or agreed upon.

But it is also true that in spite of the fact that the so-called Pakistan Ideology (Nazariya-i-Pakistan) is at best a figment of lofty and illusionary thinking with very little connection to any substantial historical reality, it remains a widely used term among a majority of Pakistanis.

The main reason for this has been the kind of history almost each and every Pakistani has been taught at school and college ever since the mid-1970s. School and college students are actively discouraged from understanding history as a set of facts based on literary and archaeological evidence.

They are also asked to blindly consume history (especially that of Pakistan) even when facts in this context suggest that much of it was written to fulfil certain manipulative ideological ends and to popularise political and social episodes that have little or no link to any historical reality as such.

No matter how aversely some Nazariya-i-Pakistan enthusiasts in the media, the ‘establishment’ or the intelligentsia may react to the above-mentioned scenario, the truth remains that the whole Pakistan Ideology bit is a comparatively recent construct (if not an outright convolution).

Scholars like Ayesha Jalal, Rubina Saigol and A.H. Nayyar, historians K.K. Aziz and Dr Mubarak Ali, and authors like Hussain Haqqani, Ian Talbot and Stephen P. Cohen have all provided reliable evidence to substantiate that the term Pakistan Ideology was nowhere to be found in the speeches and documents related to the founders of the country.

The ‘Pakistan Movement’ was based on the ‘Two-Nation Theory’ which considered the Muslims of India a separate political and cultural entity from the region’s Hindu majority and was dynamic enough to deserve a separate Muslim homeland. Nevertheless, even after Pakistan was created in 1947, there were more Muslims in India than there were in Pakistan.

The founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was quick to realise this and according to two of his colleagues, Chaudhry Khaliq-uz Zaman and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, this is why in his first major speech to the Constituent Assembly (August 11, 1947), he emphasised Pakistan to be a Muslim nation-state that was broad-based in its make-up.

In his 1961 book, Pathway to Pakistan, Khaliq-uz Zaman suggests that the speech “effectively negated (and put to rest) the faith-based nationalism of the Pakistan Movement”.

So if Jinnah dropped the Islamic aspects of the movement, then what is the Pakistan Ideology?

Subscribers of this ideology explain it to be a belief in the ‘Two-Nation Theory’ and in the conviction that Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam and was destined to become an ‘Islamic state’.

Detractors, however, point to the fact that the Two-Nation Theory collapsed the moment the majority of Muslims stayed behind in India, making Jinnah affirm his idea of Pakistan as a Muslim-majority nation-state where the state will have nothing to do with religion.

Detractors also suggest that the Theory was contradicted once again in 1971, when Bengali Muslims in the former East Pakistan broke away to form a separate country on the basis of Bengali nationalism.

They further point out that had the founders conceived Pakistan as an Islamic state, they would not have been opposed by Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom were staunchly anti-Jinnah and thought the idea of Pakistan was an un-Islamic abomination.

Jinnah justified Pakistan as a Muslim majority state that would encapsulate the political, economic and cultural genius of the Muslims of South Asia without evoking the theological aspects of their faith.

He was also conscious of the history of polemical conflicts between the many Muslim sects and sub-sects Pakistan had inherited.

Unfortunately, his concerns and vision were rudely ignored after his death in 1948, and the ruling elite haphazardly began to give shape to a monolithic idea of Pakistan in which Islamic laws would be central (1949 Objectives Resolution).

The 1956 Constitution again spoke of an Islamic Republic, but the problem was, all this was being suggested without putting the plan up for any authentic democratic scrutiny or consensus in front of a multi-sectarian and multi-cultural polity.

Most nation states have a history of creating an idealised past to sustain their justification. It was during the secular military regime of Ayub Khan (1959-69) that the myths required to build a nationalist narrative began in earnest. He formed a Council of Islamic Ideology but populated it with liberal Islamic scholars.

The Council was more an exercise in painting Ayub’s polices as being close to Jinnah’s thinking, who, according to the Council, only believed in ‘controlled democracy’ and a centralised government. The Islamic aspect was given mere lip-service in the 1962 Constitution.

Ayub’s policies were opposed by the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) that, in 1962, for the first time used the term Nazariya-i-Pakistan.

Over the next few years, JI, without mentioning Jinnah, continued to call for the creation of an Islamic state by claiming that it was a natural outcome of Nazariya-i-Pakistan.

Leftist thought and groups ascending in the late 1960s trashed JI’s claims by countering that Pakistan was conceived as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Muslim-majority country based on democracy and socialism.

Interestingly, it was during the populist and left-liberal government of ZA Bhutto (1972-77), that the term Nazariya-i-Pakistan first began to appear in textbooks and official lingo (especially after the passing of the 1973 Constitution).

The government rationalised the separation of East Pakistan as a natural occurrence because the real Pakistan was always West Pakistan or the region that ran along the mighty River Indus.

Though more friendly to the idea of the country being multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, the Bhutto regime explained that a largely homogenous understanding of Islam was the glue that kept all the ethnicities together (in the Indus region).

For this, the 1973 Constitution gave power to the state and government of Pakistan to define this so-called homogenous understanding of Islam.

In a land riddled with numerous sects, sub-sects and varied religious interpretations, the move was bound to alienate and even offend a number of Pakistanis who disagreed with the state’s version of Islam.

The Constitution actually took away the right of a Pakistani Muslim to interpret Islam for him or herself without state interference. But it was under General Zia, the man who toppled Bhutto in 1977— all that was first part of public debate (in the 1960s), and then a constitutional allusion in the 1970s became strict state policy — that Nazariya-i-Pakistan finally became an official creed.

Flushed with petro-dollars and an increasing confidence in his power, Zia unfolded a number of Islamic laws culled from interpretations of certain puritanical branches of Islamic thought and then (through textbooks, constitutional amendments and state media), weaved them to become the central planks of the Pakistan Ideology.

Ever since the 1980s, Nazariya-i-Pakistan has come down to mean the belief in the right of the Islamic state and Islamic constitution to not only define faith, but to also judge and measure the faith of the faithful as well as denounce and prosecute those deemed to be threats to the Pakistan Ideology.

All this has created sectarian and sub-sectarian divisions; justified state interference in matters of faith; and rationalised non-democratic intervention in the name of defending the ideology.

Consequently, the mindset has trickled down and armed people to openly manipulate faith as a means to meet self-righteous as well as cynical ends.

Lastly, the so-called called Pakistan Ideology has also left the youth of the country thoroughly confused about its identity in a rapidly changing and complex world.

For starters, instead of looking for their roots upon the ground that they stand on, many of them now look for these roots in the ways and trends of booming desert lands hundreds of miles away, as if Pakistan was conceived in Arabia.