An editorial on the recent fiasco where five military officers were found guilty of association with Hizbut Tahrir mentions that Hizbut Tahrir had also branded Jinnah a kafir and that “the army is overwhelmingly loyal to the ideology of Pakistan.” By “loyal” I am presuming they mean adherence. Was there even an ideology to adhere to or was there a vision? Would we even be facing the problem of extremism and terrorism within our borders if we had adhered to the principles that manifested themselves into the vision that was perceived for Pakistan?
Jinnah’s vision – not ideology – for the new nation was secular and democratic. This does not suggest that Jinnah was, in any way, supplanting the Muslim identity that brought about Pakistan. He was only highlighting a path that would eventually help Pakistan evolve beyond the limitations of identification on religious pretexts to a modern state able to effortlessly integrate other religious and ethnic sects of the country. If this vision had been followed then Pakistan would have most definitely moved beyond the issues of provincialism and extremism that plague the nation today. The establishment, however, chose an alternate route.
Yasser Latif Hamdani, a columnist and lawyer, writes in his article titled, The ideological foundations of Pakistan, that for Pakistan, “the vague concept of South Asian Muslim Nationalism has proved to be an inadequate unifier... Given that after 1971 there were more South Asian Muslims outside Pakistani borders (as in Bangladesh and India) than inside it, the Pakistani establishment was forced to seek Islamic Ideology as a possible replacement to South Asian Muslim nationalism as the basis of the state.” This definitely does not seem to be in congruence with the vision of Jinnah. It plays more into the hands of banned extremist organisations that are being patronised within our borders for some absurd and outdated perceived strategic advantage.
Pakistan’s history, unfortunately, is plagued with situations where religion has been exploited to further agendas, sometimes personal and sometimes of a geopolitical nature. Contrary to popular belief, the military alone is not to be blamed for this. It was none other than the great secular statesman, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who for political expediency, not only aggravated the trust deficit that existed between the east and west wings of the country that eventually lead to its partition, but also, as A G Noorani, an Indian columnist and scholar, writes in his article, Secular Jinnah and the Islamic undercurrent, made compromises “to secure political mobilisation” and was, therefore, “exploited by those who did not share his outlook; ones like Abul Ala Maududi who were opposed to the foundation of Pakistan.” This resulted in the adoption of the second amendment by the National Assembly in September 1974 which declared that the Ahmadis as a non-Muslim minority. Bhutto, however, was ousted by the military on July 5, 1977 and Ziaul Haq, as we all know, “deformed the entire polity in the name of Islam.”
Noorani suggests that the campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan followed by the rise of the Taliban and 9/11 further empowered the ulema politically to a great extent. The ulema in Pakistan, unfortunately, are anything but the erudite Muslim scholars of Islamic jurisprudence that they are meant to be. The Munir report of 1954 exposed their ignorance where they were incapable of properly articulating definitions of basic principles like ‘jihad’ and what an ‘Islamic state’ actually entailed. In totality, these events did not bring about a rise of Islam, but, more so, the rise “of a priestly class whose legitimacy and locus standi, the great faith of Islam does not recognize; the only religion, perhaps, which does not sanction a priestly class.”
Furthermore, beyond secularism, Jinnah had envisioned a democratic state. Despite being an admirer of Mustafa Kamal Attaturk, Jinnah reminded the armed forces, “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues, and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted.” Yet, Pakistan has been denied the benefits of “democracy for the better part of its history.”
However, once again, the armed forces are not entirely to be blamed for the derailment of democracy. Opportunities have been provided to them to pursue this course. The judiciary too has played a negative role. Chief Justice Muhammad Munir’s verdict of May 16, 1955 that validated the dissolution of the constituent assembly by Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad under the pretext of the doctrine of necessity was the milestone that is referred to whenever military rule and the abrogation of the constitution require legitimacy.
It is, therefore, apparent that we are far from “loyal” to the vision that was enunciated by the founding fathers of this nation. This is, undoubtedly one of the prime reasons for the dismal condition of the country. To reverse this trend: democratic systems and institutions need unhindered nurturing; political leaders need to adhere to the constitution and uphold their side of the social contract with sincerity; the judiciary needs to defend the supremacy of the constitution and not legitimise the abrogation of the same as it did in the past; the army needs to focus its efforts on defending the country and not to renounce the “oath of allegiance” that each soldier has taken to uphold the constitution; and the country needs to be cleansed of the extremist outfits that have, so far, been patronised because of their strategic relevance. It is this patronage that has allowed the enemy to infiltrate. These objectives can be achieved. The only question that remains unanswered, however, is that of leadership.
The writer is editor-in-chief of Criterion Quarterly. Email: mushfiq.murshed @gmail.com