GENERAL Ayub Khan is a controversial figure and much has been written about him by historians and political scientists. In line with my previous article (Objectives Resolution the roots of religious orthodoxy, Encounter, June 20, 2010), my aim is quite modest, to underline the factors which made it possible for political Islam, the religious orthodoxy, to gain ground during his regime and to serve as a building bloc for later developments.
He had made an effort to confine the traditionalist ulema to their limits, and he was not willing to accept their claim that a constitution could be regarded Islamic only if it was drafted by them. “This was a position which neither the people nor I was prepared to accept” (Friends not Masters).
The Objectives Resolution had brought into bold relief the question about the course of action that the country should follow to establish its laws in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. When the Basic Principles Committee (BPC) was constituted to begin deliberations on the constitution-making process it had established the Board of Talimaat-i-Islamia in 1951 under the chairmanship of Sayyid Sulaiman Nadavi, a well-known Islamic scholar who as editor of the monthly magazine, Ma-araf, had established his reputation.
The reports of the Board to BPC were never made public. The religious leaders, encouraged by the Objectives Resolution, however, had decided to hold a convention in January 1951 to formulate principles for the Islamic state of Pakistan, with Sayyid Sulaiman Nadavi as chairman. It was attended by thirty-one ulema, and through a unanimous decision they produced a 22-point document on 'Basic Principles of Islamic State'. The document did not receive much publicity at the time, though it had been duly noticed in the government circles. (In 1980, the full text of this document was released to the press by General Ziaul Haq)The report of the convention of the ulema focused directly on the prerequisites for the Islamic state as they envisioned them, bypassing all the questions about democracy, representative government and electoral system and recommending a system with head of the state as a male Muslim 'in whose piety, learning and soundness of judgement the people or their elected representatives...' had confidence, and that the head would function in a consultative manner. The convention obviously was recognising its version of democracy as perceived by it by underlining the consultative procedure and consensus in governance, according to its interpretation of Islam. The ulema also declared that the state shall not be based on 'geographical.... linguistic...concepts but on Islamic ideology; and that it would uphold and establish the Right (ma'aruf) and forbid the Wrong (Munkar). (MMA Government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa tried to implement it during the Musharraf era, and currently the terrorists have become the unofficial advocates of the code).
The message of the ulema then to the leadership of Pakistan was quite clear if they were using Islam to establish their political legitimacy, then they should face the logical conclusion of their claims. Abul A'la Maudoodi, a member of the convention had pursued this point relentlessly in his 'non-negotiable demands' to the BPC (See Leonard Binder, Religion and Politics in Pakistan, 1961). When the second Constituent Assembly was elected in 1954, it gradually reached a consensus and approved the draft of the 1956 constitution. This constitution envisaged a representative democracy, with president, the parliament, the prime minister, judiciary, and with Pakistan officially known as an Islamic state. In the context of the demands of the ulema, the 1956 constitution provided for the establishment of the organisation for Islamic research and instruction, and for the president to appoint a commission to make recommendations for bringing the laws in conformity with the Quran and Sunnah. Obviously, the constitution ignored the manifesto of the convention of the ulema, and it allowed time for the commission to submit its final report within five years of its appointment.
The 1956 constitution never had a chance to be properly tested, because the period leading up to the takeover by General Ayub Khan was dominated by political uncertainties, partly related to the East versus West Pakistan. He took over as president of Pakistan, through declaration of martial law in 1958 and with a civilian framework from 1962.
Ayub Khan wanted to reconstruct Pakistani society on modern lines. The controversial ordinances promulgating Basic Democracies in 1959 and of Muslim Family Laws in 1961 gave a glimpse of his agenda. His purpose seemed to be to neutralise ulema, not only landlords and bureaucrats. In this context, the 'Basic Principles of Islamic State' as proposed by the convention of the ulema was not of any use, nor was the 1956 Constitution flexible enough to accommodate his presidential inclinations.
The 1962 constitution was promulgated for the Republic of Pakistan, but the controversy about the prefix “Islamic” to the title kept persisting. On the advice of Z.A. Bhutto, a member of his cabinet, he restored it through an amendment. As the later events indicated, this action was read by his opponents as his susceptibility to political pressure. Towards modernisation of the society, the constitution provided for twin institutions, an Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology (ACII) and Islamic Research Institute. Concerning the ACII the prefix 'Advisory' was in line with Ayub Khan's policy to keep the ulema at arm's length, but the use of the word 'ideology' was to open a Pandora's box and was misplaced because it carried a distinct meaning in political Islam, dominated by the orthodox Sunni position about what may be referred to as Islamic system. The Council theoretically was to represent economic, legal and religious expertise but ulema demanded substantial representation because according to them 'Islamic ideology' was their exclusive domain.
Professor Fazlur Rahman, an Islamic scholar of international reputate was given the responsibility to guide the institute, along with Dr. I.H. Qureshi. Professor Fazlur Rahman became a persona non grata for the ulema for his defence of the use of contraception in the family planning controversies. Then came his article on riba (Fikr-o-Nazar, 1963) in which he argued that interest as used in modern times was not against the Quranic injunction about riba, which was aimed at the usurious practices of the money-lenders. The opposition from the ulema now turned ugly and he was left with no option but to resign from his position, and later threats posed to his life became so intense that he was forced to leave the country.
It would be useful to add that the ACII, contrary to views of Professor Fazlur Rahman, several times reconfirmed to the end of Ayub Khan government that use of interest in modern times fell under the definition of riba and that entire financial system of the country was in need of a drastic revision in line with their interpretation of the Quranic injunction. In the meantime, a political storm was gathering against Ayub Khan. The 1965 war which had been supported by his foreign minister, Z.A. Bhutto, but in which he was a reluctant participant took its toll on him. In 1969 he resigned for health reasons.
In the controversy against Dr. Fazlur Rahman, Abul A'la Maudoodi of Jamaat-i-Islami and his associates emerged as the clear winners. They had now sharpened their political tools and were ready for the next opportunity to push for their goal, as Mr Z.A. Bhutto found out later.
As for General Ayub Khan himself. Lacking in legitimacy which had called for a public mandate by direct election, with highly centralised administration, with widening gap between the rich and the poor because of rapid industrialisation, increasing gulf between East and West Pakistan through diversion of resources from East Pakistan (as indicated by several studies made by economists from East Pakistan), failure to reach an understanding with the leaders in that region and above all, with the attacks from an erstwhile colleague and confidant, Mr Z.A. Bhutto, the founder-president of the new Pakistan People's Party, the stage was set for him to pass the torch on to his successor, General Yahya Khan.