Countries do not need ideology to survive
By Babar Ayaz
The discourse on the ‘Islamic ideology of Pakistan’ has taken prominence once again in the country. Its timing is interesting as it is just before Pakistan’s historical elections. Liberal and secular forces are being physically attacked and intellectual freedom is being curbed. The elections are not being contested on an even playing field. Thus the fundamental question that needs to be discussed, without fear at the intellectual level is: Is an ideology, whether spiritual or philosophical necessary for a country to exist on the world map?
The arguments given by the advocates of Islamic ideology of Pakistan are mainly based on the following premise: one, if it was not to establish a country in accordance to Islamic Sharia what was the logic of demanding Pakistan and dividing India; two, Islamic ideology is the basis of one nation and the glue that keeps the country together; three, it is the ideology of Pakistan that gives her a separate identity; and four, Ideology of Pakistan is inscribed in the Objectives Resolution, which was further explained by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Asma Jilani vs. Government of Pakistan case in 1972.
Now let’s discuss each of the above premises independently. The question raised by the right-wing politicians rhetorically is: what was the logic of demanding Pakistan and dividing India if it was not to establish a country in accordance with Islamic Sharia? They answer it with the statement that Muslims of India wanted a separate homeland because they wanted to live following the Islamic ideology. As stated in some of my previous columns published by this newspaper and more importantly by independent historians the Muslims who ruled India for 800 years did not raise the issue of a separate nation on the basis of religion. They were no less believers of Islam than the today’s protagonists of Islamic ideology. The Muslims who opted to stay back in India also are not the children of a lesser ‘Allah’. Even during the All India Muslim league (AIML) struggle for securing economic and political rights of Muslims in the late 19th and early 20th century the movement was based on the fear of being ruled by the Hindu majority, who were once the subjects of the Muslim kings. So frankly the Muslim leadership was asking for bigger quota in government jobs in the states where they were in minority and at the central legislative assembly. And, for the Muslim majority states the AIML was asking for maximum autonomy within the framework of a ‘secular India.’ It was the Congress under influence of the big business which wanted a strong central government and was reluctant to give in to the AIML demands. Had the Congress accepted the AIML demands India would not have been partitioned, then what would have happened to the so-called ideology of Pakistan? So the right-wing politicians and contemporary journalists should read history in the right context and not take the slogans as the basis of the formation of Pakistan. By sticking to their position they make the case of Pakistan, weaker.
Assumption number two: Islamic ideology is the basis of one nation and the glue that keeps the country together. This argument is based on the basic lack of knowledge about what makes a nation. Religion is just one of the many factors which are required for the making of a nation. There are other stronger binding factors like geographical continuity, common ethnicity, common culture, common language, civilisation history and above all common economic interests. If religion would have been the over-riding factor that makes one nation then why the Arab Muslim countries which have a common language, similarities in culture, common history of Muslim empire and geographic continuity are not one. If Islamic ideology is the adhesive for keeping the country together then why Bangladesh separated from West Pakistan’s subjugation? If Islamic ideology was the binding factor then why are we killing each other on sectarian basis? Why Balochistan and Sindh have strong nationalist movements? Why the communist ideology could not keep Soviet Union and Yugoslavia together? Why capitalism has not led to a merger of all nations? Why the Christian and Muslim Empires could not hold themselves together and the nation states emerged on the globe? Most countries in the world have no state ideology and they have prospered better. Perhaps because the ideological overhang saps the creative energy of the people.
Next argument is that is it the Islamic ideology of Pakistan that gives it a separate identity? No sir it is our delusion and hence we have so many problems. The people of Pakistan feel more strongly about their ethnic identity. If Islamic ideology would give a separate identity then why even our next door Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iran proudly hang on to their respective identities and have not merged with Pakistan Why the Muslims living in India prefer to be identified as Indian if religion is the basis of a nation ? Why they cannot migrate to Pakistan and get citizenship automatically? Why Saudi Arabia does not allow immigration of Muslims to their country and be an equal citizen? By the logic given by Islamic ideology of Pakistan as all Muslims have same religious identity and hence they should be the citizens of one nation.
Now take up the fourth argument, ideology of Pakistan is based on the Objectives Resolution, which was further explained by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Asma Jilani vs. government of Pakistan case in 1972. And has ‘closed the debate’ on Objective Resolution. How can somebody declare that a court judgment close a debate which is political in nature with serious economic and social implications? That is the main problem with people, who’s right to disagree I would defend to death, but not the right to issue edicts to close door for continuous process of free thinking and freedom of expression.
Therefore, we have the right to challenge argue that and the Judges of the Supreme Court erred in Asma Jilani case when they observed:
“The State of Pakistan was created in perpetuity based on Islamic ideology and has to be run and governed on all the basic norms of that ideology, unless the body politic of Pakistan as a whole, God forbid, is re-constituted on an un-Islamic pattern, which will, of course, mean total destruction of its original concept.” It added, “The Objectives Resolution is not just a conventional preface. It embodies the spirit and the fundamental norms of the constitutional concept of Pakistan.” (My emphasis)
The latest proselytizing of the theory that Pakistan was made by the Army Chief Pervez Kiyani. I don’t blame him for he is an army man who believes in what has been indoctrinated to in years of service. He cannot differentiate the between the state of Muslims and a state for Islam. He also does not understand that the space given by his point of view is the one which led to the creation of militant Islam in the country. The TTP uses the same space and are offering more puritan Islam. If Pakistan was made for Islam than the question arise which Islam the one in which Kiyani believes or the one which his puritan enemies Tehrik-e-Taliban, Hizbut Tehrir and other Al Qaeda outfits believe in. It is better for the General and the army to leave ideologies alone to each Muslim according to his/her belief.
In the first place, the Objectives Resolution was just a resolution presented in the Assembly by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and not as a law. It was made a substantive part of the constitution much later. The judges were working within the framework of the Objectives Resolution and within a set frame of mind which is evident from their choice of words highlighted in italics by me. Nevertheless, let’s accept that constitution today has imbibed Islamic Ideology in the preamble of the constitution and has made many laws in light of the Objectives Resolution. But isn’t it time to do a SWOT analysis of the policy which clubbed state and religion together? Isn’t it time to realise and analyse that the present sectarian killings, religious intolerance, proliferation of militant religious groups, separatists moments have much to do with the state providing enough space to these miscreants in the name of religion? Isn’t it time to separate state and religion and keep the latter as a personal affair without state coercion? Isn’t this the time to acknowledge that Pakistan does not need an ideology, religious or of any’ ism’ to survive? It is only the equitable and fair common economic and political interests of the various nationalities of Pakistan which will keep the country together, not the ideology. (firstname.lastname@example.org)