Ever since the systematic distortion of Pakistan’s history after its inception–perhaps now we have entered its worst possible phase since many question the very vision of Pakistan’s founder for the country. The Establishment troika and bigoted clergy swept Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s secular ideology under the carpet and replaced his vision of social welfare state into a theocratic-security contraption. Threat is now more lethal.
I found it shocking that ugly head of hateful religiously that has been there, is now trying to get formally into our political stream. This was manifested in the bye-election of NA-120 in which two recently formed ultra-right religious parties—namely Milli Millat League and Laibak Party—polled thirteen thousand voters despite the fact they had not been registered by the ECP. Ominously, this a bad sign for Pakistani politics. No doubt the real fight was between PML-N’s Begum Kulsom Nawaz and PTI’s Dr Yasmeen Hasgmi. Begum Kulsom won with comfortable margin. Her circles describe her victory as symbolic of defiance against establishment troika. Dr Yasmeen Hashmi lost but with grace and dignity against odds and well-entrenched power mafia holding on to Punjab politics since over 30 years.
However, what has been of my concern is that each passing year the death and birth anniversaries are becoming more ritualistic rather than an occasion for genuine stock taking. It is ironic to note that Pakistan’s secular and liberal ideological foundations are being threatened more vigorously than ever before. Notwithstanding the usual high-sounding plaudits to MAJ from various podiums for establishing Pakistan single- handed through vote as a Muslim homeland with irrevocable guarantees that irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender all its citizens will be equal. We need to reiterate without fear from any quarter what MAJ wanted us to be and where we stand today.
Muslims in India—once ruling elite—found themselves pushed into mire of decadence after 1857. Had it not been for Sir Syed Ahmed we would not have been where we are today. He was harbinger of Muslim Renaissance in India and his weapon of choice to stage a come back was through modern education. He was opposed by the theocrats against opening of doors of western education to make the existence of Muslims competitive with Hindus.
Sir Syed Ahmed could foresee the future course of India under Indian National Congress. He advised the Muslims not to be part of its game. He perceived the Congress’s demand for a wider role for the Indians in the government as the “thin end of the wedge for monopolising absolute power.” He forewarned of the likely scenario when the British would leave India. He raised his pertinent concern that also signaled the genesis of partition on the basis of two-nation theory.
“Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India?” “Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammedans and the Hindus – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not! It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable… But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land.” He believed that Muslims would not get equitable share in jobs and other areas of socio-economic endeavours if they remained educationally backward. This observation was a manifestation of increasing polarisation on grounds of economic disparities between the two nations despite the fact that he did not see the division of India as according to him– “Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan”.
It needs to be emphasized here that during the British Raj, all the religious communities enjoyed equal rights. Muslims could practice Islam in its various strains freely and unhindered. So did people of other faiths enjoyed equal freedom. Where they did not have equitable opportunities were the fields of employment and economic enterprise. And this socio-economic friction got adequately postulated in MAJ’s 14 points rejected by the Nehrus and Indian National Congress. Had they accepted MAJ’s formula for an equitable treatment to Muslims and other minorities in the political scheme of things, India would have remained united.
Initially until 1946 Quaid had agreed to be part of undivided India as outlined in May/June 1946 Plan. It envisaged a united India in line with Congress and Muslim League aspirations. The Jinnah-Nehru consensus ended when Jawaharlal Nehru told a journalist that Congress would be in majority and as such it would decide the future of India negating the basis of Muslim demands of ‘political safeguards’ built into post-British Indian laws so as to prevent absolute rule of Hindus over Muslims forcing Jinnah to opt for independence as a last resort.
Ziaist historians who got encouraged as a state policy—did their best to convert a secular MAJ into a theocratic crusader misconstruing his linkage of Islam, democracy and what he called Islamic socialism. MAJ believed that both God and Islam were secular. That’s why he claimed that democracy was in our bone marrow and in our blood since the advent of Islam. He saw modern democratic institutions similar to concept of Shura, Ijtehad, debate, discussion and election. Had this not be the case in Islam, Holy Prophet (PBUH) could have nominated his successor but he did not.
MAJ also saw in Huquq Ul Ibad a secular concept applicable to entire humankind and not just Muslims as is interpreted by the Muslim clerics. Not to allow any ambiguity to what Pakistan had to be MAJ laid it out clearly in his speech of August 11, 1947: (1): In his Pakistan—all its citizens will be equal, they will enjoy equal rights—irrespective of religion. (2): Islamic socialism and secularism—according to the Quaid— were not contradiction of Islam but its true manifestation. (3): That Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was Rehmatul Lil Alameen—blessing and leader of all human kind and not just Muslims. (4) That’s why Quaid separated religion from state management and declared categorically that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state.
Unlike India where its founding fathers lived long to consolidate in the state form their vision, unfortunately MAJ died as early as September 1948 and his Lieutenant Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated three years later by forces that wanted to waylay MAJ’s vision of a social welfare state. Pakistan was converted into a security state supported by religious groups that had opposed Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal and the Quaid.
If we have to save MAJ’s Pakistan then we must force the issue to resolve who is the real arbiter of power in Pakistan—the people or the establishment troika. Until and unless, this issue is decided, things would continue to worsen. Almighty made the people His vicegerent—investing in them with sovereign powers. And so it should be.
Conclusively we must keep in mind that Pakistan’s last military dictator—General Pervez Musharraf– created MMA to perpetuate himself in power. He rigged elections to get them respectable parliamentary representation hitherto until then denied to them by the electorate that by and large believes in keeping politics separate from religion as desired by the Quaid.
(The writer is the former High Commissioner for Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist).