EVEN after 62 years of Pakistan's inception, the government, the establishment, the political forces and the media are still locked in the debate whether the Quaid-i-Azam wanted Pakistan to be governed under the system of Islamic Shariah or whether it should be a secular state.

Perhaps history may answer this question. Famous scholar Dr Mehdi Hasan said that the Indian Muslims had 'fear' of democracy, because Indian Muslims had security concerns in the future democratic independent India.

In 1900, when the rulers declared Hindi as the official language in the Indian province of UP, these concerns further aggravated. At that time some visionary Muslim leaders founded the All India Muslim League with an agenda of keeping sustained pressure upon the rulers to get guarantees that the rights of Muslims in independent India would be protected.

There is no evidence that the Muslim League ever demanded Islamic law for Muslims. Their demand for the independent entity only came after Dr Allama Iqbal put forward the idea of a separate state for Muslims in 1940.

The religious right uses some references from the Quaid's speeches to conclude that he wanted Pakistan to be an ideological Islamic state. However, the available videos of his speeches show that his vision of Pakistan was purely a democracy, where citizens have access to education, freedom of speech, freedom to practise their religions, good relations with its neighbours, resilient justice system and a vibrant economy.

Gen Zia, who believed that democracy and political parties are not consistent with the notions of Islam, tried to impose his version of Islamic laws and threw the country into chaos. His policies not only brought the drug and Kalashnikov culture but also created the born-again Muslims in the Army like Lt-Gen Javed Nasir, who, hand-picked by Nawaz Sharif as ISI's director-general, got the ISI involved in the jihad, farther than Kashmir and Afghanistan.

He involved the ISI in Central Asia, Sri Lanka and Arakan where the Muslim groups were fighting for independent enclave.

Any system on the basis of justice is actually an Islamic system. By replacing judges with qazis and adding punishments like chopping hands and public flogging in law may not be a great service to Islam or to Pakistanis.

MISBAH U. AZAM

United States

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