Last week the country officially celebrated the 71st anniversary of the 1940 Pakistan Resolution. The day is also known as Pakistan Day. The truth is that all the Muslim League documents (e.g. Allama Iqbal’s 1930 Allahabad address, Jinnah’s 14 points, 1940 Lahore Resolution) had only asked for maximum autonomy for the Muslim majority provinces and principalities within the framework of India.
These documents only acceded to the center foreign policy, defence, communication and currency. But because of strong center policies of the Indian congress, this demand ultimately resulted in the division of India. However, the same demand was raised by Awami League 24 years after Pakistan was made. And even today smaller province’s politicians have the same demand hence their insistence that 1940 resolution should be implemented in letter and spirit.
The slogan for maximum autonomy for the Muslim majority provinces was led by the Muslim ruling elite and the salariat, to borrow the term from Hamza Alavi for their own vested interest. To pull in the public support emotive slogan of religion was exploited by the leadership. So while the end objective was to seek maximum autonomy for Muslim rulers and middle classes of these areas, the means used to achieve this end was religion.
At every official forum and in most of the important documents the term used was ‘Muslim majority states’ and not ‘Islamic state.’ The difference between the two is clear: while a Muslim state is where the Muslims are in majority, ‘Islamic state’ which we have eventually become, is where obviously laws have to be in accordance with Sharia.
The present friction in the society is because the sloganeering and emotive use of religion to gain support of the masses during the Pakistan movement, has been dictating the course of the country. The course that is likely to lead us towards another bloody end.
Right from the very beginning the religious leadership started asserting itself because they were provided the space by the Pakistan movement leadership. Acceptance of the Objectives Resolution was the first capitulation. So one speech of Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah on 11th August 1947 — which is quoted frequently by the liberals — cannot wipe out the umpteen speeches by him and other leaders declaring that Muslims of India need a separate homeland, because they are a separate nation and want to live according to the cannons of Islam.
The question that needed to be asked was that were the Muslims of India not following Islamic teachings when they were living in India since the last 1000 years? Of course they lived in India as Muslims without any challenge from other religions. On the contrary although Muslims were a minority, they ruled India for over 800 years, but it never occurred to them that they were a separate nation. However, when it came to democracy, where numbers matter and Hindu majority would have had the upper-hand the Muslims were reminded after centuries of convenient amnesia that they were a separate nation.
So the analogy is that while running away from democracy Muslim elite of India acted like a spoil-sport brat, who after taking his batting turn in the neighbourhood match walks away with his bat saying my mother needs me and refuses to field.
Only when the British started reforms to allow limited self-rule powers to the Indians – which would have meant rule of the majority — Indian Muslims’ amnesia was cured. The ‘Two Nation-Theory’ evolved from the basic demand that maximum autonomy should be given to the Muslim majority provinces and principalities. It was motivated by the fear of Muslim elite that they will loose control of the provinces they ruled. The Muslim elite of the areas where they were in minority took a leading role in this movement because they were moved by their diminishing share in government services in these provinces before the Government of India 1935 Act was introduced.
To get the support of the masses the elite used religion unabashedly. The mixing of religion with politics has always been a dangerous formulation. All nations which have chosen this path have become captive of the religious forces.
In what is Saudi Arabia now, the house of Saud used the Wahabi puritanism as a justification to establish control over other tribes of the region and on the two most Muslim holy lands – Makkah and Madina. Today the ruling family finds it difficult to open up the society for any fresh air. For instance basic fundamental rights are denied to women and all moves even by the ruling family are sabotaged.
In Israel where the land was acquired in the name of religion, any move by the liberal Jewish leaders to accept the genuine Palestinian demands is resisted by the religious extremists. Begin who tried to work out a peace deal was killed.
In Iran where the democratic revolution against the King was hijacked by the religious lobby, today the religious supra-body over-rules any reforms and the democrats are languishing in prison. Many have also been killed.
Thus Pakistan is no stranger in this company. The religious laws which discriminate and are being misused for settling personal vendettas cannot be changed because again the religious extremists draw their strength from the basic Pakistan movement slogans. The conflict is sharpening between the 7th century tribal Arab value system and the 21st century capitalist society values. This friction is taking a toll on the Pakistani society. The faster the human value system progresses, which, is the natural course of history, the stronger would be the resistance from the forces of regression. Little do these religious retrogressive forces realize that human history and value systems are not static, the process of change is continuous. Any attempt to arrest the advancing history, no matter how violent, is temporary, that is the lesson of history. (firstname.lastname@example.org)