Happy Independence Day to all!
Well obviously that’s not why I’m writing. Well, almost not. Actually if it hadn’t been for the overdose of television yesterday, I wouldn’t have been “inspired” into thinking. If it hadn’t been for the repeated assertions about the liberal country Pakistan was supposed to be (whatever that means. Not Musharraf’s version of enlightened moderation I hope!), about the ideals Quaid wanted the new nation state to represent (definitely not Musharraf’s attempts at qualifying for sage-hood through his sermons-no doubts on that one), and the debate between “theocracy” and “secularism” in context of the Two-Nation theory, a debate that interestingly developed in the last seven to eight years, I wouldn’t have been compelled into writing. And also, some journalists/intellectuals’ reminiscing about the bygone days when bars and clubs were common, how drinking would be permissible for Muslims in “Quaid’s Pakistan”, and right then on some other channel Liaquat Ali Khan’s sons reiteration that Pakistan was supposed to be an Islamic country.
It is almost a tragedy those 62 years on, we are still squabbling over the ideology of this country. Always having been told that ours was an ideological country, one of just two in the history of the world, the debate over the existence of any such ideology almost puts the whole raisin deter of this country in doubt. Maintaining the liberal viewpoint on the Quaid’s speech on the 11th of August to prove some definitive justification for this country’s existence is a little too simplistic. For that speech in no manner, rules out the possibility of an Islamic state. If at all, by some fling stretch of imagination it does, didn’t the Quaid also say that Pakistan was supposed to serve as a “laboratory in which Islam will be practically demonstrated for the world to see and adopt…” That to me spells out a very clear vision for the country. And there are many more instances where the Quaid made a case for an “Islamic” state in very unambiguous terms.
However, the discussion above is not meant to prove somehow the Quaid’s personal inclination towards Islam or his devotion to the religion, because in all practicality of the issue, that isn’t important. And besides nothing discussed above describes the Quaid’s spiritual inclinations. What’s more relevant and somewhat suggested by the paragraph above, but still not necessarily important today, is the motivation behind the migration of millions to this part of the Indian subcontinent to find their identity in the new nation state, behind the “Pakistan ka matlab kia, Lailaha Illallah” slogan, behind the tireless efforts of many Muslim leaders in the league of the Quaid. Pakistan was an effort of a nation under the able guidance of a group of men who looked up to the Quaid as their leader. One man may have had his own priorities but his own speeches suggest that the concept of this new country was shaped by the collective wisdom of a people who made the sacrifices on ground. And this wisdom was expressed in 1949, through the Objectives Resolution.
To say that the Objectives Resolution somehow hijacked the concept of Pakistan is to deny the right of voice to the millions who made this country. To say that the first clause of this resolution compromises on the democratic principles this country’s political system was to be based on is lack of knowledge on the part of those who believe that the only alternative to secularism is theocracy. Not a single Muslim country in the world practices theocracy although Iran comes somewhat close to that model. Neither was it practiced in the times of the four caliphs which leave just the Prophet’s period (P.B.U.H.) which could be so much of everything although it did lay down the fundamentals of democracy even in the practical constraints of those times.
Whether an Islamic state or a secular one, it’s not for me to decide and neither is it for all those historians and intellectuals poring over records of speeches of the Quaid, in all honesty only to justify their own vision derived from their individual ideological leanings and present their findings as some substantive irrevocable concept conceived by the founding fathers, to be accepted by a nation of 160 million. This issue has till now been nothing more than a debate on history, which one needs to understand, is a fact not to be altered by the conclusions of any individual or a group of people. Deciding on the ideological moorings of a nation should be a more thought provoking exercising than competing against each other to come up with the most apt statement from 60 years ago. And for a country in which the line between the two sides has unfortunately been getting deeper as time passes, this question will never be settled. For me, the fact that religio-political forces have never been elected into office in this country (although even they do not represent or advocate a theocratic Pakistan), or that a couple of years ago M.P. Bhandara’s suggestion that alcohol be legalized in the country for whatever reason did not draw much attention in the lower house, is a clearer manifestation of the choices Pakistan of today, wants to make.
The real decision makers in this backdrop have to be the people of Pakistan, the true heirs to the destiny of Pakistan. There was a Pakistan in 1947, there is this Pakistan in 2009; the decision to make it any different or similar should be all theirs. Let the debate on the ideology of this country be a question left at the behest of history, to be decided by history, for history.